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Folt/Kim: Loving the Big Lie
As we have seen, Jim Kim’s tenure as President and Carol Folt’s years as both Dean of the Faculty and Provost have been somnambulant periods at the College. Folt has been Dr. No in her dealing with proposals emanating from faculty and students. “We have no money” is the constant refrain. And she generates nary an idea herself. And beyond his health care plans, Kim contributed nothing positive over the past three years to the undergraduate experience (unless you really like getting ripped off at DDS).
But both Kim and Folt, and their minions at the College’s Office of Public Affairs, don’t let a day go by without referring to Kim/Folt’s supposedly unquenchable thirst for innovation.
Kim gave the below advice in his Commencement speech:
Courage to tackle the most difficult problems and venture into uncharted territory is critical for any institution, and it’s also critical for you. In so many institutions, fear and mediocrity track along the same well-worn paths. Avoid those paths at all cost.
Come on. Just what “uncharted territory” did Jim Kim venture into as Dartmouth’s President? Unformed ideas about bringing back a Great Issues course? A binge drinking collaborative — a subject that has been studied for years at Harvard? A correspondence course on heathcare delivery for adult students — which was only a copy of a Cambridge-based foundation that has been running for decades? Closing and then re-opening the swim docks?
As for Folt, the College’s PR machine bloviates mightily to fabricate Carol’s credentials as an innovator (innovatrix?):
However, the list of Folt’s achievements in her Dartmouth Now profile is both thin, and in some ways quite unbelievable:
When she joined the faculty as an environmental biologist in 1983, she was one of a handful of female scientists. She inherited a laboratory with virtually no equipment, and was told—somewhat grudgingly—that she was the first faculty member to ask for a desktop computer.
I don’t think so. The Apple II had been introduced on June 5, 1977, and the IBM PC was launched on August 12,1981. At the time Dartmouth led the country in computerization. Are we to believe that for six years no faculty members used an Apple II, and for over two years there were no PC’s on professors’ desks? I think not. Perhaps Interim President Folt also assisted Al Gore in inventing the Internet.
The remainder of the Dartmouth Now piece reaches and stretches. For example, Folt takes credit for being “at the leading edge of academic innovation, including integration of the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric…” As I long ago wrote in The D, the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric is just a repackaged RWIT, which itself is just a puffed up Composition Center. But even taking her short list of accomplishments at face value, Folt has little to show after almost 30 years in Hanover.
In the future, readers should peruse these press releases with a critical spirit. Some of them are true; some of some of them are (not) true; and in some, well, some people want very much that you think that they are true.
Addendum: At the next faculty party, after people have had a few drinks, read out loud the following paragraph from the Dartmouth Now story:
Folt expects the next year to be “filled with buzz, talk about innovation, new ideas, and engagement like we’ve never seen on campus before. We’ve set this up to be a very exciting year.”
You will hear derisive laughter and perhaps see scowls, depending on people’s mood. And then professors will turn away from you in pursuit of honest thoughts.
Addendum: As if on schedule, today’s mail contained a new issue of the Dartmouth Life magazine. Lo and behold, look who is fostering innovation on the front page:
Maybe if you say something often enough, it will come true.
Addendum: An ‘88 writes in with a comment on computers:
When I arrived at Dartmouth in Fall 1984 I bought an Apple MacIntosh from the College (I think it might have been required even, in order to qualify for financial aid). Seems unlikely that no faculty member had a computer in 1983 but by Fall 1984 all the students already were getting one?
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