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.
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What’s a Poor Alum to Do?
At his presentation on Tuesday, President Kim said that he knew numerous alumni who wanted to see how Dartmouth handled the financial crisis before they made further charitable gifts to the College. He is right. The alumni revolt of the last few years bespeaks the deep skepticism that many alums feel about how the College has been managed and where their contributions have gone.
The information that Dartblog has adduced in recent weeks confirms that over the past decades too much treasure has been allocated to the permanent staff at the cost of quality education for students. The burgeoning of salaries, health insurance, benefits, retirement payments, and vacations has been unconscionable.
But the issue is larger: how can alumni give money to Dartmouth when the College allows extravagances that alumni businessmen do not offer their own employees, and that alumni who work for others do not themselves receive? You can’t ask people who eat burgers to finance your filet mignon.
And beyond that, Dartmouth is not the only place to which alumni can give money. I have a choice: my dollars can go to fighting hunger, medical research, controlling disease, and many other worthy causes. Financing the College’s 17%-of-annual-salary pension contribution to an associate dean’s special assistant is not high on my personal list of eleemosynary priorities.
Charitable giving to Dartmouth is a complicated thing. At its best, alums give to say thanks to an institution that gave us so much; we give to express an undying love for a place that in many ways made us the people we are; and we give because in today’s students we see our younger selves, and we want to help them just as earlier generations of alums helped us.
However, all of these motivations are derailed when we find the College in a financial crisis because feeding at the trough has taken priority over the education of students. Recall that this decade’s explosion in spending occured simultaneously with the arrival of class oversubscriptions and the departure of too many top-flight faculty members.
Dartmouth needs to re-focus its efforts on providing a superlative education. Going forward, the allocation of each budget dollar should take place only after a penetrating inquiry as to whether a spending decision will improve students’ experience here. The College has taken its eye off the ball for too long, and alumni won’t open their wallets until we are sure that our money is directed quite exclusively towards Dartmouth’s highest and most noble purposes.
Note: It will take far more than cosmetic changes to bring back alums who have been deserting the College since the start of the Freedman administration, as the above graph illustrates. (These are official College figures from a letter that appeared in the the appendices to a legal brief in the current alumni/trustee litigation.) The only deviation from this trend began with the election of petition trustees in 2004 — when alumni began to hope that the voice of common sense would again be heard in the highest councils of the College. Were they right? As President Kim says, we are waiting to see.
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
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