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The College Says, Trust Us

My Alumni Council representative asked the College how it could reconcile accepting an $80 million donation for an energy institute from Arthur Irving and the Irving Oil Company with the risk that Irving would influence the direction of the institute’s research. She received the following response from Meg Ramsden ‘87, Associate Director of Alumni Leadership:

Ramstein re Irving Oil.jpg

That’s all well and good, but influence, or at least the potential for influence, is what the College should be concerned about here. Has Irving pledged not to give more money ever again after donating the original $80 million, and has he forsworn the right to monitor research and comment on ongoing projects? If/when Dartmouth researchers apply for further grants from him, his power will be significant.

You see, the issue here is less that Irving will wield a heavy hand in directing research; rather, it is that researchers and the people who manage them will shy away from topics that might trouble Irving. That dynamic is more subtle, but it is real — and these pressures are why the Irving gift was immediately troublesome to many members of the faculty.

That Phil was/is oblivious to such concerns — people present at his initial Committee of Chairs announcement said that it was clear that he expected a standing ovation, not the pushback that he received — says a great deal about his narrow, uneducated view of the world.

To choose but one example of relations that cannot possibly be free of undue influence, look at the College’s policy regarding relationships between faculty and students:

Instructor Student Relations.jpg

The rule is correct that in many situations a power disparity can be such that no possible unconflicted relationship is to be had. If so, how can an oil man possibly endow an energy institute?

Addendum: As I have suggested before, perhaps the Hanlon administration could share with us the energy institute gift agreement in full, so that we may see how far away Irving is from the operations of the Institute.


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