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No. Decidedly Not the “Dartmouth Case”

The Presidential Task Force on Enrollment Expansion’s recent report hammered the poor state of virtually every aspect of the College’s infrastructure. Let’s hear it for serious, honest work. However the report also had evidence, at least on behalf of the person(s) who drafted the historical section, of the disdain (and historical illiteracy) that a good many members of the administration have for Dartmouth and her traditions. How many people recognize the legal reference here?

Dartmouth Case Task Force Excerpt.jpg

The famous “Dartmouth Case”? Come again? Or as Steve Martin used to say, “Oh, please.” Try as I might, I could not find any reference to such a case, though Daniel Webster was associated with Dartmouth College v. Woodward (17 U. S. 518, 1819) — which is not just commonly, but always, referred to as the “Dartmouth College” case — even by the U.S. Postal Service, which issued a commemorative stamp in 1969, on the occasion of the College’s 200th birthday:

Dartmouth College Case First Issue.jpg

I do not number myself among the “love her or leave her” crowd; any institution can improve. But if a faculty member or administrator feels so out of touch with the signal moments in the College’s history — and wants to re-name them — I am sure that there are a great many other institutions of higher learning which would provide more conducive environment for perennial disgruntlement.

Addendum: As part of the College’s 250th anniversary celebrations next year, the argument in the Dartmouth College case will be enacted in Washington before a Supreme Court panel led by Chief Justice John Roberts. “It is, Sir, as I have said, …”

Addendum: Fortunately for us, today’s undergraduates still confidently carry forth the tradition that Dartmouth is the only college in the Ivy League:

Eric Thorpe on Jeopardy.jpg

Eric Thorpe ‘18 will appear on Jeopardy tomorrow in the College Championship.


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