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Our Passive Faculty. Why?

If many members of the faculty are unhappy with President Kim, why don’t they speak up? After all, most have tenure. Good question! To answer it, you need to understand the workings of the Dartmouth administration.

When TJ Rogers was elected to the Board in 2004 on a platform of independent thinking and dissatifaction with the direction of the College, he was invited to a meeting with 40-50 faculty members. To a person they stated that the biggest problem facing Dartmouth was its woefully ineffective President: Jim Wright. TJ did not disagree with them, but he turned around and asked who would publicly support this position if he made an effort to bring in a new leader? The assembled professors’ answer: no one.

Why? Well, even though faculty members may have tenure, the senior administration, particularly the Provost and Dean of the Faculty, has power over them in myriad little ways: end-of-year raises can be padded or denied; a request for extra money for a speaker or for research can be refused; a department seeking a supplemental budget allocation for special projects or an extra tenure slot can be held to account.

In these instances, individuals’ narrow self-interest can be played off against their concern for the entire institution. And when faculty members calculate the potential success of any kind of dissent, drawing the conclusion to stay quiet is almost inevitable.

Want proof that dissent is punished? When future Nobel laureate and Dean of the Faculty Mike Gazzaniga ‘61 was the subject of a vote of no-confidence by the Committee of Chairs, there was a response by a group of 40 leading faculty members, among them many of the College’s best regarded scholars. They wrote to President Wright in protest against what they called “a truly divisive and underhanded ploy.” Their letter was in vain, but several among them have assured me that the subsequent Dean of the Faculty made certain that all of the signatories paid a real price for their outspokenness.

The Dean of the Faculty succeeding Mike Gazzaniga was Carol Folt.

Note: Gazzaniga, in addition to his groundbreaking research in cognitive neuroscience — he is often called the father of the field — was something of a legend as an undergrad. He merited several mentions in Chris Miller’s book, The Real Animal House: The Awesomely Depraved Saga of the Fraternity That Inspired the Movie. His AD nickname was Giraffe.


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