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BREAKING: Trustees Seriously Debate Name Change to Dartmouth University

The Trustees, according to inside sources, have had lengthy discussions about changing the name of the College to Dartmouth University. No kidding. As confirmed readers know, senior administrators have been quietly talking up the idea for a while. One informant tells me that a straw vote was taken, and most Board members were in favor of the change; another says that the issue was reviewed in detail, but no consensus achieved and no vote was held. Who to believe?

Actually, it doesn’t matter. The real question is why the Trustees are spending time on this question at all — and whether the idea will live on in the post-IP Folt era. Can anything be more pathetic than this proposition?

I hope that President Hanlon will do no more than roll his eyes at the notion, and ask the Trustees to move on to items of consequence. Imagine the following from Daniel Webster:

Sir, you may destroy this little institution; it is weak, it is in your hands! I know it is one of the lesser lights in the literary horizon of our country. You may put it out! But if you do so, you must carry through your work! You must extinguish, one after another, all those great lights of science which for more than a century have thrown their radience over our land! It is, Sir, as I have said, a small university. And yet there are those who love it! [Edit and emphasis added]

Or, think for a moment of the Dartmouth University Marching Band.

Enough of that. If all IP Folt can come up with in the way of strategic thinking is to copycat Harvard in the choice of name and the integration of graduate students throughout the life of the College, then we have final proof, as if it were needed, of the barrenness of her thinking and the emptiness of the current strategic planning effort. Second-rate minds don’t come up with ideas of their own; they do little more than emulate people and institutions whose reputation they deem superior to theirs.

If you think that changing the name of the College to Dartmouth University is a bad idea — and it surely is: such a decision turns its back on our constitutionally important history; the alumni would be aghast; and it would make us the subject of national derision — you might drop a note to anyone that you know on the Board of Trustees.

Perhaps there are people in China or Kosovo (or even in Canada, where I have been asked if I go to school in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia) who might not immediately recognize the College’s name. And maybe being the only college in the Ivy League is not ideal. But that is who we are, that is our history, and the name bespeaks our tradition of focus on really teaching undergraduates. A more confident group of leaders would take such a minor difficulty in stride. For example, ask students and alumni from the University of Pennsylvania how often they tell people that they go to Penn, only to be hear that, yes, Penn State is a wonderful school, isn’t it? (Or at least it was considered to be so until recently.) At last report, there was no movement afoot to change Penn’s name; it seems that the folks in West Philly are too busy working to improve the day-to-day life of their school to obsess over something like a label.

Addendum: As we have reported, strategic planning recently ground to a halt, a full six months after we recommended that it should, pending the arrival of a real President. However, the three people in the planning office still come to work and draw salaries — though they have nothing to do. Dartmouth’s own rubber room?

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