Welcome to Dartmouth's most influential daily
Each day, Dartblog and its team of alumni and students bring you news and commentary from Hanover and the world at large. Read our iPhone edition here.
The Latest Posts
The senior ranks of the administration have been in tatters since I first ran a post in 2009 entitled The Dartmouth College of Acting, which noted the many positions held by Acting-Thises and Thats. However it is starting to look like Phil Hanlon is bringing some solid professionals to Hanover, people who plan to be here awhile (unlike the Jim Kim Karpetbagging Krew). While Phil may underwhelm in public fora, he is doing a pretty good job with his most important responsibility: putting together a first-class team of senior managers. (No, Charlotte, we didn’t just hire him as a fundraiser.)
Before doing a quick review, it is worth noting that the overall moral climate in the top ranks of the administration has improved immeasurably. From the poisonous lying of Wright/Kim/Folt and the snakepit back-biting of a good deal of the bureaucracy, we’ve moved to administrators who have the self-confidence and forthrightness to explain what they are doing and why (or why not, as the case may be). Integrity is the foundation of everything in organizations large and small. Phil has made a quick, positive change in this area. Kudos.
We looked at star-ascendant Executive Vice-President Rick Mills the other day. He has all the skills needed to play a major role in the administration.
The jury is out on new Provost Carolyn Dever (picture above). Her remarks at Convocation (below) did not set the world on fire. She comes across as straightforward and thorough, but will she be imaginative in enlivening academics, energetic in recruiting faculty, and most importantly, will she be tough in sweating out the layers of waste in the areas of the College in her purview? I’d say that she needs to spend some time with some people from Econ.
Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno is still in place; he has a year left in his term. Appointed by Jim Kim — really by Carol Folt — we aren’t going to see much of anything from him. As I’ve written, the sooner Phil can replace Mastanduno with an organized, determined Dean, the more likely it is that we will see progress and initiative in the academic program.
Lisa Hogarty, Phil’s new Vice President for Campus Planning and Facilities, is starting off well. She is no-nonsense and has worked in the real world. We can safely expect that there will be no $50 million Hanover Inn renovations on her watch. Like Rick Mills, she has bought a house in the Upper Valley, and she should be here to stay. Word is that she can make decisions, and it is likely that her responsibilities will expand. Let’s hope that she can tighten up work practices and cut costs within the staff of the College’s go-slow union.
Cornell’s gift to the College, Tommy Bruce, now our Senior Vice President for Public Affairs, is silky smooth and he has a broad background. He landed in Hanover in the middle of an ongoing PR disaster. Not much has changed since. I can’t see that he is directing the College’s media efforts as much trying to react to Phil’s endless series of own-goals. Up soon will be some kind of daily paper, something that will be more complete than the hapless D.
After three and a half years as the College’s Chief Investment Officer (CIO) and highest paid employee at $1,023,288 in 2013, Pam Peedin is coming into her own. It’s hard to argue with the endowment’s recently announced 19.2% return, though we are waiting to see how that figure compares with the other Ivies.
Phil and his team have also caused several employees to leave the College, people who should have hit the road long ago. Removing negatives is as important as adding positives, particularly in the wake of administrations that took pride in never firing anyone whose politics were correct. A notorious executive in Campus Planning and Facilities has been asked to leave, to the relief of the building trades in the Upper Valley; a senior manager in the Real Estate office is gone; and most importantly, the College’s Ombudsman, Mary Childers, has, well, retired, and she has not been replaced.
Childers was responsible more than anyone for the sclerotic nature of the Dartmouth bureaucracy. Incompetent employees abound, supported by an army of “coaches” who work with them to overcome their inadequacies. No more caring, supportive work environemnt is to be found in the land — translation: if you are not up to doing your job at the College, we will get assistance for you in the form of additional co-workers and ever more training. Childers was always there to argue the rights of the incompetent. The end result is a sprawling sea of slack under-performers and their acolytes. Childers’ departure signals an ongoing change in Dartmouth’s workplace culture towards efficiency and rigor. Of course, it’s early days still, but signs of hope are there.
All that said, there is one area where Phil has made a serious misstep — the Development Office — as we’ll see tomorrow.
Tighter grading has always been a Government department policy, but this past spring the department decided to make sure that all professors follow these rules. Good for the profs there. How will students react to this rigor?
Ester Cross ‘15, who distinguished herself in this space two years ago by publishing an exposé of The D’s (petty) inner workings, has put together the people and the funding to publish a new magazine — printed on paper no less — The Dartmouth Chronicle. The range of articles in the first edition is impressive.
You can pick up a paper copy of the magazine on the Collis deck today from 12:00pm-4:00pm and tomorrow from 5:00pm-7:00pm.
The influence of money in the admissions process has been an aspect of Dartmouth that people have wondered about for a long time. The fact that special attention is given to the children of large donors is nothing new: undergrads can confirm that proposition just by looking at the last names of many of their classmates which appear on buildings and among the members of the Board of Trustees. However, it seems that as with many other areas of the College, this arguably necessary corruption has been extended significantly in the past few years. From a tiny share of each class — say about 1% — a decade or two ago, it now appears that 4%- 5% of incoming freshman are given special admissions consideration due to large gifts to Dartmouth by their parents. In fact, longtime head of Development Carrie Pelzel used to joke aloud that her job was much easier when alumni had kids coming into the college application phase of their lives.
In her book A Is for Admission: The Insider’s Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges (1997), Michele Hernandez ‘89 described the ongoing policy regarding major donors’ offspring in Admissions during her four years (1993-1997) as Assistant Director of Admissions at the College:
Hernandez was writing in 1997 about the period of time when Karl Furstenberg was Dean of Admissions (“King Karl” ran the show from 1992 to 2007). In a 2004 interview with The D, Furstenberg himself confirmed Hernandez’ insider revelations:
[Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenberg said] There are legacies, and then there are “development cases,” and the two are separate. Legacies receive that designation automatically from the admissions office if their parent holds a Dartmouth degree. Development cases, on the other hand, proceed differently.
When an important development case — usually involving a big donor — shows up, the alumni relations and development office inform the admissions office of an application that should receive special attention.
But Furstenberg said such cases are few and far between.
“There are typically 10 or fewer development cases each year. There is a fairly high standard to be treated as a development case. I mean you really have to donate a building or something. Schools with big endowments don’t really give much advantage because they have so much money.”
From 1%, the number of donor admits has soared in recent years. Today the cooperation between the Development Office and Admissions works as follows: Development creates a tracking list of applicants who come from families who are large contributors. Development officers then meet with Admissions staff to review Development’s list against Admissions’ application list, which includes the applicants’ high school record. Many admit decisions are made at this meeting. Sometimes discussions are easy because the applicant had good credentials; however when the applicant is weak, Development officers need to push the candidate. Most often these days Admissions officers accept their wishes; only very occasionally they do not. The bottom line is that the amount of money that a family gives to Dartmouth is a meaningful factor in the process, but not a 100% guarantee.
Currently about 20-25 names make the Development Office’s Admissions list for early admits, and later an equivalent number of candidates are also reviewed for regular admissions. Depending on the year, as many as 50 applicants are considered through this special process. Most, though not quite all, are admitted. Also, heavy alumni volunteer involvement is considered, but this work does not carry as much weight as the financial contributions of major donors. The first round of meetings are internal within the Development Office and Admissions staffers — then subsequent meetings are directly with Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Maria Laskaris ‘84.
Though I cannot confirm the exact timing of the rise from 1% to 4%-5% of incoming students in the acceptances of donor children, it seems likely that this change occurred when the Trustees and the Kim administration adjusted upward the number of legacy admits in the Class of 2014 by approximately one third. Since then legacies have remained at over 14% of each incoming Dartmouth class, as the Dartmouth Factbook notes:
Addendum: Though the longtime head of Development, Carrie Pelzel, has left her post to be replaced by Bob Lasher ‘88, nothing has changed recently. This policy is set by the President and the Board of Trustees.
Despite its proximity to the D-Day beaches — Bayeux lies ten miles from Omaha and Gold — the city was untouched by the invasion. The Allies left it intact as it had little strategic value, and they needed a place in which to establish themselves on the Continent. France’s first liberated city has a lovely historic center, dominated by its Norman-Gothic cathedral: Notre-Dame de Bayeux. The original structure, built on a Roman holy site, was consecrated by William the Conqueror in 1077, a decade after he had won a battle at a place called Hastings. The Bayeux Tapestry was displayed in the Cathedral until the 18th century; it hangs today in the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux.
Addendum: Despite France’s lavish social welfare budgets, the number of beggars and panhandlers throughout the country is astonishing. The fellow at the entrance to the catherdral was present throughout our visit.
Some people seem to have more than 24 hours in their day. Economics Professor Andrew Samwick was New Hampshire Professor of the Year in 2009, and as I pointed out at the time, he wins the Dartblog award every year for the Professor Most Likely to be in His Office When I Happen to be Walking Through Rocky and Knock on His Door — he is almost always talking to a student. He is a nationally recognized expert on Social Securty, and in 2003 he served as the chief economist for the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. Though he has run the Rockefeller Center for a decade now, he still seems to be able to find time for research on topics of real moment. Here’s the abstract for his most recent publication (with Bill Gale): Effects of Income Tax Changes on Economic Growth.
This paper examines how changes to the individual income tax affect long-term economic growth. The structure and financing of a tax change are critical to achieving economic growth. Tax rate cuts may encourage individuals to work, save, and invest, but if the tax cuts are not financed by immediate spending cuts they will likely also result in an increased federal budget deficit, which in the long-term will reduce national saving and raise interest rates. The net impact on growth is uncertain, but many estimates suggest it is either small or negative. Base-broadening measures can eliminate the effect of tax rate cuts on budget deficits, but at the same time they also reduce the impact on labor supply, saving, and investment and thus reduce the direct impact on growth. However, they also reallocate resources across sectors toward their highest-value economic use, resulting in increased efficiency and potentially raising the overall size of the economy. The results suggest that not all tax changes will have the same impact on growth. Reforms that improve incentives, reduce existing subsidies, avoid windfall gains, and avoid deficit financing will have more auspicious effects on the long-term size of the economy, but may also create trade-offs between equity and efficiency.
A subject of importance to our ongoing national debate on economic policy, you will agree, no? Of note also, the paper was published by the Tax Policy Center of the Urban institute and The Brookings Institution.
Addendum: Samwick is one of the Economics department’s many rock stars. In the photo below, he chats in 2011 with then-outgoing Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner ‘83:
ESPN has a fine story on an ‘18 — Greenwich, Connecticut’s Nicole Graham — whose road to the College was bumpier than most. Spoiler alert: hankies recommended.
Click here to watch the video, and not on the image below. ESPN does not allow embedding with the autoplay function turned off.
Despite all the talk about the Ivies being a farm system for high-paying jobs in i-banking and consulting, it doesn’t look like the Ancient Eight is a guaranteed ticket to riches. The best that the Ivies can do in Payscale’s ranking of mid-career salaries is Yale at #10.
With the now-clichéd caveat that correlation is not causality, it is interesting to note that the Ivy League schools with the lowest cost of tuition — HYP — have the highest average earnings among their graduates, and the high-cost schools — Dartmouth and Columbia — have the graduates that earn the least. Perhaps the most talented students have a nose for value, and they continue to maximize their return on investment throughout their lives. Take note, Phil.
That said, the Ivies do pretty well among the world’s top schools in producing billionaires, as shown by a study prepared by Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census for the year 2014:
However, these twenty schools produced only 16% of the world’s billionaires who went to college.
As if in response to Danny Blanchflower’s extended piece almost four weeks ago in the Times of London education supplement, in which he detailed the declining number of Humanities majors at Dartmouth and the disproportionate number of professors in the Humanities in relation to the number of majors in that division, Inside Higher Ed reports that a study has been released describing students course-taking behavior rather than their presence in different majors. By this different metric, the Humanities are flourishing, despite the decline in majors:
The academy’s report takes a different approach. Instead of asking, “Who majors in the humanities?” the study asks, “Who takes humanities courses?”
The distinction is important. Many colleges that have eliminated small humanities departments have cited the low number of majors. This logic has angered many humanities professors, who have noted that STEM and business majors stand to benefit from their courses as much as humanities majors do…
Students who graduated in 2008 earned more credits in the humanities than in STEM, the study found. Humanities credits accounted for 17 percent of total credits earned by the typical graduate. In contrast, STEM credits accounted for 13 percent. (The researchers used median credit totals to calculate these percentages.)
Norman Bradburn, a professor emeritus and former provost at the University of Chicago and the co-principal investigator of the academy’s Humanities Indicators project, found the numbers for humanities course enrollment surprising. Humanities majors make up 12 percent of college graduates, whereas science majors make up 15 percent, he noted in his commentary on the study. Yet more people take humanities courses.
“The impression one gets is that nobody is taking humanities courses,” Bradburn said in an interview. “All the pressure is everyone should be taking STEM courses … Almost all the discussion about the humanities has been in terms of majoring in the humanities. I think majors are misleading. Pay attention to what courses people are taking more so than the major.”
The study also notes that the number of humanities courses taken varies enormously in relation to the major area of study by students:
The Dartmouth Factbook details the distribution of the College’s students by major (Social Sciences: 650; Sciences: 279; Humanities: 212; Interdisciplinary: 96), but of greater interest to us today is just how many individual students take individual courses in each of the College’s divisions. Dartblog’s Brian Solomon — often quoted due to his five-part series on grading at Dartmouth — has crunched the numbers for the 2013 academic year. He counts as one “student/course” each time a single student takes a class in a division. The end result is quite different from the distribution of majors:
If we were to move the History department (and its 100 majors) to the Humanities division, as is done at many, if not most, schools, we’d come up with a surprisingly balanced distribution of students attending courses in the three divisions, as befits a liberal arts school with distribution requirements.
To my mind, we need to allocate faculty to where students take their many courses, and not to where they major.
Addendum: A professor at the College writes in:
One important point about enrollments is that they are in many cases mandated. If you look at our distribution requirements, there are at least three or four that can only be met only with Humanities classes (ART, LIT, TMV and the culture requirements), plus a writing and foreign language requirement, whereas there’s only three required courses in social science (2x SOC and INT). And there is a move a foot to use the sexual assault issue as an excuse to mandate more humanities/identity classes. Never waste a crisis, I guess.
Roughly 20% of our students major in the humanities collectively and 60% major in the social sciences. We are getting some signal (perhaps not a perfect one) about the relative importance of those fields in the modern world from those choices. Our distribution requirements date from a long time ago, when the world was telling us something different.
At minimum, looking at voluntary enrollments might be a useful complement to looking at enrollments.
Bloomberg reports that Dinesh D’Souza ‘83 has avoided a jail sentence for his violation of federal campaign finance laws:
In the New York Senate race where D’Souza broke the law, both candidates were alumnae: Wendy Long ‘82 (née Stone) and Kirsten Gillibrand ‘88.
As we have reported in the past, Dartmouth’s Dean of the College for the last two decades has been chosen from a severely limited pool of applicants: career educational administrators who are, with only one exception, members of minority groups.
The end result of selecting from a restricted pool has been clear for all to see: the management of residential and social life at the College has been an ongoing trainwreck, a failure that has had an enormous cost to Dartmouth’s reputation and bottom line. A weak Dean elicits respect neither from students nor faculty (the comments that I have received from professors regarding Charlotte Johnson are not repeatable in a family blog), and anyone looking at the ranks of our deanlets will understand Steve Job’s axiom, “A people hire A people; B people hire C people.” The Dean of the College’s budget is, to use David Stockman’s memorable phrase, “a sinkhole of waste,” an example of doing less with more.
Have I made my point? Apologies for a little vituperation, but we are talking about tens of millions of dollars here and a PR cost to Dartmouth from preventable scandals that has been incalculable.
How to break the cycle? Perhaps we could hire a scholar, not a bureaucrat, to run this area of the College. Let’s look at the resumés of the Deans at Harvard, Yale and Princeton:
Harvard’s Dean of the College Professor Rakesh Khurana:
Khurana received his B.S. from Cornell University, and began graduate studies at Harvard in 1993, earning his Ph.D. in 1998 through a joint program between Harvard Business School (HBS) and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).
He taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology between 1998 and 2000. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a founding team member of Cambridge Technology Partners.
In 2000, Khurana was appointed to the HBS faculty, and was named the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership and Development in 2008. He and his wife, Stephanie (M.B.A., M.P.P.’96), became co-house masters of Cabot in 2010, where they continue to serve and live with their three children.
He has also been recognized for his commitment to pedagogy, twice earning the Charles M. Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching (2008, 2012) and being nominated in 2013 for the Star Family Prize for Excellence in Advising. He has also co-edited “The Handbook for Leadership Theory and Practice” (2010) and “The Handbook for Teaching Leadership” (2012), seminal texts on leadership theory and pedagogical practice.
Yale’s (outgoing) Dean of the College Professor Mary Miller:
A graduate of Princeton University, Miller earned her M.A. and Ph.D. at Yale in 1978 and 1981, respectively. She joined the faculty in 1981 and has also served as chair of the Department of History of Art, chair of the Council on Latin American Studies, director of Graduate Studies in Archeological Studies, and a member of the Steering Committee of the Women Faculty Forum at Yale.
While dean, Miller — a specialist of the art of the ancient New World — continued her scholarship. Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994, she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work on ancient Mexico and the Maya, and in 2010 gave the A.W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art. Her most recent work includes “Painting a Map of Mexico City” (co-edited with Barbara Mundy in 2012), a study of the rare indigenous map in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and “The Spectacle of the Late Maya Court: Reflections on the Murals of Bonampak” (with Claudia Brittenham, 2013).
Princeton’s Dean of the College Professor Valerie Smith:
The founding director of the Center for African American Studies, Dean Smith is the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and a professor in English and African American studies. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Virginia and is a specialist in African American literature and culture.
She is the author of numerous essays and articles as well as three books: Self-Discovery and Authority in Afro-American Narrative; Not Just Race, Not Just Gender: Black Feminist Readings; and Toni Morrison: Writing the Moral Imagination.
Clearly these schools have chosen outstanding academic credentials and competence in their deans, and if they can score points for diversity, so much the better, but that criterion is of secondary importance to choosing a leader who elicits the respect of everyone in an academic community.
Contrast the background of HYP’s Deans with that of outgoing Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, as described as positively as possible by Dartmouth’s PR arm:
Johnson brings more than 14 years of experience working with students to Dartmouth. Prior to her role at Colgate, she served, from 2000 to 2006, as assistant dean for student affairs at the University of Michigan Law School, and, before that, was the law school’s director of academic services, beginning in 1997. At Michigan, she collaborated with faculty to create new interdisciplinary academic programs. She was also a member of the legal and communications strategy teams that contributed to the defense of the university’s admissions policies in the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case upholding affirmative action in higher education.
Previously, she worked for eight years at Garan Lucow Miller, a law firm in Detroit, where she focused on corporate and municipal defense in cases involving medical devices, insurance coverage, and lawsuits involving exposure to toxic substances. She was the first African American woman to be made a partner of the firm.
I will spare you a description of Sylvia Spears’ credentials.
Let’s hope that our next Dean is a respected faculty member, a hard-nosed administrator, and a person possessing judgment and rigor.
Addendum: Harvard Computer Science Professor Harry Lewis, author of Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future? (2007), was the Dean of the College in Cambridge from 1995-2003 before he wrote his well received book. He would have made a good President at the College.
Addendum: An alumnus of a Dartmouth grad school writes in from Yale:
I read your article on the recent history of the Deans of Dartmouth College with interest. I was not fortunate enough to attend Dartmouth for my undergraduate studies, but I earned my graduate degree there, and I have a good deal of fondness for the school.
Having said that, I am now employed at Yale and could not agree more with your comparison. I would also add that Yale is continuing its tradition of world class scholars serving as Dean of the College. Its new Dean is Jonathan Holloway and, I feel, a brief review of his C.V. makes it clear that he was an excellent choice. In addition, he is, from all indications, beloved by both students and faculty.
There is nothing that the government can’t fix — at least according to some people. In the New York Times on September 4, Michael Kimmel and Gloria Steinem voiced support for California’s Senate Bill 967, the “yes means yes” law:
“it alters the standard regarding consent to sexual activity on college campuses…
Until this bill, the prevailing standard has been “no means no.” If she says no (or, more liberally, indicates any resistance with her body), then the sex is seen as nonconsensual. That is, it’s rape. Under such a standard, the enormous gray area between “yes” and “no” is defined residually as “yes”: Unless one hears an explicit “no,” consent is implied. “Yes means yes” completely redefines that gray area. Silence is not consent; it is the absence of consent. Only an explicit “yes” can be considered consent.
Curiously enough, the bill only applies to sexual relations on college campuses, not sexual acts between adults, which presumably will still be governed by the “no means no” standard.
Of course, as any practicing lawyer will tell you, the problems of definition and enforcement are still insurmountable here. Short of a signed document, aren’t we still in a situation of her word against his?
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe is reporting that the Department of Education has added Brandeis to the list of the schools that it is investigating for possible violations of Title IX (the College has been under investigation for some time now), but there is a twist in this latest investigation:
The US Education Department has opened an investigation into Brandeis University’s handling of a sexual assault complaint, the college said Thursday, making it the 10th school in the state and one of more than 75 nationwide facing such an inquiry.
The Education Department, in a document obtained by the Globe, said it is investigating a student’s allegation that the school wrongly and unfairly found him responsible for sexual misconduct this past spring and subsequently disciplined him. [Emphasis added]
Complaints of arbitrary enforcement in these cases come across my desk every day. There are currently many suits against colleges across that land for prosecutions that have become persecution. Dartmouth students well know how out of control some our own zealous bureaucrats can get.
One can imagine the day when the Feds oblige colleges to hire a full-time monitor to ensure compliance with the evolving definition of Federal statutes in this area. Ooops. Too late. The College and almost all other institutions of higher learning have already hired Title IX coordinators. Dartmouth’s overseer is Heather Lindkvist, formerly of Bates College.
Of course, Dartblog has been all over this story for a long time now. We announced in the summer of 2010, only somewhat facetiously, that a Dean had issued rules limiting sexual relations to students who had been a priori vetted by the Dean’s office: sex could only occur “in the presence of a Dean or a trained student monitor.”
More seriously, I would be the first person to agree that sexual assault has long been a serious problem on campus. However the solution is not to be found in the federal Department of Education and its heavy-handed, from-afar regulations.
Addendum: Perhaps the 1987 movie Cherry 2000 offers us a sense of how relations between men and women could evolve in the future:
Note 25-year-old Laurence Fishburne in a small role as the lawyer.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
One additional thought: I have heard the Federal government will fine an institution that fails to investigate allegations of sexual assault and impose punishments huge amounts of money - 1% of the operating budget. In such circumstances, college bureaucrats will launch what is in effect a prosecution whenever an allegation is made, no matter how dubious or even false it might appear. That may be the intention of Dept. of Education Civil Rights people.
The effect is to abolish any “prosecutorial” discretion such as exists in the normal criminal justice system. There prosecutors all the time decide that a case is too weak to pursue, or pursue some sort of reduced charge, perhaps seeking a plea bargain. In this strange world of forcing college administrators to function as ersatz criminal prosecutors, but with no sufficient investigative powers properly defined and circumscribed as in the courts, things are unlikely to ever get beyond a he-said, she-said state.
In such circumstances, determinations will be inherently arbitrary. The bureaucratic tendency will be to normally “convict” on accusation, because if a number of complaints have been received, but there have been no “convictions,” the bureaucracy will face not only angry outbursts from campus activists, but fear imposition of the sanctions from the government. It will be a case of guilty until proven innocent, with no effective means of proving innocence. The many anecdotal stories of male students being sanctioned on flimsy allegations, or even where local police have determined the charges to be baseless and have gone after the complainant for filing false reports, suggest these concerns are well founded.
At the College’s conference on harassment this summer, the Department of Justice administrator in charge of the effort against assault stated that in the past year she had threatened four institutions with the entire withdrawal of their federal funding (research grants, aid, etc.), if they did not comply with the DOJ’s understanding of Title IX.
Addendum: The NYT has summarized California’s new bill on consent. And Gary Pavela, a fellow of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, has written a fine piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the weaknesses of current reforms regarding the prosecution of sexual assault.
Will this move embolden the College’s administration? The NYT reports: Wesleyan has only two all-male fraternities on a campus of 2,900 students; about 50 students live in them. Over the next three years, the two frats must become co-educational in their membership and residential living. The school’s only sorority does not have a house and is therefore not subject to the new rules.
In a Valley News story that included an interview with English Professor Barbara Will, head of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” committee, the outlines of some of the College’s upcoming social reforms became clear. However, to this observer, it looks like the series of ideas that will be put forward in January doesn’t meet students’ needs even a quarter way. I fear that an increasingly stringent set of rules will be promulgated, and we are in for no more than cat-and-mouse games between students and the College and its varied enforcers. Some excerpts from the VN piece, and some comments:
Hanover — Reform is brewing at Dartmouth College, where senior administrators met with Greek leaders earlier this week to weigh possible measures to curb high-risk behavior at the college, such as a campus-wide ban on hard alcohol and the elimination of pledge terms…
Speaking over the phone on Thursday, Will said that while the intent on Tuesday had been to gauge student support, not to take immediate action, the progress made in the meeting had been heartening, especially considering that Greek leaders had brought up the idea of eliminating pledge term on their own.
“We think that’s an excellent idea … and if they didn’t do that on their own, that’d be one of our main recommendations in January,” Will said. “The risks of pledging, which often involve hazing, are not worth the rewards that come out of that period.”
If the College’s social-life engineers think that ending pledge term will end hazing, well, they haven’t spent any time thinking the issue through. Banning pledge term will have as much effect on hazing as banning hazing itself has had. The problem is that bonding rites are central to the creation of group culture. The College would be wiser if it helped to define just what those rites might be.
To date, GLOS has said that pretty much anything that pledges must do is hazing, and as a result of that oppressive formulation, the administration has banned de minimis activities from dyed green hair to red siren hats to lunch boxes and work boots. Given that NH law and College regulations define hazing as obligatory group initiation rituals that “would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to cause physical or psychological injury to any person,” the verbot on hazing has been carried too far.
How about defining initiation rituals appropriately, encouraging productive group activities in support of worthy causes, and laying out real penalties if people transgress a reasonable set of rules?
Many sororities on campus retain ties to national organizations that have rules preventing them from throwing parties open to all students, leaving it to the fraternities to dominate the social scene at the college. If national sororities went local to avoid these rules, some of them would have to forgo financial support from their parent organizations.
When she and others brought up these concerns on Tuesday, Hanlon and Helman, a 1980 Dartmouth graduate and partner in a venture capital firm, told them that the college could provide financial support to those who wished to break away from their national organizations, Funk said.
This is a good idea; Dartblog has advocated the localization of Dartmouth’s national sororities for years. The College has held the opposite policy for a much longer time: throughout the Wright and Kim administrations, there was a stated ban on new locals; only new sororities with national affiliations would be considered. Alumni donations to create local sororities were repeatedly turned down.
Choosing to have sororities go local so that they they can hold parties open to the entire campus has an echo in Dartmouth’s history: in 1954 a majority of the College’s students voted that then-all-male-Dartmouth’s fraternities go local in order to circumvent national organization’s restrictions on the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities. If the College can financially assist sororities in breaking free of restrictions that serve to guarantee a frat monopoly on social life, Dartmouth will be better for it.
Will said on Thursday that college officials are also considering a ban on hard liquor, which she said would be effective in protecting freshmen, who are barred from fraternity parties serving alcohol during their first six weeks on campus. There are strong data suggesting that banning hard alcohol can cut down on the worst forms of binge drinking, she said…
Were the college to prohibit hard alcohol on campus, Will floated the idea that the ban accompany an “open-door” drinking policy where, if students threw a party in their dorm, they would be required to keep it open to specially trained monitors who would assess the risks and make sure they weren’t drinking hard liquor. The monitors would interfere if underage students were found drinking any alcohol.
Barbara Will’s committee is missing an opportunity here. In a post entitled A Grand Bargain on Alcohol, I proposed a balanced booze-for-beer tradeoff. Students would give up hard alcohol in exchange for the right to freely drink beer in frats and dorms. If the College tempers that deal by having snoopy alcohol monitors trying to nab under-21 students indulging in Keystone, the whole point of a tradeoff is lost. As we have said ad infinitum, there is no way to completely stop student drinking. The point is to channel this impulse in safe ways. Banning hard liquuor, with harsh penalties for contravening this rule, but tacitly allowing students of any age to hold beer-fueled parties in dorms and Greek houses is one way to do so.
[Panhell President Rachel] Funk said that sororities hadn’t yet come to a consensus on the potential ban. Though she acknowledged that it could slow down the intake of alcohol on campus, she said she had also heard arguments that the rule would impinge on the rights of students over 21 to drink what they please. Plus, some people simply prefer liquor over wine or beer, she added.
Nobody has the absolute right to drink anywhere. I can assure Ms. Funk that in the workplace of my Lebanon business, employees cannot drink alcohol, no matter what their age. The College is fully within its rights to ban the hard stuff (just as some varsity coaches ban all forms of alcohol in season — they have kicked athletes off of teams for violating the rule). As to students’ preferences, a trade of booze for beer would probably make some people unhappy. Tough. Policy is made for the greater good, and a choice like this would improve the College.
For his part, [AD President Mike ] Haughey suggested a number of other reforms, such as bringing back permanent taps for kegs in fraternity basements, which he said would encourage students to socialize instead of playing endless games of beer pong — “a glorified drinking game that becomes a pseudo-athletic event,” he said…
The only way to get students to buy into the new set of policies is to make a deal with them. If the College gives in and offers some of the things that students want (limited, harmless initiation rites; beer in the dorms; taps in Greek houses; subsidies to help sororities go local) then perhaps the Greeks will respect their side of the bargain (no pernicious hazing, no more hard stuff anywhere, open parties in all houses). But if the College only lays down another set of harsh rules, students will no more honor them than they acquiesced to the previous set of rules, and the ones before that, and the ones before that.
Addendum: A regular Dartblog correspondent writes in:
You shouldn’t trivialize pledging as a mere initiation rite. The fatal flaw of pledging is that it creates a two-tier membership, charges the new members with “earning” their membership, and worst of all, empowers undergraduates to design and execute the “tests of worthiness.” The result is a bully’s paradise. These insecure sociopaths are now licensed to have their way with the new members under the guise of forcing them to earn their membership. Even worse, the new members are sold on the idea that they can prove their manhood by submitting uncritically to the bully’s whims.
I hope you can see how morally wrong this is as well as creating an unfortunately favorable climate for psychological and physical danger to the new members (while feeding the psychological illness of the perpetrating bullies). People should not treat people this way.
Sure, imposing misery on the new members may cause them to get closer to each other in self-defense. But what real fraternity wants to be fractured into tightknit class cliques? With pledging and the pledge term abolished, fraternities should take a page from Kant’s book and universalize new member experiences. To build a united brotherhood, existing members should do everything new members are asked to do. If new members were responsible for cleanups, all fraternity members should now do cleanups. If new members were responsible for collecting signatures (almost always for a price, unfortunately), then all members should be responsible for collecting signatures. And so on.
No fraternity was founded with pledging. No fraternity founders went through a pledge period. The idea of pledging came decades after fraternities were formed. That’s because fraternity founders wanted to build a true brotherhood, one grounded on mutual respect and equal status. They chose Greek letters to associate themselves with Greek ideals of democracy. They wanted their fraternity to represent humanity at its best.
How sad that pledging creates a social model that contradicts all of these lofting ideals and brings out the worst in human nature. And how especially sad that it attracts the pathetically insecure — existing members and new members — who are so afraid to be themselves. It’s hard to imagine anything so out of keeping with the ideals of the Dartmouth Experience.
Getting rid of pledges and pledging isn’t social engineering. It’s social hygiene. The moral and practical foulness of pledging shouldn’t be allowed to stink up Dartmouth anymore.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own interviews, a review of…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…