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Winter in Western Europe can be an uninterrupted carpet of low clouds with temperatures in the 40°’s and wet ground all the time. Dispiriting stuff, especially given the short days: Paris (48°51’24”N) lies more than 5° to the north of Hanover (43°42’08”N), which lines up almost exactly with sunny Montpellier (43°36’43”N) on the Côte d’Azur.

Western European Sky.jpg

Addendum: The iPhone 6’s camera will render a decently focused shot even when pointed straight into the sun, as long as the High Dynamic Range settings are activated. When I took this picture not long after sunrise on a flight from Boston to Europe, the phone’s screen was saturated white, but the processor’s merging of three shots of different focuses (foci?) and exposures provided a clear, pleasing image.

Thomas Rover ‘16 and about twenty friends took it upon themselves to let the world know that Dartmouth students still have some life left in them:

Snow Sculpture 2016.jpg

It is possible that they built an underground sculpture of the entire Seussian cat, too, but all we can see right now is the hat.

Addendum: It’s only February, but the Review’s history of the Winter Carnival snow sculpture might already have won the Witty Headline of the Year Award: Dartmouth’s Days of “Skulpturkampf.” Who says that the liberal arts are dead?

Time Inc.’s Money Magazine has ranked the College first in its listing of The 10 Best Colleges for Serious Skiers:

Money Magazine -- Skiing.jpg

Curious that the editors would choose a picture of kids in an article about serious student skiers, but the ranking makes sense when you average in high-quality academics and facilities, even though our mountains seems small compared to those at other schools.

Addendum: Williams ranked #2, followed by University of Washington-Seattle Campus, Bowdoin, Colby, Middlebury, UNH, Michigan Technological University, University of Utah, and the Colorado School of Mines.

Dartblog has obtained an internal memo in which the Trustees of SAE outline their case that the fraternity was targeted for derecognition by the College, and that it was not accorded its due process rights in the adjudication of the charges against it.

My sense is that we will see more aggressive behavior from the College in the coming months as the administration seeks to inflict a death by a thousand cuts on the Greek system:

From: Adam Grounds []
Sent: Monday, February 8, 2016 6:53 PM
To: undisclosed-recipients:
Subject: On Behalf of the Trustees of Dartmouth SAE

Dear Alumni of New Hampshire Alpha of Sigma Alpha Epsilon:

We are writing this update of recent events at Dartmouth College. A more detailed report will be forthcoming in the future.

As you might have read, last week the National Fraternity suspended New Hampshire Alpha’s charter for a period of “not less than five years.” Furthermore, the National suspended the individual memberships of every current Dartmouth student in SAE. In coordination with the National’s action, Dartmouth College revoked College recognition for the chapter as well. The purported rationale for this extraordinary action was described as “hazing” and “health and safety violations.”

The action taken against the Chapter was meticulously coordinated between Dartmouth College and the National Fraternity. We believe that this back door collaboration, conducted without our knowledge, resulted in the National acting wrongly, without regard to its organizational bylaws and in contravention of assurances made to us as Trustees. During the period this negotiation was taking place, College administrators held us in abeyance by promising a fair judicial process that we believe they never had any intention of proceeding with.

I continue to hear concerns about Dartblog’s negativity. How to respond? The answer, I think, comes in digestible form from an anecdote that Steve Jobs used to recount:

In my own companies, we relentlessly focus on improving the day-to-day experience of our customers. Occasionally we have a good idea that marks a significant step forward — a new product or a smart way of selling what we have — but most of the time we try hard to solve the problems that become apparent to us through observation and listening to the people who use the goods and services that we provide. We like people who complain. They teach us a great deal. (Praise is nice, too, but much less valuable.)

The College has lost sight of that priority since at least the start of the Jim Wright era in the mid-1990’s (recall that Wright really ran the Freedman administration in its final years due to Jim Freedman’s illness). Think of the many weaknesses large and small in Hanover that we still talk about to this day: the unrealized potential of sophomore summer; the diffuseness of most undergraduates’ education; the loss of dorm identities and the poor condition of many dorms; the disfunctionality of the new six-week Xmas break; and, well, a great many of the things that Dartblog regularly details: the excessive cost and bloat throughout the support staff and the poor quality work done by so many of its members.

An administration that cared about making Dartmouth great would listen to all of the College’s critics and do what is needed to improve the educational experience of students and faculty (I recently noted problem areas like “the second highest tuition in the Ivies; no money to provide need-blind admissions for international students; insufficient funds for kosher dining”).

Can you think of anything large or small like this that has been done in the last couple of decades? Any pleasing bit of progress? Not me. The College has 23 people working on PR — the puffery that tries to convince people that all is well. How about firing just one of them in order to fund kosher dining?

This space will continue to work to bring to the attention of the administration those ways that Dartmouth can be a better school. One day there will be a team in Parkhurst that will listen to and learn from all of the College’s sincere critics.

Addendum: Steve’s parable is particularly appropriate to writing. Christopher Hitchens and Ronald Reagan could produce clean first drafts; for the rest of us, writing is just the first step in a long, attention-demanding editing process.

At what point does PR puffery become outright distortion or even lying? Take the January 27 Dartmouth Now release about the College’s once-renowned overseas programs:

Foreign Study Upswing Comp1.jpg

Things sound good, right? The College has long been a leader in foreign programs — a legacy of the Dartmouth Plan’s initial effort to bring women to the College without adding to the number of students in Hanover. But the curent truth is that in yet another area, the administration has taken its eye off the ball, as statistics from the Dartmouth Factbook illustrate clearly.

The number of foreign programs has barely changed over the last seven years: up from 42 in 2008 to 43 today, though there was a spike in 2011 to 46 programs. Hardly an upswing:

Off Campus Program Numbers Programs.jpg

And participation in overseas programs run by the College is dropping year by year: over the 2008-2014 period, the number of students dropped from 653 to 534 — a decline of 18.2% (the number of undergrads on campus rose by 3.8% during that time period). Hardly an upswing:

Off Campus Program Numbers Enrollments.jpg

The deeper truth is that the College can boast about the number of students studying abroad only due to the large increase in students going on programs run by other schools. The number of students on foreign exchange programs at foreign colleges increased from 22 to 46 between 2008 and 2014, and the number on foreign programs run by other American schools during this time period jumped from 41 to 105. That’s an upswing:

Off Campus Program Participation1.jpg

Overall, the percentage of College students on foreign programs of all types has never been lower than it is today. That’s definitely not an upswing.

Addendum: I have long thought that participation in one of the College’s foreign programs should be mandatory for all students. But a policy like that would distract Phil and Carolyn from their emphasis on high-level research, wouldn’t it?

Addendum: As we reported on December 11, 2014, the administration is worried about the hemmoraging of students out of the College’s foreign programs to the cheaper offerings of other schools. Rather than upgrading our FLSA/FSP programs to attract students, here’s what has been done:

… the College has gone so far as to impose a punitive tax on students participating in foreign programs offered by other schools: $1,100 for the fall term and $2,200 for the winter, spring, and summer terms.

There is rot everywhere.

My mailbox has been brimming with letters from alumni upset of the injustice that there will be no prosecution of the BLM library invaders. Almost to a man, they have pledged to end all contributions to the College — except for specific donations to varsity teams. However, if you do want to make a gift that directly improves the academic lives of students, may I recommend the Political Economy Project. Here is a post that I ran a while back when PEP was getting off the ground:


I don’t think that I have ever seen Dartmouth students as angry at the administration as they are today. They sense that they are under siege:

Student Bill of Rights.jpg

And they are right. But where will all of this emotion lead?

Word from the inside says that no students are currently under investigation or facing College discipline for the BLM invasion of Baker Library on November 12:

You will recall that we published two eye-witness reports of the ugly events in the library that described the surrounding of studying students by BLM demonstrators and the shrieking of racist vulgarities. At least one complaint about that day was filed with the College — I know because I filed it — and Phil did promise publicly in the Valley News to investigate the events:

Administrators are investigating reports of violations of college policy, Hanlon said, and will enforce appropriate sanctions.

We’ve seen this behavior before when IP Carol Folt and Trustee Chair Steve Mandel announced that the RealTalk students who disrupted the Dimensions show in 2013 would be investigated by the College. In fact, no investigation was planned, and the Real Talkers were informed sotto voce by the administration that they had nothing to fear. To their credit, the kids informed Dartblog of Parkhurst’s duplicity. The administration was properly embarrassed, and to save face Folt punished the miscreants with a term or two of probation — the very lightest of wristslaps.

Perhaps a precedent has been set by the BLM students: it is ok to scream the following epithets in the ears of students working in the library:

You white racist piece of shit

Fuck your white privilege

Fuck your white tears

Stand the fuck up! Do you not think that black lives matter?

Logic and the common law canons of interpretation would indicate that one could change “white” to “black” in the above phrases and not face sanction, but I doubt that would be the case.

All in all, I had hoped for better from the Hanlon administration. There are core principles to be defended in this circumstance, and in not doing so, Phil places himself squarely in the line of other spineless college presidents. Given the number of requests for information that I have received from alumni as to the College’s disciplinary posture in this case, one can expect that Phil (and Dartmouth) will pay a price in the upcoming capital campaign for his lack of integrity.

Addendum: The College administrator in charge of undergraduate discipline and judicial affairs is none other than Vice Provost for Student Affairs Inge-Lise Ameer — who famously told students at Cutter-Shabazz House that “the [BLM] protest was a wonderful, beautiful thing.” Ameer is on ongoing disaster. Things that are wonderful and beautiful do not lead to punishment.

It turns out that data can be found about the College’s non-faculty staffing numbers going back to 1987. Jim Freedman ran a tight ship: staffing did not increase at all during his years in office (1987-1998), and in the 90’s the College’s endowment grew faster than that of any other Ivy. Those two facts are not unrelated. What’s more, the consensus on the faculty is that Freedman increased the intellectual caliber of both the student body and the administration (though he was not without his faults).

However, après Freedman le déluge:

Factbook Staff 1987-2014.jpg

Jim Wright took the helm in 1998 and once he had control of the budget in the following year, our current woes began. Spending skyrocketed, and in the 2000-2010 period, our endowment growth went from best to worst in the Ivies. We’ve focused on Wright’s myriad failings elsewhere, but let’s hone in on the staffing question.

As we have discussed repeatedly, non-faculty staffing was at 2,408 people in 1999. By 2002 it had reached 3,311 — an increase of 37.5% in just three years. Recall that during Jim Freedman’s decade in office, the support staff did not grow at all.

Where did the Wright growth occur? As we have mentioned, mismanagement leads to staffing growth everywhere, but during Wright’s early years three areas can be pointed to: the Student Life Initiative led to a large expansion in the Dean of the College’s office (and when the SLI was rolled back, everyone kept their jobs); an initiative called Diversify the Campus tried to upgrade the quality of the support staff by bringing in supposedly professional educational administrators (with a concomitant decline in the influence of the faculty); and finally research spending grew by over 50% in that period.

Curiously staffing stayed pretty much flat for the next seven years, despite a further increase in research spending, and what people say is a layering of government obligations on institutions of higher learning. Of course, a little discipline kicked in due to the bursting of the bubble.

With the 2007-2008 crisis, Wright finally cut out some of the fat, but with Jim Kim’s arrival on campus (and despite his disingenuous protestations), spending was off the races again. Today the College has more non-faculty staffers than it has ever had in its history.

And what have all of these extra people done for educational quality? Our U.S. ranking has regularly dropped since Wright arrived in office (it has never been lower that it is today), and we are now the second most expensive Ivy after Columbia. Would anyone argue with a straight face that Dartmouth has grown stronger since the hiring binge began in 1999?

Addendum: Over the past year, my local business has received a significant number of resumés from people leaving the College’s employ, so there are signs that at least in some areas, management might be more rigorous. We’ll soon see at what level non-faculty staffing stood at the end of 2015. Let’s hope that growth has been slow or non-existent. That would be a mildly positive sign.

At this point in time, after the derecognition of AD and SAE, it seems clear that the administration has a slow motion strategy in effect to abolish the Greek system. An undergrad reports about events on campus and students’ mood:

Fraternity Letter Feb 2016.jpg

Addendum: Students are angry, but they have not lost their wit, as a ‘16 shows:

What many called the Battle for SAE is over.
I expect that the Battle for the Greek System is
about to begin. Upon this battle depends the
survival of a unique and precious tradition. Upon it
depends our own Dartmouth life, and the long
continuity of our institutions and our College.
The whole fury and might of the administration must
very soon be turned on us. Hanlon knows that he will
have to break us in these houses, or lose the war.
If we can stand up to him, all Dartmouth may be free
and the life of the campus can move forward into broad,
sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole College,
including our beloved Alumni, including all we have
known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new
mediocrity made more sinister, and perhaps more
protracted, by the devices of a feckless and overbearing
administration. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our
duties, and so bear ourselves that if Dartmouth College
and its traditions last for a thousand years, men and
women will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Is the battle joined?

Addendum: Michelle Gil ‘16 puts forward the same message in The D today.

Here are the materials for today’s faculty meeting:

Faculty Meeting 08.02.2016.jpg

The D should cover these meetings, rather than waiting for a sanitized press release. Real decisions are made at them.

Addendum: The meetings are open to the public.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Tusk Up1A.jpgThe Times recently noted the therapeutic value for veterans of spending time with parrots, but I’d put walking through the northern Tanzanian bush with our two favorite elephants up against parrots any time. What a bliss-generating activity. Elephants seem to radiate a joy that can’t help but affect the people around them. And a human can even get in something of an upper-body workout for the price of a couple of peanuts.

That said, we occasionally do misread the girls, most memorably by asserting our own cultural prejudices. This past summer the younger one came into estrus (the elephant equivalent of heat) and attracted the attention of a young, wild bull who was in musth (the elephant equivalent of being a guy). In order to protect our young lady’s virtue, a picket line composed of staff members and the older female was set between the youngster and her suitor. There was much trumpeting and shouting in a team effort to cool the fellow’s ardor.

But we didn’t take into account mademoiselle’s own inclinations. She made an end run around the defensive line towards her beau, and nature subsequently took its course — fortunately without enduring effect. Both elephants were seen strolling together later in the day with smiles of fulfillment on their faces — actually that’s not true, but the bull did return a few hours afterward, seeking unsuccessfully to renew the relationship (no word on whether he texted the next day).

Elephants are like fun, floppy St. Bernards that need to consume several hundred pounds of plant life each day (and occasionally the denizens of a termite mound). Yet despite their immense size, they walk with real care. We routinely sit on the ground to chat while they eat trees, shrubs and grass, and often they will walk right through our small grouping. The first time or two the experience can be stressful, but one soon grows confident in the precision with which they move.

Thumbnail image for EA & N & R1.jpg

I wish that we understood elephants as well as they understand us.

Addendum: Disney Fantasia’s Dance of the Hours would have more fairly cast elephants than hippos:

Addendum: The depredations of poachers have caused the population of elephants in Tanzania to drop from 109,000 in 2011 to 43,000 now.

When a school is on a downtrend, the urge to pile on can be strong. Witness Thursday’s Washington Post story concerning our fall from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education R1 research group (“highest” levels of research activity) to the R2 grouping (“higher” levels of research activity). The ranking, which has been compiled every five years since 1973, first included Dartmouth at the R1 level in 2005; we made it again in 2010:

WashPost R1 Story Comp.jpg

Curiously enough, the expensive efforts that led to the College’s inclusion in the R1 group in 2005 and 2010 took place concurrently with our plunging U.S. News ranking: up until 1998 we were consistently ranked #7 or #8 among national universities. Since Jim Wright doubled our research spending between 1998 and 2004, our ranking has dropped regularly. We are now #12.

Note above the addition this year at the R1 level of stellar institutions like West Virginia, Northeastern and George Mason. The main body of the article notes other additions, too: Boston College, Clemson (S.C.), Florida International, Kansas State, Syracuse (N.Y.), Temple (Penn.), Texas Tech, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Mississippi, University of North Texas, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

While most of these schools could beat us in football, what does their superior ranking really say?

Interestingly, several other schools dropped to R2 this year: Rockefeller University (N.Y.), Mississippi State, Montana State, North Dakota State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.), University of Alabama in Huntsville and Yeshiva.

Um, isn’t Rockefeller University one of the finest research universities in the world?

Regrettably I could not find much detail about the methodology behind the classifications on the Carnegie Classification website.

Addendum: Some people place more importance than others on memberships in exclusive clubs. The Association of American Universities has long included the top research universities in the United States, among them seven of the eight Ivies: Harvard (1900), Yale (1900), Princeton (1900), Cornell (1900), Penn (1900), Columbia (1900). and Brown (1933). Dartmouth has never been part of the group.

Addendum: The Post article has one interesting comment:

These listings determine how U.S. News and World Report groups colleges and universities for its annual rankings. For example, Carnegie classifies as doctoral universities those that award at least 20 doctorates for research or scholarship in an academic year, not counting law or medical degrees. U.S. News, in turn, relies on this classification to define which schools should be called “national universities.”

While U.S. News takes note of the Carnegie classification, I find it tough to imagine that the magazine would put us in its National Liberal Arts Colleges rankings, where Williams and Amherst and #1 and # 2 respectively.

Jack Riley Comp.jpg

Addendum: The Valley News carried a fine tribute to Jack Riley, too.



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