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Provost Dever’s New Year’s Platitudes

A day at Dartmouth would not be complete without a message from the College about diversity and inclusiveness. Rumor has it that ever-politically-correct Provost Dever has gone so far as to program Microsoft Word on her computer to add these terms to each paragraph of every e-mail that she writes:

Dever D&I message 01.01.2016.jpg

What pap. Does such a memo befit the academic leader of a world-class academic institution? Of course, we might ask how the academy’s and Dartmouth’s emphasis on D&I is working out. Here’s one answer.

I wonder why Inge-Lise Ameer (she of the famous video) is not mentioned in this note. After all, Provost Dever refers to both Rebecca Biron and Rick Mils.

Provost Dever has certainty underwhelmed during her first eighteen months in Hanover. She is invisible to the faculty; her communications are awkwardly written (she a professor of English and gender studies); and as far as academic initiatives go, well, she does not have much to her credit. What was Phil thinking in choosing her as the critical hire in his administration?

Addendum: Another rumor circulating on campus is that the Provost’s New Year’s message in 2017 will focus on academic excellence, creative scholarship, and the life of the mind. Let me quash that one right now. Nobody in the current administration is interested in stuff like that.

Addendum: A community member writes in:

Provost Dever’s message is a monument to high-level administrative ambiguity. It is self-referential and self-adulatory (our “focused attention, consistent communication, regular assessment, and institutional accountability”) — all, of course, “in concert with the core values expressed in the College mission statement.” The top-down approach is painfully evident in how “the work of her office” will take the lead in developing “a diverse, vibrant intellectual community.”

One peculiarity of universities as intellectual communities is that the most creative individuals are at the bottom rungs of academic careers, not at the administrative top, and that talented senior colleagues, deans and (elsewhere, at least) provosts have a role in fostering the careers of such talented individuals without mandating re-education “training” sessions for communities of scholars already engaged in recruitment and sensitive to issues of diversity at a pragmatic level. In the case of this Provost-note, we are referred back to Phil’s First Words, the Provost’s earlier words, and the promise of opportunities to hear of top-down reports, study sessions and Town Hall meetings. (Perhaps the Provost’s words and the mission statement could be printed up in little red books that community members can carry with them at all times.)

I particularly like the exhortation to discuss the “core principles” of diversity and inclusion rather than allow “reactive responses to individual events.” Nope, we will “move forward” and not dwell on (or learn from?) the inchoate administrative responses to events in the immediate past.

As a source document for approved jargon, this note cannot be beat. Reading between the lines, I am certain that it augurs a continued flow of high-priced outside consultants (“new relationships with top programs for underrepresented scholars”) to help us see the light.

Compare and Contrast: Meanwhile, in an interview with Tuck Today magazine, incoming Dean Matt Slaughter shows that it is possible to articulate an institution’s purposes without sounding like an automaton:

Slaughter Interview in Tuck Today.jpg

The above two administrative communications illustrate succinctly why Tuck does so well in the rankings, and why the College is in freefall.

Addendum: A wit writes in:

Are the rumors correct that e-mails from the Provost will in future be coming from Carolynclusion Deversity?


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