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Covering the Basics

An alumna writes in with an on-the-ground anecdote:

From: Carolyn Kelley Evans ‘78
Date: Tue, Apr 23, 2013
Subject: Dartblog mail from Carolyn Kelley Evans ‘78
To: mail@dartblog.com

Yesterday I called Dartmouth to follow up on my check for Commencement housing. It had been sent March 16th, and had not been cashed. I was concerned the check had been lost. The courteous employee in Housing assured me that our rooms were assigned, so I was not to worry. We both wondered why Dartmouth is routinely so slow in cashing their checks.

I don't know what to say other than this is just so sad. Knowing Dartmouth has an abundance of well paid employees, I wonder why they cannot cover the basics?

There is nothing remarkable about this story. It is one of the many that I receive about a Dartmouth bureaucracy that just doesn’t get the little things right. But it is important.

This note points to the sickness of Dartmouth’s administration. Though the College has 43% more non-faculty staffers than in 1999 (about 1,000 more employees), the quality of the work that they do continues to decline. As I have phrased it in the past, the staff does less with more.

Why? A number of reasons: sloppiness; an emphasis on who is hired and not how well the people who are hired work; a culture where nobody is fired, and extra employees are brought on board to bolster the inefficiency of low-quality staffers; and, above all, a culture where rate-busters and the diligent are pushed out, if they are ever hired in the first place, because they disrupt the comfortable rhythm of the comfortable.

The odd thing is, the members of the faculty, all of whom deal with these folks on a regular basis, or at least try to deal with them, know full well how dreadful the bureaucracy is. Why don’t they insist on reform?

Addendum: As of yesterday — and despite her phonecall ten days ago — Caroline’s check still has not been cashed, almost seven weeks after she sent it. Modern digital banking technology allows checks to be cleared within 24 hours.

Addendum: While we are commenting on second-rate aspects of Dartmouth, consider the below observation by Bruce Wood, a true friend of the College. He makes his living reporting on the College’s teams, especially football, at his Big Green Alert blog. Here is his description of the quality of the Admissions department tours provided to visitors to campus:

… our tour of Dartmouth was probably the worst college tour we took. While it probably didn’t help that we already knew the school, neither did it help that we never saw a dorm room, didn’t go into the cafeteria and neither saw nor heard mention of any athletic facilities. At other schools - including so-called “elite” schools - we not only went in the cafeteria but some gave us vouchers for lunch, we went into an actual dorm room, and we were at least informed of the athletic facilities and given directions to check them out on our own if we wanted.

Addendum: A longtime reader comments on college tours:

Thanks for posting the anecdote about the Dartmouth tours. I could add my own. I suppose I have been on about 20+ tours over the years with 3 kids. I find no correlation between the quality of the tour and the ranking of the institution. Some fine institutions have crummy tours and some modest public institutions have great tours. Here’s an idea that probably never occurred to the administration. Why not ask incoming students which schools had the best tours? Then visit some of those schools and find out what makes a tour good. If the College wants to attract a great applicant pool and improve yield, then this seems like a simple method of doing so. Call me a dreamer, but wouldn’t this be a win-win for the College and prospective students? It might even fit in with the Strategic Plan.

Addendum: A Dartmouth parent shares her own frustration:

I’ve been a Dartblog lurker since our son started at Dartmouth in the fall of 2009. As his graduation approaches, we too have had to deal with the incompetents in the Dartmouth administration. We wanted to reserve rooms in the dorms for our son’s grandparents. The materials they sent to us had the wrong dates - they were apparently copied from last year’s forms. Graduation is Sunday. Curiously, the dorms are available ONLY on Friday and Saturday nights. We finally figured that out after we realized that the forms had conflicting dates. We live on the west coast. All hotel rooms within reasonable driving distance are booked. Why not make the rooms available Sunday night as well? Maybe they intended to do that, but mis-printed the dates.

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