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The Cosy Kim/Mulley Axis

ethics.jpgJim Kim’s appointment of Al Mulley as Director of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science continues to raise eyebrows. Mulley had previously led the Search Committee that picked Kim as President. One question that has come up is how well the two men knew each other prior to the search. Curiously, there are varying accounts.

According to an article in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Kim and Mulley met repeatedly to discuss the subject of health care delivery well before the subject of the Presidency ever arose.

Then Kim, knowing nothing of Dartmouth’s search, met Mulley in September of last year. Although both men were faculty physicians at Harvard, their paths had not previously crossed in the medical school’s maze of divisions, departments, specialties and subspecialties. That first encounter was on a subject of shared interest: how to improve health systems operationally so as to deliver better treatment to more patients.

“This was not connected to the search at all,” Mulley says, “but as I got to know more about him I started thinking how Jim had used his undergraduate education, his medical training and his anthropology studies to tackle some of the most difficult issues globally, and also how he had committed himself and his education in a way that involved some personal sacrifice.” The two men continued to meet. Mulley eventually introduced the topic of Dartmouth and invited Kim to throw his application into the pool. [Emphasis added]

However, in an interview with Kim in Science Magazine, Kim himself describes a different process by which he met Mulley and became President:

J.Y.K.: A colleague at Harvard, Albert Mulley, was the chair of the selection committee. We sat down one day and talked about the science of health care delivery—he’d done such great work in the United States and was getting interested in global stuff. About a week later, he called me and said, “Hey, Jim, did you ever think about being a college president?” I said, “Sure, why not?” [Emphasis added]

According to insiders, Mulley maintains that he did not know Kim prior to the Presidential search.

That said, the subject is delicate — given the obvious appearance of impropriety — and the Administration is making an effort to avoid any controversy about it. It seems that the press release regarding Mulley’s appointment to his new job was drafted inside the President’s Office; nobody in the College’s Office of Public Affairs had any word of it before publication — lest, I assume, a leak derail the progress of this cozy relationship.

Note: Mutual backscratching seems to be the order of the day at the College. Look at the broad self-dealing on the Board, with Trustees’ private investment firms handling significant sums of the College’s endowment money; and the appointment of Economics Professor Nancy Marion as Associate Dean of the Social Sciences by newly appointed Provost Carol Folt, shortly after Folt herself had been recommended for the Provost’s position by a Search Committee headed by… Nancy Marion.

Given this apparent pattern, protestations that Al Mulley is eminently qualified for his position fall flat for me. The real explanation is that the College’s inbred in-group does not have the self-confidence to bring strong, experienced people to Hanover. AD Harry Sheehy is the exception that proves the rule.

Want further proof? It will come soon enough, when Acting Dean Sylvia Spears is confirmed as Dean of the College following a search that Jim Kim will undoubtedly gush was so exhaustive that it encompassed not only the entire world but all of the other planets in our solar system. And lo and behold, we found the finest possible candidate right here at Dartmouth — again!

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