Dartmouth's Daily Blog
News, commentary, criticism and praise for the College on the Hill, enlivened with history, culture and travel when we feel so moved.
This is an archived post. Please click here to see the latest entries.
The Situation on the Charles
In recent weeks I have abdicated one of my usual topics, which is Dartmouth politics. The reason behind it, I confess in simplicity and honesty, is that I have been flummoxed and hoodwinked by the distinctly Rovian antics of the people currently at the head of alumni affairs. (Though the modifier currently is hardly necessary, for they are a sticking bunch.) And I similarly have failed to comment to any serious degree on the Larry Summers situation in the fair southerly city of Cambridge, a topic where veritas is especially lacking in the popular analyses. I have failed in that regard simply because, when rumors of Mr. Summers’ resignation came to my ears several days ago, I knew that in discussing it I would not be able to avoid discussing Dartmouth politics, and the roadblock there was at the time sufficient to prevent any content at all from escaping onto this page.
But as so often there are in the strange doings of elite academia, common threads bind the two circumstances. It would be very easy—and, I think, accurate—to remark on the political and ideological parallels, but that is hardly appropriate now. There is a broader similarity across Larry Summers’ undue ouster and the train wreck that is alumni governance at Dartmouth, and that similarity is the constant problem of small activist contingents steeling necessarily open-minded and changeable institutions against change, in violation of what we could debate are fundamental rights but far more importantly in violation of regular decency.
In the case of Larry Summers, mainstream media reporters have by and large been unable to report on his resignation without mentioning his ‘idea’ that fifty/fifty sexual equality in the world’s science laboratories may not be the natural way of things. In the aftermath he was generally misquoted as having said, “You stupid broads!” But those who spent a few moments reading over the transcript quickly understood that his remarks were nothing so outrageous and instead were meant to nudge his employees toward spending their time actually furthering the science instead of brute-forcing the sexual makeup of the science world to fit some contemplation of absolute equality in the labor market of same. It was hardly worth getting upset over, and Harvard’s faculty would have done well to listen to him; if they are at all familiar with the balance of admissions decisions, they’d know that no vile conspiracy to keep laboratories at a maximum hair length exists.
Instead, the rhetorical battle became national news, and so the faculty was emboldened. Fuel to the alleged conflagration that was his tenure included his refusal to rubber-stamp friendly faculty appointees and his suggestion that Professor Cornel West spend less of his salaried time on personal performance art and more on working. His support for military recruiters after September 11 provided only another rallying post. All of this led to an absurdly reactionary inquisition from Harvard’s faculty. Except a curious fact fell by the wayside in the waylaying that followed: It wasn’t so much Harvard’s scientists who were assailing their racist, misogynist, xenophobic, neoconservative, right-wing president who by the way was a Bill Clinton hire. Nor were Harvard’s legal academics or business professionals involved in the crusade. The medical experts largely stayed out, and the Harvard Corporation found fit to explicitly support Larry Summers. No, it was the Faculty of Arts and Sciences which turned ‘round to face Mr. Summers on a lonely battlefield. This was fine, because they only needed to destroy one man, and they did. But what does it say when a university president deeply committed to reform, broadly supported by the studentry, a possessor even early in his tenure of tangible results, and an admired man among great swaths of faculty can be muddied and vilified and ousted in disgrace by a single, small, entrenched, and relatively unproductive set of political activists-cum-professors who, in severe “intellectual dishonesty” accuse the university president of being an anti-intellectual?
What, in other words, would it say when a corporation’s marketing department can depose the Chief Executive Officer in spite of the strong support he finds among Information Technology, Accounting, Human Resources, Legal, Sales, the Board of Directors, and the mightily positive opinion customers have of him? It says that marketing has too much sway for the health of the company. It says that, on an even field of competition, the CEO would have remained, and that would have been the best path for the company, because marketing, its delusions notwithstanding, knows no better than any other division. Or, put another way, the opinion of each employee and each customer counts equally. Yet, in the case of the university on the Charles, a boisterous bit won out. Larry Summers is gone, and Harvard by general consensus is worse for it. Consider a Boston Globe article of today, “Women, scientists on wish lists for Harvard.” Reporter Michael Levenson sojourned to the Yard and asked professors what Summers’ replacement should look like.
There was near unanimity that the next leader must have more political acumen and ease with outsized egos than Summers did, and a better understanding of the megaphone effect that makes everything the Harvard president says and does reverberate far beyond Cambridge. The Byzantine politics of the job encompass everything from international issues to inter-departmental tiffs.That is the chilling effect codified. In a time when change and reform is required of Harvard, its faculty is seeking stability, sameness, homogeneity, pliancy, and all at the breathless behest of an activist minority.
Thankfully the situation at Dartmouth is not so dire, but a circumstantially similar situation has been brewed there. The discussion continues in this post.
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)
Part 1, Part 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…
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…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
Subscribe by Email
This website reflects the personal opinions of its authors. Any e-mails received may be published along with the full name of the sender. If you wish otherwise, please say so.
All content appearing at Dartblog.com should be presumed copyright 2004-2018 its respective bylined author unless otherwise noted or unless linked to original source.