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Parsing the Carol Folt Announcement

Folt2.jpgWhoever wrote the press release announcing Carol Folt as the College’s interim-President came face to face with her lack of achievement over the past eight years, first as Jim Wright’s Dean of the Faculty and then as Jim Kim’s Provost. Summing up her time as a senior administrator yields pretty thin gruel. First off, we’ve looked before at her work as the head of the strategic planning process — which she has been “driving”:

Folt, who became Provost in 2009, has been driving Dartmouth’s first institution-wide, faculty-led academic strategic planning process. The initiative has enhanced collaboration and shared mission and provided vital insights into the College’s assets and opportunities.

Folt’s expensive strategic planning machine has become a party joke punchline in Hanover, as similar planning efforts are in the academy at large. This point is especially true after the College’s 2002 strategic plan was finished, forgotten and then its goals were ignored.

From there, Folt’s announcement segues into an assertion that she worked closely with Jim Kim to develop “a strategic and financial vision for the entire institution.”

As Provost, Folt works closely with the president to develop and implement a strategic and financial vision for the entire institution. During the recent financial crisis, President Kim directed Folt and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Steven Kadish to co-lead Dartmouth’s efforts to resolve the $100 million budget gap.

The vision thing, eh? If you have heard any details of a strategic vision for Dartmouth, please let me know; I mean, wasn’t this the future goal of the strategic planning process? As for the financial side of things, her exegesis of the supposed $100 million of budget cuts was so sloppy that the faculty rejected it twice in consecutive meetings last May.

After that, the press release really has to dig down deep into the grab-bag. How can Folt take credit for the growth in the number of faculty, when the period of her leadership saw students face ever greater difficulty getting into classes due to the oversubscription problem (which even The D’s editors regularly complain about).

As Dean of Faculty, Folt oversaw an unprecedented period of faculty expansion in Arts and Sciences, increased numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in leadership positions and endowed professorships to historic levels, launched new academic programs, intensified support for critical student services, and ensured health care coverage for graduate students.

As for the “increased numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in leadership positions”, it doesn’t take a long time leafing through The D to recall that under Folt, the College has been riven with controversy over the retention of minority administrators. Yikes! Talk about taking a gross weakness and calling it a strength.

Next, to what “new academic programs” is the press release referring? I can’t give you a formal citation to prove a negative, but you can be sure that if there actually had been anything new and exciting in the College’s curricular and programmatic offerings over the past eight years, we’d have been given some detail. There has been nothing.

As for “intensified support for critical student services”: just talk to students to find out about inadequate resources at Dick’s House and the shambles that is student advising. Folt takes credit here when blame is in order.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Folt is renowned for her mastery of turgid Deanspeak. Take a look at the memo the she wrote to me in cancelling a writing program that I had initiated and funded for nine years at the College:

Folt Dep.jpg

As the saying goes among faculty members, when Carol Folt gives you a great many reasons for a decision, you can be sure that the real one is not among them.

All in all, we are in for another messy year. Dartmouth’s Trustees should recall the old saying: if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always gotten.

Addendum: Folt’s handling of the grading controversy in Professor Jon Appleton’s class several years ago was shocking for its violation of academic freedom, and it drove Appleton from the College.

Addendum: Today’s D has a story entitled Faculty say Folt will pursue Kim’s goals. Of note is that any professor voicing criticism of interim-President Folt in the piece does so anonymously. Why? Well, as we have noted before, a full and frank airing of differences is not Folt’s forté; in fact, cross Carol and you will pay the price.

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