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Professor Jon Appleton On Provost Folt

Appleton3.jpgAs we saw in yesterday’s post, the administration missed an exceptional opportunity to hold fast to rigorous grading standards when then-Dean of the Faculty (and now Provost) Carol Folt caved in to student demands to modify their low grades in Music 3. As a result of this breach of academic freedom, renowned Professor Jon Appleton left Dartmouth. I wrote to Prof. Appleton the other day for an update on the events the led to his departure from Hanover and his view of the state of the College today.

March 6, 2011

Hi Joe:

When Folt changed all the grades to “pass” without ever having looked at the work or having spoken to me, I went to Jim Wright to complain. Wright and I had known each other as he came to Dartmouth a year after I did (1968). He said I shouldn’t make so much of the violation of my academic freedom as I was part of the “Dartmouth family.” He recalled our early days when we used to drink scotch in the faculty lounge. He was at his paternalistic best. But then I did write to the faculty and this was picked up by the state and national press.

When this article and others appeared Folt, college attorney Donin and former Provost Scherr called a meeting and threatened me with disciplinary action if I did not cease my public campaign to reveal their violation of my academic freedom.

At my own expense I hired attorney Bill Clauson to come to the meeting to represent me. The meeting ended abruptly and Folt, Dolan and Scherr left the room. They had hoped to intimidate me but they realized that they had no grounds and that their inquisition would only fan the fires of controversy. Neither Clauson nor I ever heard from them again. Clauson neotiated the terms of my “early retirement.”

Joe, I taught at Dartmouth forty-three years. The first forty were a gift and the last three a nightmare. I had the pleasure of working with honorable people: Presidents Dickey, Kemeny, McLaughlin and Freedman. I had the respect and I respected many deans: Reiser, Penner, Lahr and others. I served as chair of my department four different times.

I consider the current administration morally bankrupt. They neglect the undergraduate experience because the money (private, government and foundations) can be found in the medical establishment. The hospital, clinic, research (including Folt’s biological sciences graduate programs) are the dog wagging the tail of the college.

What is so objectionable to me is the dishonesty of their representation of the fiscal reality of higher education. The current administration is protected by layers of bureaucrats and attorneys.

Perhaps you and I are stuck with ideals and standards no longer relevant. So be it.

By the way, I don’t think Kim cares one whit about the education of undergraduates… nor does Folt. Students are an inconvenient necessity in their quest for higher positions. Want to bet how long Kim stays at Dartmouth?

If you have more questions please feel free to ask.

With best wishes,



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