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Foltian Dimensions of Ineptitude

Dimensions.jpg

The gang that couldn’t administrate straight has stuck again, this time with the abrupt cancellation of the Dimensions Weekend show much beloved by students of recent years — though in Parkhurst’s spin-crazed manner, the administration is asserting that the show has not been cancelled, just moved in pieces to the dorms. As if.

The D has a story and a well reasoned editorial about Parkhurts’s latest fiasco (geez, I really have had occasion to use that word in the last couple of years: the Hanover Inn sinkhole of waste, SAE hazing, Trustee self-dealing, AP credit blundering, arbitrary and differing frat punishments, hated DDS mealplans, closing the swimdocks, and so on and on).

The How: Before we address the merits of cancelling the Dimensions show, we should look at the manner in which this decision was made. According to The D, the order came out of the blue. No consultation, justification, conversation, disputation or shared decision-making. As usual — for another example, see Dean Johnson’s summer fiat regarding a new alcohol policy — the bolt of lightning was from on high. The content was explicit and so was the implication for students: nobody cares what you think.

If the administration had good reasons for changing the format of the Dimensions show, any good manager could have told Carol & Co. how to proceed. First, take student leaders into your confidence, and share your data with them. Let the word filter down to other students that there are good reasons for modifying the show. And, given the event’s popularity, make the change a gradual one over, say, a couple of years. That’s how to effect change; and it will be better because students can add input from their perspective, and they will buy into the new way of doing things.

One more thing: cancelling the Dimensions show was most definitely an IP Folt-level decision, just like the new alcohol policy or revised rules for DDS dining. Don’t blame this one on the Admissions department; they are as little at fault as Dave Newlove was in changing the structure of dining plans. I’m not saying Folt should just take responsibility for this move; everyone should understand that Folt was in on the decision from the start.

The Why: Nobody should be surprised that the College is suffering on the admissions front. Princeton is cheaper, and Harvard and Yale are better. Add to that evaluation the above-mentioned serial scandals and the College’s rapidly declining reputation among insiders (ask any college counselor you happen to see), and it becomes obvious that IP Folt has concluded that she needs to do something — anything! — to improve Dartmouth’s reputation. Except anything fundamental, of course. Remember, with Carol it’s all about PR.

According to The D’s piece on Friday, the ostensible reason for ending the Dimensions show is to put more emphasis during the weekend on the academic, intellectual side of the College (Jim Freedman’s term “creative loner” speech comes to mind). Folt’s usual kneejerk solution: make Dimensions into an event just like all the other Ivy prospy weekends: boring deans droning on about the so, so important intellectual work being done by students. That, in Folt’s inobservant cosmology, must be what students want to hear in order to get them to come to Dartmouth and shun HYP. Again, as if.

Let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment: it’s true that not everyone loves the Dimensions show. But most current students did; that’s one of the reasons (a big reason for many) that they chose to come to the College. But beyond current undergrads’ confirmation bias, I imagine that the Admissions department has survey results that show certain prospies being turned off by the performance’s unbridled enthusiasm.

Fair enough. Maybe that’s an argument for adjusting the emphasis of Dimensions weekend. More presentations could be organized to illustrate teaching and research at Dartmouth. Some could even be scheduled at the same time as the Dimensions show, for people of that valid inclination. That’s what diversity is all about, no? But dismantling the show? Only IP Folt and her sycophantic deans, people who obviously have no memory of being students, could make such a boneheaded decision.

The What (TF): By this point it should be clear to everyone that Carol just doesn’t want to have fun. How consistently misguided and short-sighted she is. Anyone who really knows the College understands that the distinguishing aspect of Dartmouth is the joyous love that students and alumni (and a surprising number of faculty) have for the alma mater. Sure, academic pursuits matter deeply in Hanover, as does teaching (don’t forget our #1 U.S. News ranking for undergraduate instruction), but a great many students decide to come to Hanover because, upon visiting Dartmouth for Dimensions weekend, they sense an extra, deeply felt, um, dimension, of affection/humor/warmth among the College’s students.

We — and I say we because this idea has been true about Dartmouth students for decades, and probably centuries — don’t take ourselves too seriously, even though we are serious about the things we do. That’s an attractive contrast with places like Harvard or Chicago. This emotion, which leads to celebrations like the Dimensions show, comes from self-confidence and a good heart, attributes that a pinched, unimaginative person like Carol Folt cannot begin to understand.

It’s time for her to go, before she can do additional damage. But will Dartmouth students do more than sign Facebook petitions, and leave derisive anonymous comments in the D about the feckless IP? This week could be interesting.

Addendum: Maria Laskaris ‘84, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, has a letter in today’s D in which she seeks to explain the changes to the Dimensions show:

The light-hearted, student-driven energy it radiates is a unique facet of Dartmouth that we want to highlight. However, Leede Arena is a challenging venue because of acoustics and other technical and logistical issues. With all this in mind, we have asked student leaders to develop ideas for the Dimensions welcome show in another space and to share those ideas with us.

Well, that’s helpful. So it’s actually the “acoustics and other technical and logistical issues” in Leede that are the problem with the show. How interesting! Though, I must say, it is curious that the students putting on the show and the prospies enjoying it over the years haven’t noticed these supposed difficulties. And this argument was not convincing to this year’s show director, Ashton Slatev ‘15, who commented on Friday:

“I blitzed out to the ’15s and the ’14s and within five minutes I had received 45 blitzes, paragraphs long, explaining why this was a terrible idea and that they had been thinking about other schools but hadn’t gone because the other weekends were boring.”

Laskaris and Folt must take us for fools.

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