The Latest Posts

Hard on the heels of The D’s editorial urging the abolition of the Greek system, a group of radical faculty members is circulating a letter urging fundamental changes to the College’s system of fraternities and sororities. In addition, at Monday’s faculty meeting, a motion will be put forward from the floor “to call a vote on phasing out Greek organizations,” as a letter making its way around the faculty has phrased it.

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I expect that close observation of Phil Hanlon on Monday will provide us with an understanding on where he stands on the fate of the Greeks. Word is that English Professor Don Pease has long had Phil’s attention. Curiously, Pease has not yet signed the above letter.

Addendum: As we have noted in the past, faculty meetings are dominated by a small clique; professors who are unable to attend for whatever reason are denied the right to vote.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

If the faculty think that Bowdoin College is better for eliminating fraternities, they clearly didn’t read this article in the NY Post that indicates that binge drinking and sexual assault is endemic there as well.

Fraternities can have issues, but removing them does not eliminate student desires to drink and have sex.

U.S. News has now ranked the world’s top universities. Here’s how the Ivies did:

#1 Harvard
#10 Columbia
#13 Princeton
#17 Yale
#19 Penn
#23 Cornell
#106 Brown
#242 Dartmouth

The publication’s methodology is heavily weighted towards research and publications.

Kyle Dropp.jpgThe media has been full of stories about a faux pas by Government Professor Kyle Dropp, who is by all accounts a fine young teacher and researcher, and Stanford political scientists Adam Bonica and Jonathan Rodden. It seems that as part of their research they sent a mailing to 100,000 residents of Montana asking them to evaluate the political leaning of judges currently up for election to the state’s Supreme Court. The New York Times reports:

The Montana mailer, labeled “2014 Montana General Election Voter Information Guide,” featured the official state seal. It also placed the four judicial candidates on an ideological spectrum that included Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as reference points.

The mailers were designed to test whether voters who received information placing candidates on an ideological range would be more likely to vote. While political scientists have studied partisan races and voter turnout, less is known about nonpartisan races. Mr. Bonica, who had developed ideological scores for candidates and campaign donors, created a similar measure for state supreme court justices. The ideological scores for the Montana nonpartisan candidates were based in large part on the partisan candidates their donors had also given to…

The use of the state seal also upset officials because it cannot be used on campaign literature. Groups wishing to use it must obtain the permission of the Secretary of State. Montana officials have begun an investigation into the mailers’ display of the official seal. Montana’s commissioner of political practices, Jonathan Motl, has asked Stanford and Dartmouth to disavow the mailers.

Stanford and Darmouth have jointly sent an open letter to voters apologizing for the mailer, and both are now investigating the project.

The Associated Press adds further detail:

The presidents of Stanford University and Dartmouth College are sending 100,000 letters to Montana residents disavowing election mailers that state officials called deceitful and worried will influence the state’s two Supreme Court elections…

The letters by Dartmouth president Philip Hanlon and Stanford president John Hennessy dated Tuesday apologized for the mailers and said no research study should risk disrupting an election.

“We genuinely regret that it was sent and we ask Montana voters to ignore the mailer,” the letter said.

The wording was agreed to by the schools, Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl. The letters were being printed and are expected to arrive before next Tuesday’s election to the same 100,000 people who received the original mailers.

The $52,000 cost for mailing the letters will be paid for by the schools, Motl said.

The blog Talking Points Memo described the research project’s aims as follows, and it noted that the professors had conducted similar mailings in two other states::

According to a description provided by Stanford, the research was intended “to compare voter participation levels in precincts that receive the additional information with voter participation in precincts that do not.” It included 100,000 mailers sent throughout Montana, 66,000 mailers sent in September in one New Hampshire congressional district, and 143,000 mailers sent to two congressional districts in California. There have not been reports of similar complaints in California or New Hampshire.”

Talking Points Memo also reproduced the flyers themselves, which were part of a complaint filed as a private citizen by Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch:

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Of course, the flyers look like any piece of campaign literature that seeks to situate a candidate on the political spectrum, perhaps in an unflattering fashion. Nothing wrong with that, except when the exercise is paid for by money coming from a tax-exempt foundation and an educational institution, in this case “a $250,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and a matching $100,000 in support from Stanford,” according to a Stanford spokesman. Both entities are limited by their legal status from engaging in partisan political activity.

The Associated Press noted in a second story:

The project was approved by the Dartmouth Institutional Review Board, but not the Stanford board, and the university is conducting a full investigation, [Stanford University spokeswoman Lisa] Lapin said.

“We can now say that the study did not follow Stanford’s protocols that would have required a review by the Stanford IRB,” she said.

Dartmouth’s website defines the Institutional Review Board as follows:

The Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) is the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Dartmouth College — a federally mandated committee with the charge of overseeing institutional research projects involving human participants.

The Board has 66 members, the great majority of whom seem to have a background in medicine rather than political science.

It looks like someone dropped the ball.

Addendum: The College’s obligation as a tax-exempt institution to remain impartial in political races finds expression in matters as simple as the visit to campus by a Senator. Look at the efforts made by the Rockefeller Center to note that today’s talk by Senator Baldwin of Wisconsin is not part of a partisan campaign in Tuesday’s mid-term elections:

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Addendum: Where the heck is The D on this story? When the AP and the NYT are reporting on College matters before our paper of record, there is something clearly wrong in Robinson Hall. Perhaps we’ll hear something once the 21-person Dartmouth Office of Public Affairs has issued a press release.

Addendum: The Chronicle of Higher Education has now published the letter sent to approximately 100,000 Montana voters by Phil Hanlon and Stanford President John Hennessy:

Montana Letter.jpg

Uh, Phil, that would be Stanford University and Dartmouth College.

The Chronicle also reproduced printers proofs of the flyers sent to New Hampshire voters:

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NH Flyer2A.jpg

Addendum: TPM has also found the California flyer:

California Flyer.jpg

It is quite cool that the CEO of J. Crew is coming to speak at the College:

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But it is very cool that Mickey Drexler has been on the Apple Board of Directors since 1999. I know what kind of question I would ask were I at the DEN presentation.

Addendum: You can register for the event here.

Addendum: Drexler’s daughter Katherine is a ‘14.


A few weeks ago we suggested that the administration might strike a Grand Bargain on alcohol with students: no hard alcohol in exchange for taps and kegs in the Greek houses and a go-easy approach to beer and wine in dorms. With the frats feeling existentially vulnerable these days, they might accede to a few other changes that would benefit everyone at Dartmouth in many ways.

A Dartmouth prof writes in with a suggestion:

I’ve been thinking that one positive step frats might take, from the position of a prof, would be to move the Wednesday night “meetings” to Thursday night. This would have the effect of clearing the 10As and even the 2As for classes with students who are awake and attentive. Yes, this change would affect the Friday morning classes, but let’s face it, the present situation of Wednesday night meetings creates a play period straight through to Sunday. With meetings changed to Thursday night, there would be four, not three days and nights for academic work. Of course, all the frats would have to change over, or this wouldn’t work.

Not a bad idea, don’t you think? Is there anything sacred about Wednesday? And professors do lament teaching classes on Thursday mornings. Let’s extend the academic week by a third.

Another change that would have multiple positive knock-on effects would be to move Greek rush from Fall to Winter term, as it was scheduled in the 1970’s and 1980’s (and before?). In addition to giving more time to frat/sorority-bound students to make an intelligent choice about which house to join, such a change would increase the incentives for students to be on campus during the winter term — thereby balancing out the number of students from term to term in Hanover, alleviating pressure on housing, and allowing real dorm continuity.

As I have written (I know, I know, I do repeat myself here, but the issue is important), in my day, with the same number of students and no West Wheelock, Fahey and Maynard Street dorms, the College could easily arrange for undergrads to live in the same building for all four years because the maximum number of students on campus rarely exceeded 3,300-3,400, compared to the 4,000+ that now show up in the fall and the spring.

The important point overall is to cut a deal with students. Alcohol is here to stay, and if the College could relent on its enforcement in certain areas, it could obtain important concessions in other areas in return. However, if the administration just tightens the screws further, then the unproductive and dangerous cat-and-mouse game will continue.

Addendum: I have been receiving e-mails from correspondents asserting that rush have been held in various different terms over the years, including freshman spring, sophomore winter, and sophomore fall. Whatever the inaccuracy of these observations, it remains clear to me that moving rush from fall term would be a net benefit to the College today.

Hard on the heels of the Phiesta controversy that made us the nation’s laughingstock (yet again), we now have a committee to dictate appropriate and inappropriate costumes for Halloween:

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I imagine that wearing a beret and carrying a baguette is ok, but you can’t wear a sombrero and bandoliers. No problem putting on a flannel shirt and carrying a woodman’s (rubber) axe, but feathers, war paint and a peace pipe are out. You are fine as a Pilgrim or a preacher, but heaven forfend that you appear as a jazz singer or a slave.

Curiously, no representative from the Women and Gender Studies department will appear on the panel to voice the legitimate concern that many (most?) women’s Halloween costumes fall into the categories of slut and hooker. Maybe our feminists have a sense of humor?

My advice: Play it safe and pretend to be a Dartmouth student. Otherwise the PC police will be out looking for you .

The upshot of the coming controversy will probably be that students cease dressing up for Halloween for fear of offending some aggrieved group or other.

Addendum: The above silliness recalls for me the Doonesbury comic strip that has the Walden University Chancellor delivering a well vetted Commencement speech:

Graduating seniors, parents and friends…

Let me begin by reassuring you that my remarks today will stand up to the most stringent requirements of the new appropriateness. The intra-college sensitivity advisory committee has vetted the text of even trace amounts of subconscious racism, sexism and classism. Moreover, a faculty panel of deconstructionists have reconfigured the rhetorical components within a post-structuralist framework, so as to expunge any offensive elements of western rationalism and linear logic. Finally, all references flowing from a white, male, eurocentric perspective have been eliminated, as have any other ruminations deemed denigrating to the political consensus of the moment.

Thank you and good luck.

Addendum: A reader has a comment:

How is it that Latinos qualify as an oppressed group? Cort├ęs and Pizarro and those who followed them killed far more indigenous people in the Americas than white Americans ever did in the present-day U.S.A., and 95% of the slaves brought from Africa went to the Latino colonies. Spain has a great cultural and economic tradition; it is a European nation.

To which a student replies:

I was very confused by the reader who wrote in asking how Latinos could possibly be considered oppressed when one takes into account the dreadful actions of Spanish conquistadors. Surely, anyone with at least a little historical knowledge would find fault with the fact that the reader has conflated white Europeans from the early modern period with the mestizo (“mixed”) populations of the Americas today (whom we usually refer to as “Latinos”). These Latinos have been economically exploited by myriad European and American actions during the past few centuries and are to be considered as distinct from the Spanish individuals whom the reader invoked in his comment. I’ve not the time to try to convince you of the conditions that these peoples face (and have faced).

I guess I just wish to know why you would post such a logically unsound comment? It’s a little confusing given that you are so frequently eager to deconstruct fallacies and faulty premises when they are put forth by politically correct institutions/individuals.

Addendum: A student writes in:

I have been a reader of Dartblog since starting at Dartmouth, and I very much appreciate the reporting and writing you do. I read your article “The Cultural Appropriation Follies” this morning, and I wanted to include a thought from a ‘14 that might be useful to consider.

Implicit in having a small panel proclaim to campus which Halloween costumes are acceptable and which ones are “cultural appropriation” is a harmful attitude often practiced by the “social justice” advocates on campus: that they are somehow uniquely qualified among Dartmouth students to speak on behalf of an entire race/culture.

I do not know what leads this handful of 20-years old students to believe that they can be the arbiters for an entire population, but this belief is often used to spread hate on campus. If a student of a certain background does not share in the outrage toward an “offensive” topic, his or her view is dismissed and they are told they have “internalized” white/male/etc. attitudes. Essentially, this group gets to decide whether you are a “true” member of any group you may identify with, and cast you out if you disagree with them. This attitude has been made evident at some student discussions over the years, where some minority students have discussed the difficulty of being in such a situation.

So as much as the PC police aspect of these events bother me, I also have concern about an in-group declaring themselves able to speak for an entire subset of the human population with the arrogance to believe that anyone who disagrees is a traitor.

Ponta do Ouro.jpgMozambique has taken it on the chin over the last forty years, since the Portuguese precipitously decolonized and 200,000 longtime residents decamped for the motherland. The country was left without its managerial and entrepreneurial class. Combine those events with a long-enduring civil war (now ended), and impoverished chaos remains. But the people there are warm and open; they lack much of the bitterness that understandably marks neighboring South Africa.

Though Mozambique’s elephants were decimated by ivory poaching, its sealife of large mammals is intact: a few weeks ago we saw numerous whales and we were able to swim with Ponta do Ouro’s (“Gold Point”) large resident population of dolphins, mostly bottlenoses (below) and the occasional humpback. If in the mood, curiosity will lead them to approach a swimmer, sometimes circling round and round. In the water, one can hear the click of their echo-locator, their melodic song, and the signature popping sounds that they intentionally make from their blowhole.



The Dolphin Center Research in Ponta does extensive scholarly work cataloging the comings and goings of the local dolphins, as well as running trips for visitors. Regrettably they enforce a rule that swimmers must stay on the surface; I have had great fun in New Zealand swimming down 20-30 feet to play with dolphins. When you are in their world, you cease to be flotsam and become something much more. I’ll avoid poetry, but suffice it to say, when you look a dolphin in the face from a foot or two away, it’s hard not to feel that there is a thinking being in front of you.

While we are sitting around ranking our grad programs (awful) and Tuck (impressive), let’s look at the international university rankings of the Ivy League schools:

The QS World University Rankings has the College buried far behind the other Ivies:

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Same thing for the Times Higher Education World Rankings:

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Would you choose UC Riverside over Dartmouth? Maybe if we built a graduate student center?

One of the reasons that the cost of college tuition has been able to rise far more quickly than any other sector of the economy has been the federal government’s easy lending policies (sounds like the real estate market a few years ago, right?). Look at how fast education loans have grown over the past decade: there is over five times as much outstanding student debt today as there was in 2003 — well over a trillion dollars:

Student Loans.jpg

During the same time period, while Americans have learned to better manage credit card debt and auto loans, default rates on student debt have continued to climb:

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A study by the Pew Research Center shows that half the families in the top quartile of earnings are now taking out loans, up from only 24% two decades ago:

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Everyone — rich and poor alike — seems to be going into hock to pay for education at bloated, poorly managed institutions. At a certain point, the loan binge is going to stop: default rates will grow too large; interest rates will rise; or the feds will decide that they can’t keep lending ever increasing amounts of money. The train wreck that occurs at that moment will be ugly.

Addendum: The present state of affairs reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: Two mountain climbers are high up on the face of an immense cliff. The first one slips, falls, and plummets downwards. The second one waits, and then shouts, “Are you ok?” And the first one answers, “I’m fine, but I’m still falling.”

Addendum: Research by Assistant Professor of Sociology Jason Houle, indicates that home buying by university graduates does not seem to be impeded by education loans, but one has to wonder if that observation will be true in the coming decade, following the recent, five-fold, ramping up of student debt loads.

Addendum: A reader notes:

You need to pull the for-profit colleges from your student debt analysis — unless you believe most of them are anything except rip offs — and Wall Street creations. They represent 25% of loans, 10-13% of students and 47% of all defaults, with explosive enrollment increases. See:

“The fake classes thrived for so long because it was hard for people to fathom that they could even exist.” Carol Folt, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor.

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Yoggi Berra, Professor of Philosophy.

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Now I get it. While more than 3,000 UNC students took “paper classes” that never met and required only one term-end paper, which was cursorily awarded an A or B grade by an administrator (as needed for GPA purposes) in order that, for the most part, money sport athletes could maintain their eligibility, Carol believes that nobody realized what was happening.

An NCAA invesrtigation, re-opened this past June, is still ongoing.

In light of Jim Kim’s current problems, people must be wondering just what kind of management farm team Dartmouth is running.

Addendum: Former federal prosecutor and FBI counsel Kenneth Wainstein’s full report is here, and the Chronicle of Higher Education has devoted most of today’s issue to the last twenty years’ academic corruption at UNC. The story was reported on by the NYT, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, ESPN, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, the Raleigh News & Observer, and pretty much everyone else.

How sad that a school gets such a drubbing in the press.

Addendum: Lest anyone harbor any doubts about the egregiousness of the fraud perpetrated by UNC, the below note by the estimable Raleigh’s News & Observer details how grades were awarded

Crowder admitted she did not read the papers beyond the openings and conclusions. Students quickly learned they could get away with submitting papers that had “fluff” in the middle so long as the openings and conclusions were original. The investigation found that of 150 papers written by students, well over half contained plagiarized passages that accounted for at least 25 percent of each paper’s content.

Wainstein’s investigation also found two other methods for placing students - predominantly athletes - into paper classes. At least five classes actually met, but Crowder and Nyang’oro allowed some students to take the class as a paper class. In a “handful” of other cases, Crowder added student athletes, who would turn in a paper to her, to grade rolls without a professor’s knowledge.

Addendum: The fraudulent events under discussion occurred prior to Folt’s arrival at Carolina, but we can see that her response is typical of methods used at Dartmouth:

After the meeting, Chancellor Carol Folt will spend much of the day reaching out to the university community…

Aiding her is a high-powered public relations firm, Edelman, a Washington, D.C., group that has at least 14 people working to getting out the university’s message.

Spokesman Joel Curran said the firm began helping the university improve its communications in May. He couldn’t immediately say how much they are being paid.

The College employed the Edelman firm during the various petition Trustee races a few years ago.

Addendum: The Chronicle of Higher Education notes three prominent questions left outstanding by the Wainstein report:

1. Why are the most damning revelations coming out only now?
2. Did administrators turn a blind eye?
3. What will the NCAA do?

Forbes asks if the report was a whitewash:

Rather than the Wainstein report being the final word on UNC academic fraud — a result that the school’s beleaguered Chancellor, Carol Folt, would surely welcome — it, instead, should be the starting point for a merciless third-party review. Such an investigation would hopefully not sugar-coat its findings under the Pablum that infects the Wainstein report, which white-washes the “higher levels of the University” on the grounds that they had “insufficient appreciation of the scale of the problem.”

Here’s a possible alternate narrative: UNC did not want to know the scale of the problem because there was too much money at stake from its hugely profitable sports programs. Moreover, a deeper dive might reveal Paterno-esque culpability by the school’s sacrosanct coaching legends. Such a revelation would not only eviscerate UNC’s brand value in the eyes of donors and recruits, but it might also net Penn-State-level sanctions, including the voiding of UNC’s men’s national championships from 1993, 2005 and 2009.

I do not know if UNC had input into the wording of the Wainstein report. Moreover, I do not know what UNC paid Mr. Wainstein, Edelson PR — whom UNC archrival Duke also deployed during its lacrosse team rape scandal — or Professor Nyang’oro (whom, logic suggests, must have received something extra for the 300 independent study courses he “taught” every year).

What I do know is that a truly independent inquiry would reveal the unvarnished truth, right down to naming all the “students” who benefited from what Gerald Gurney, president of the Drake Group — which seeks to protect higher education “from the corrosive aspects of commercialized college sports” — dubbed “the largest and most nefarious scandal in the history of NCAA enforcement.”

The Hanover Police has not purchased armored personnel carriers, nor anything else for that matter, from the Department of Defense’s surplus weapons disposal program. However the department has declined to reveal whether it is in possession of any heavy weapons:

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According to its internal capital expenditures budget, the department does require its officers when on patrol to wear soft body armor, which it replaces every five years, and every decade the Town replaces the semi-automatic pistols that officers carry.

Addendum: Dartmouth Safety & Security is not a sworn police force; it is akin to a private security service. As such, its officers have no power of arrest beyond that of ordinary citizens, and they may not carry weapons.

The other day we commented on the now-famous yellow flyers that adorn the halls of the World Bank. Staffers there, for some mysterious reason, don’t think that Jim Kim is the Messiah. Now Business Insider notes that more yellow sheets have appeared, and the BI piece add some interesting quotes from WB staffers:

The Bank’s current president is increasingly unpopular at the institution, with many staff deeply dissatisfied with his tenure so far.

“There’s a culture of fear with Kim because the perception is that you get fired if you disagree with him,” one World Bank staff member told Business Insider. “I think the sense is that he wasn’t qualified for the job, a bit superficial, narcissistic, and promises a lot but delivers little on implementation.”

Staff have been incensed at President Kim’s reform process, which they claim has been needlessly opaque, unfocused, and lacking in substance. They say President Kim has fired several well-respected managers, curtailed employee benefits, and talks of new budget cuts, all while wasting money on external consultants and bonuses for senior staff…

One former staff member told Business Insider that while Kim initially raised expectations over much needed reform to red tape and aging technology, he has failed to follow through in any substantive way.

“The entire reform effort by President Kim should be taught in business schools as a case study in how to poorly manage institutional reform,” the former employee said. “It has resulted in complete chaos and created a culture of fear, uncertainty, and distrust.”

Is Jim Kim “superficial, narcissistic, and promises a lot but delivers little on implementation”?

Yes. Absolutely. We saw those characteristics (and a few more unsavory ones) in Hanover from 2009 to 2012.

MIT Living Wage Logo.jpgThe other day in penning thoughts on how to determine fair wages — but not much more than fair — for the Dartmouth staff (so that we can fund education at the College), we looked at the MIT Living Wage Calculator (LWC). This method determines a fair basic wage for low-earners in various locales. As MIT writes: “The living wage varies based on the cost of living and taxes where families live.”

Though we have already looked a the cost of living in the eight Ivy League locations using data from the The Council for Community and Economic Research, the information provided by the LWC seems more precise from the point of view of the College’s thousands of relatively low-skilled employees. The results of this analysis support Dartblog’s long-held contention that Grafton County is a very reasonable place in which to do business. Here are the LWC’s recommendations for a single-person’s Living Wage for all the counties in which Ivy League schools are located:

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Note: I used the county figures, rather than town/city figures on the assumption that most employees would commute to their jobs at institutions of higher learning; they would not live in the towns where they work. Had I used the town figure, the living wage would have been higher by only $.01/hour in Hanover, and the same or even higher in some of the other Ivy towns.

Look at the relative cost of living in percentage terms:

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As always, let’s recall that the College has the second most expensive cost of education in the Ivy League, even though we have the fourth highest endowment per student (after HYP), and we work in a relatively inexpensive locale. If we weren’t squandering hundreds of millions of dollars each year on a bloated, overpaid staff, we could both improve the quality of a Dartmouth education and cut tuition to the bone.

Leigh Remy.jpgUnder the College’s new sexual assault policy, a single outside person is charged with being investigator, judge and jury when an accusation is made. In whom have we invested so much power, the unfettered authority to have a student expelled from Dartmouth based on the flimsy “preponderance of the evidence” standard?

In a July 15 NPR interview (at 10:30), Presdient Hanlon said that the College would be hiring an experienced investigator, someone who had been “a sex-crimes investigator in a major city or something like that.”

I tried to find out the name and background of the College’s hire(s) for this position from Leigh Remy (photo above), who was appointed last year as the new director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs, but she declined in a somewhat stiff manner to share any such information.

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The term investigator is somewhat mild in this context; I’d prefer sexual assault czar or inquisitor.

In any event, given the College’s non-cooperation, perhaps someone who has been through the new process can share with me the name(s) of the person(s) who have such unlimited power over the lives of students. Drop me an off-the-record e-mail.

Addendum: Let’s hope that it ain’t Kate Burke.

Addendum: The College’s choice to use a single person to investigate and adjudicate accusations of sexual assault is of greater moment given the recent criticism of such a structure by leading professors at Harvard Law.

Addendum: A regular reader does some research:

After reading your post today, I was trying to learn Leigh Remy’s background. In searching, I found the following “D” article:

I light of the response which you received, I thought the following statements in the article were interesting:

“A perceived lack of transparency from judicial affairs and the failure of the Committee on Standards to release a community report in the past three years has been a source of student concern.

To address these issues, judicial affairs will post reports from the past two years on its website. Aditionally [sic], Remy has been asked to work on increasing the office’s transparency, Ameer said.”


“Remy also said her goal is to increase transparency in judicial affairs.”

How’s she doing in achieving that goal?

Lemmings.jpgWhat qualities have always made Dartmouth special? We can talk about outputs, as an economist might: alumni loyalty; widespread love for the College among students, staff and faculty; bonds between friends that last for life; mutual support among acquaintances and strangers alike for people who have spent time in Hanover. But a discussion of outputs gets us only so far: description is not analysis; this information doesn’t explain how such a state of affairs came to be.

We can also look at inputs: what is it about Dartmouth and Hanover that lead us to the fierce affection that marks the College? Of course, we can only speculate. The organic development of a society is infinitely complex; understanding one is difficult and we make changes at our peril. That said, in looking at the development of human relationships, and the web of friendships and love that members of the Dartmouth community consistently develop, we can see some special sides of the College.

The isolation of intellectual Dartmouth in flinty New Hampshire causes people to look inward to the institution, something that is not always a good thing — provincialism is necessarily limiting — but living on an island campus can cause people to focus on their own world with a greater intensity than they might otherwise do in a big city school. Needless to say, students don’t define themselves by the entire institution; they can’t be close friends with 4,000 other undergrads, or even the 1,000 members of their own class. By necessity they limit their circle of relations.

So how are friends made at Dartmouth? I’ve argued endlessly that for many years dorms were a locus of fruitful social interactions. One tended to make friends with the people who term after term lived across the hall from you, who played on the same dorm intramural teams as you, or who you saw on the stairs over and over again. That successful option ended when the College terminated dorm continuity in the mid-1980’s.

In addition, students make friendships in their extra curricular activities, whether it be The D, or the symphony, a capella groups, theater or endless clubs and other activities, but those groups don’t have residential homes, so if relationships are to persist, friendships needed a place to exist outside of Robinson Hall or rehearsal and meeting rooms. The same proposition is true of sports teams; where can teammates whose bonds were created in training and competition go to just be together, to share the happiness of unforced companionship?

Self-evidently, especially after the demise of the dormitories as functioning communities, Dartmouth’s fraternities became the center of most students’ social lives. Fraternities and sororities have never been more popular at Dartmouth than today, and I think that it is a fair bet that if the administration had not impeded the creation of more sororities over the past decade, even more students would be Greeks today.

The popularity of Greek houses makes sense. The houses have never been based on social class or geographic origin or religion or race (with only one exception). They seem to be organized by characteristics like teams sports, or shared interests, or the perceived personal qualities of members. Most importantly — a characteristic possibly unique to Dartmouth — the houses and their events are open to everyone on campus.

Yet last week, even as 67.4% of upperclassmen are members of Greek houses — and one must respectfully assume that they joined their fraternities and sororities for rational reasons — The D and others called for the abolition of the Greek system. In advocating for the end of the world as we know it, no proposals have been put forward for structures that might replace a system that students endlessly vote to support with their time and energy. Sure Phil and the gang talk about a housing plan that mimics Harvard: freshman dorms and then a house system. But will that setup work when so many students head off during sophomore year on one of Dartmouth’s foreign programs? In such a system, the residential bonds of freshman year are broken at the end of first year, and it is hard to imagine anything valid being rebuilt in the multi-building clusters. Besides, at Harvard, the house system doesn’t get the job done, as evidenced by the tepid support of Harvard alumni for their school in contrast to Dartmouth alums, not to mention the exclusive, elitist final clubs that fill the social void in Cambridge.

Most of my close friends at the College and I were GDI’s — we had our close-knit dorms to sustain us — but I would counsel that the College take care in thinking about ending the Greek system. Doing so tampers with a core element of the student experience at the institution, and the move could have myriad unexpected consequences. As the College slides in the esteem of potential applicants, the rankings, and its own students, we should make sure that efforts to improve Dartmouth don’t destroy the features that have made it great over the centuries. We could end up as the bottom-of the-bottom-tier Ivy for students who didn’t get into their first-choice school — a place with nothing distinctive about it save for a beautiful campus. We might be heading there already.

Addendum: Several readers have advanced the argument that abolishing the Greek system is analogous to the College’s move to co-education a little more than forty years ago. Not a valid comparison to my mind. When Dartmouth went co-ed, that change had been made with success by most other institutions of higher learning. And while there was great resistance in the College community, the opinions of negatively inclined alumni and students did not encompass the whole spectrum of interested parties — such as women. Today the rationale for abolishing the Greeks is that doing so will diminish any number of social pathologies from hazing to sexual assault and binge drinking. Yet evidence is never advanced that schools without frats, or schools that abolished their frats, do not suffer from these ills. Why not? Because such schools are afflicted with them every bit as much as Dartmouth.

Addendum: Taylor Cathcart ‘15 has written a fine column for The D in defense of the Greek system.



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