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Distinctly Dartmouth! Sigh

You heard it here first. The administration’s next big marketing initiative is the phrase Distinctly Dartmouth — around which the Office of Communications and the Admissions staff will build a whole branding campaign. Sheesh. Sounds like the tagline for an upscale, gated housing community, a place whose McMansions are endowed with marble fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and real Corinthian leather.

How many hours of staff time and endless focus group gatherings did it take to come up with such an anemic alliteration? I mean, really, such boring branding. What slick sloganeering. I could go on.

After all, we are talking about an institution of higher learning that still possesses a faculty devoted to top-flight scholarship and close interaction with undergraduates. Is the Hanlon administration so lacking in self-confidence and so condescending towards prospective students that it thinks that the most-qualified high school seniors in the country won’t apply to the College and won’t come to Hanover unless we have a cutesy catchphrase?

How about skipping the hype and talking about our unique collection of foreign study programs, small classes with devoted professors, ample opportunities to do research, an intimate campus, and a friendly, open culture? And how about having the administration actually reinforce with time and money those salient attributes, rather than having bureaucrats pretend that they are in an episode of Mad Men.

Leave it to the Office of Alumni Relations to jump the gun last Christmas:

Distinctly Dartmouth comp.jpg

Phil’s letter to the campus of September 16, 2016 announcing the Irving Oil Energy Center contained the same phrase:

The institute will offer support for faculty and students to elevate research, teaching, and learning. It will provide resources for students, including undergraduate research opportunities; curricular development funds; and create a visible infrastructure that will help us secure new grants. The institute will help our community soar.


Undergraduate and graduate students will be full partners in the work of the institute, building on our rich history of student-faculty collaboration and creating a center of excellence that is distinctly Dartmouth. New research and programs will involve nearly every academic department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and faculty in our professional schools in an integrated, cross-disciplinary manner.
[Emphasis added]

Back in the mid-1990’s, when we were the seventh-ranked school in the country, our renown was based mostly on word-of-mouth — the objective estimations of students and faculty members who could directly evaluate the College’s scholarly achievements and innovative academic programs. At that time we didn’t have or need advertising agency savvy or toney slogans to describe what goes on in Hanover.

Addendum: Here’s what’s next around the Ivy League: Patently Princeton. Conspicuously Cornell. Particularly Penn. Categorically Columbia. Hugely Harvard. Beyond Doubt Brown. Uniquely Yale.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

It was actually Boldly Brown.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in to note that the below slide was shown at this May’s Alumni Council meeting:

Distinctly Dartmouth Slide.jpg

It outlines five pillars of the dead-in-the-water capital campaign.

Addendum: Another alumnus write in — with wit:

Is the Capital Campaign “Distinctly Dead”?

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