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The D Redeems Itself
It’s tough to understand what is going on at The D: often I fall into terminal despair, but then the editors — or somebody in Robinson Hall — comes out with an editorial or a column that gets to the heart of what ails the College. For a while, at least, all is well.
Friday’s Verbum Ulitmatum reminds us all, in the words of a college president friend in the midwest, that “this is an educational institution.” That’s what my friend replied to criticism when she started to chop staff positions in order to hire more and better faculty. At her fine school she started with 2.6 staffers for every faculty member; when she was done, the ratio was 1.6:1, and she felt that her institution ran better, too. At the College, the ratio of staff to faculty is over 4:1.
The D’s editorial puts forth a number of ideas:
Hanlon should shake up the tenure process at Dartmouth… Recruiting and hiring incredible faculty is by far the most important thing he can do, since many faculty members’ tenures and influence will far exceed his own. To this end, we need to raise the bar regarding what it takes to attain tenure; this includes raising the expectations of research and teaching. It is no secret that the tenure process is more concerned with research than teaching. However, it is also no secret to students that the mediocre tenured scholars are, with amazing regularity, also the mediocre teachers… More importantly, academic departments should be encouraged to bring in already tenured faculty members from other institutions.
Here, here. This is the strategy that former Dean of the Faculty Mike Gazzaniga tried to put into place. He wanted to use the College’s surplus (we had the fastest growing endowment in the Ivies in the 1990’s; we have had the slowest growing one since then) to bring in 50 faculty stars. Instead, Jim Wright chased after popularity and harmony — what he got was mediocrity — and he lavished dough on the staff in the form of twice-the-market wages and benefits.
Second, Hanlon should encourage many departments to rethink their approaches to introductory courses. It is time to recognize that Dartmouth is not innovative simply by having comparatively smaller introductory courses with faculty members rather than graduate students. Once a classes’ enrollment grows beyond a certain level — perhaps 30 or 40 students — the class is no longer small and, while it is better than 700, it is not innovative. One possible way to improve the situation would be to make Religion 1 the model for all introductory courses on campus. In this course, enrollment is capped at 70 students. Two faculty members with different specialties and approaches teach a class that focuses on concepts and analysis rather than facts. It is inspiring; it is dynamic.
All is not as it seems in Religion 1, where enrollment has been declining for a good while now. But cutting class size is a worthy goal — one that can be accomplished by freeing resources that are currently wasted on an overcompensated and bloated… oh, how I do repeat myself.
Third, Hanlon could oversee a substantial improvement in the College’s study abroad programs. As we have previously argued, the main problem is not with the total quantity of opportunities to study abroad but rather the types of opportunities available.
I could not have put it better, though I tried a couple of weeks ago.
Addendum: A senior professor writes in about tenure:
Here is what I observed regarding the granting of tenure during my many years on the faculty. Tenure becomes the goal rather than the professional work itself; it is often achieved by kissing the asses of senior colleagues, members of the Committee Advisory to the President (CAP) and deans. Once granted tenure, too many professors simply stop working seriously, and everyone knows who they are, but by then it is too late.
John Kemeny had it right: tenure granted to one per ten faculty. I believe the worst offenders are in the Humanities Division because it is so difficult for colleagues outside the discipline to assess quality. A daring substitute for tenure would be a three-year term followed by a six-year term followed by a twelve-year term with frequent OUTSIDE EVALUATIONS (no evaluators suggested by the professor).
If, along the way, it is clear that faculty members are no longer productive as scholars AND teachers, ample, advanced warning gives them a chance to find other positions (and not as administrators at the College).
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…