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Presidential Position Profile: The Style
You are a rising star in academic administration, perhaps a President who has done a spectacular job at a small school, or as an extraordinary Provost or Dean of the Faculty at a large institution. Dartmouth is on your radar, and you give a look at the Presidential Position Profile documents associated with the College’s search. Fair enough. You want to know what the Trustees there are looking for, but first, you want to see what kind of people you are dealing with.
To your surprise, before you can get to the content of the Search Committee’s core document, you are struck by just how badly written it is. What to make of sections like these?
Separate [strategic planning] groups have looked carefully at the research profile of Dartmouth and the scholarly and creative ambitions of the faculty. They are charting possibilities to integrate and unify efforts to maximize Dartmouth’s worldwide impact. Task forces looking at student life and culture have creatively explored the important issues contained in the living/learning environment for students, the challenges of a constantly changing and increasingly diverse student demographic, and the competencies required by graduates to be successful in the twenty-first century. Other groups have focused on the role of graduate education, the global life of the university, the needs and role of alumni, and the demands that will greet the Dartmouth workforce of the future. The task forces have galvanized Dartmouth, and there is palpable excitement on campus about Dartmouth’s outstanding prospects and about all that the future holds for the institution.
I don’t know about you, but this writer has not been palpably galvanized by Provost Folt’s strategic planning work. However, I am gobsmacked to see such a collection of jargon and empty phrasing in an important document.
Affirm Dartmouth’s Position as a Global Leader
Dartmouth was the first Ivy League university to institute an international study program and boasts a long history of global reach across its curriculum and through the activities of students and faculty including: distinction in foreign language teaching, global health initiatives, and Arctic studies.
Dartmouth has a good global presence, but the extent of its global engagement is not widely known. The international programs face vastly increased competition as other universities and colleges expand their global reach. The next president must ensure that Dartmouth develops a global strategy that builds on its strengths and develops dynamic initiatives in the geographies and disciplines that will best serve students and faculty in this increasingly global world.
Umm. Did they say global? Yup. Eight times in a two-paragraph section. And even now, I don’t have any idea what the word means in this context.
Forty-eight percent of Dartmouth’s undergraduate alumni contributed to Dartmouth in fiscal year 2011, a steady figure over recent years despite the economic downturn and more than three times the national average. In the Ivy League, it is a record rivaled only by Princeton.
Do you remember when craggy Miss Jones in the second grade told you not to use “it is” as your subject when you could find something more vigorous? How about, “In the Ivy League, this record is rivaled only by Princeton.”?
The Dartmouth faculty is highly productive and well regarded in their fields, and Dartmouth competes for faculty with all the best research universities in the country. [Emphasis added]
The faculty either “is” or “are,” but not in the same sentence. In the old days Miss Jones would rap you on the knuckles for that one.
I could go on and lay out out many other examples of grammar errors, jargon-filled and empty phrasing, and poor sentence structure, but suffice it to say that there may be candidates who don’t go further in the search process after reading this document. Rather than composing a tightly written and well reasoned statement, the Search Committee has given prospective Presidents — and us — a weak hodgepodge unbefitting a liberal arts institution, or any serious school for that matter.
Addendum: The Search Committee hardly did better the last time around, though President Kim did describe the document that brought him to Dartmouth as literature. Perhaps for him, it was.
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
August 23, 2009
Fare Thee Well, Tom Crady
And now Dean Tom Crady has precipitously announced his departure from the College after only 20 months on the job. How to read this? By way of background, prior to coming to Dartmouth, Crady had…
May 31, 2009
Kangaroo Court, Indeed
In an interview with The Dartmouth, alumni-elected trustee T.J. Rodgers ‘70 explained his reasons for declining to participate in future evaluations of trustees up for “re-election,” namely the “kangaroo court” nature of such discussion in…