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Changing Horses in Midstream?

The biggest managerial mistake that I have made has been to refrain from dismissing people when their incompetence became manifest. I did so, or rather did not do so, because I felt that their accumulated knowledge made them more valuable in the short term than a competent replacement. I feared that a new player would take too much time to get up to speed.

That decision was wrong, always, whether it was related to employees, architects, lawyers or other vendors. The very definition of competent and serious people is that they get up to speed quickly, sometimes astoundingly so.

Nobody thinks about Carolyn Dever today, other than as a cipher who added nothing of use to the College. By the same token, the Trustees should not wait to replace Phil Hanlon. A new President chosen for piercing intelligence and emotional maturity will be able to get the College moving again in short order.

The argument is being made that even though Phil is not getting the job done, to replace him on the eve of the capital campaigns launch would be a blow to fundraising. People have even said that the controversy around Phil’s departure would set the College back a decade.

Quatsch! As my German grandmother used to say. Nonsense.

You can’t honestly believe that bloodless Phil Hanlon has fashioned deep friendships with donors, and that these people will back away from giving to Dartmouth without Juan Carlos at the helm. Given the sorry fundraising results over the past few years, not to mention Phil’s utter absence of charm and charisma, nobody but Phil’s wife could hold such a view, and I expect that Gail takes that position only on a good day.

Of course, it has been a long while since we had a real President in Hanover; perhaps people can’t even imagine one in Parkhurst anymore. But if you wander down to the end of Tuck Mall and see what Joe Helble at Thayer and Matt Slaughter at Tuck are doing with their small but endlessly dynamic schools, you will get a flavor. Hell, even football coach Buddy Teevens ‘79 is showing national leadership in a way that Phlailing Phil can only dream about.

The Trustees have to take a deep breath and make a change as soon as possible. Tomorrow would be good. If they think that asking for Phil’s resignation will cause turmoil, they are wrong. But if they wait, and the faculty discovers a spine, and boots Phil out by a near-unanimous vote of no confidence, then they will get the turmoil that they fear, and in a nationally reported dose.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

The selection of the next Provost is looming large. It’s not possible that the Trustees are blind to the failures and incompetence of this administration. How can they not see what casual observers can see? My speculation is that the Trustees will really be selecting the next President and will allow Phil to gracefully step down to “return to teaching” within a year after the appointment of a new Provost.

Addendum: And another:

You are right on target… Strike while the iron is hot. Keeping Phil at the expense of continuing to create more chaos and destruction at Dartmouth would be a major mistake. My sense is that giving, rather than declining in the wake of his early departure, would increase significantly as alums see their beloved ‘College on the Hill’ will have a promising future.

You are correct to sing the praises of Thayer and Tuck. They are shining examples of what great leadership can accomplish. Keep up the pressure. Continue to get the faculty to push for change but I agree it is the Trustees who must act now.


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