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Hazing: The Silence of the Kims

Kim & Lim.jpgThe utter silence of President Kim and Dartmouth’s First Lady Younsook Lim during the current hazing scandal is perplexing. The crisis could be a great opportunity for Mme. Kim to shed her cloak of invisibility, and begin to take the place in the College community that every President’s wife has occupied before her. She is well qualified to play the traditional role of Dartmouth’s mater familias: she is a practicing pediatrician, and as anyone who has worked for her in the President’s mansion knows, she is a demanding perfectionist. Regrettably, her non-participation in the hazing debate, and her general absence from College life, reinforces the view that she is just enduring her time in Hanover with gritted teeth, waiting for JYK to move on to a job in a more worldly venue like Washington or Geneva.*

As for Jim Kim, the dangerous hazing activities reported by Andrew Lohse — who, rightly or wrongly, blamed Kim himself for the administration’s inaction — would seem to be a logical part, or at least an extension, of Kim’s anti-alcohol collaborative. Is President Kim simply befuddled by the whole mess? Certainly as a hard-working pre-med during his undergrad career, he would have had little contact with the Dionysian excesses of Greek life, but one would think that his training as an anthropologist had equipped him to analyze the situation, and do something about it. After all, he is always discussing his ongoing ethnography of Dartmouth, as he did last summer in his Presidential Lecture:

Now, I’ve had a unique and wonderful experience of actually being trained how to do that, because as an anthropology grad student, you do something called ethnography, participant-observation ethnography. The whole point of ethnography is that you put yourself into a completely foreign situation, and you sit there and you suspend all of your own assumptions about how the world works and what’s normal and what’s reasonable, and you work and work and work to try to understand how that particular group sees the world. As you write about it, that’s your thesis; that’s the work of anthropology.

Lohse’s revelations were published two weeks ago; to date the administration has only responded in a piecemeal, defensive fashion. Certainly Kim’s leadership coach at the Tuck School, Marshall Goldsmith, has an entire playbook on the subject of crisis management. Perhaps we’ll hear from our leader this week?

*Addendum: President Kim is to be congratulated for his taste in the finer things. At a state dinner at the White House on October 13, 2011 (picture above) in honor of the visit of South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak, Kim appears to be wearing a somewhat snug, though elegant, Giorgio Armani tuxedo, identifiable by its plunging lapel line.

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