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Andrew Lohse ‘12 came over for dinner right at the end of 2011. He had e-mailed me a few months before, after I had taken apart a column that he had written in The D about the Ivies being little more than a farm system for Wall Street. He had written a fuller version of this piece for the Daily News, just as one of his previous D efforts had been the basis for a column he wrote for the Crimson. He seemed a cut above the usual D writer.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Lohse Book.jpgI had taken issue with his Wall Street assertions: he had put forward no evidence for his charge, whereas I had College data from Career Services and the Dartmouth Factbook showing that fewer Dartmouth students in his time and in the entire alumni body were in finance/consulting than in education and medicine. When I got his note, I told him that we’d be in Hanover at Christmas, and we should get together to talk. Given that I had been tough on him in my post — even obliquely noting his drug bust from a previous term — I was impressed by his confidence and curiosity in contacting me.

Elizabeth and I enjoyed a nice meal with him. He asked as many questions as he answered, and he was funny and friendly. Then he started to talk about hazing: all the gross, unsanitary, excessive acts that later came out in print. I had heard snippets of the same stories for years; these practices have long been an open secret on campus. Given Andrew’s successful past newspaper columns, we suggested that he write about his experiences. We did not know at the time, and he did not tell us, that he had already been thinking of doing so at the urging of other people, as he describes in the book.

A few weeks later, he showed me a draft of what came to be his famous whistleblowing column. The D was looking at it, he said, but was insisting on “proof.” That request was ironic for two reasons: Lohse was an eyewitness, and a good many D editors were Greeks, some in SAE itself. Lohse and the editors, as he recounted it at the time, went back and forth on the details of what he could and could not include in his description of hazing at SAE. Then the piece started to get passed around campus. When it seemed like The D was stonewalling, I suggested to Lohse that he run his account on Dartblog, and after some thought, that’s what we did on January 24. The site got over 20,000 hits in 24 hours, and The D relented and ran an edited version of the post the next day.

Rolling Stone came calling soon thereafter, and Lohse had a publishing contract a few months subsequent to the appearance of the RS article.

Ultimately Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: A Memoir is straightforward: Lohse describes the things that he did and those that were done to him. There’s no jargon, no pop sociology, no facile ideology of the type that marked some of his earlier writing. Methinks that a good editor scrubbed out that kind of fuzzy thinking. What’s left is a 303-page, fleshed-out version of his original whistleblower Dartblog/D column. It’s all there: the drugs, beer, liquor, girls, and the endless hazing. In addition, while the press loves to talk about how Lohse was hazed with vomelettes, dirty kiddie pools and endless regurgitation, for some reason SAE’s unsavory “ass beer” has not made it into national reporting (you’ll have to look it up for yourself; see pp. 146-147).

What is not present in the book is much introspection. While one binge lurches into the next, it’s hard to see at what points Lohse decided that enough is too much. He evolves not so much on purpose as because he hits bottom or is thrown out of the College due to his excesses. But I guess that’s not the point of the book; rather, it exists to give the world an aperçu of a side of the Ivies that doesn’t make the papers every day.

But is it true? Did the hazing really happen as Lohse depicted it? Everyone from Board of Trustees Chairman Steve Mandel to the WSJ’s Joe Rago ‘05 has asserted in some slippery fashion that Lohse made it all up. They all point to the fact that the Dean investigated Lohse’s charges and could not corroborate them.

Andrew Lohse4.jpgThe Dean in question is April Thompson, known in the book as The Administrator (a male). She is no longer at Dartmouth, and for good reason: she botched the investigation quite utterly. Of course, the 27 SAE brothers, lying through their teeth, denied everything (“what happens in the house stays in the house”), but what of Lohse’s eyewitness testimony?

When he first described SAE’s hazing to Thompson, she and members of her staff did no more than write notes of his comments: no film, no recording, nothing permanent. Then, after investigating the house as best she could, Thompson filed charges against 27 SAE brothers, the SAE corporation, and in an incomprehensible move, against Lohse himself — her only witness. As she might have expected (maybe she did?), Lohse turned around and told her that her hand-written notes were inaccurate, and he would no longer support a prosecution that had him in its sights as much as the house and its brothers. Case dismissed.

But beyond that ineptitude (typical of the entire Dean of the College office under Thompson’s boss Charlotte Johnson — now mercifully gone from Hanover, too), how can one judge Lohse’s veracity? Easy. He’s far from the only student to make similar charges. Over two years ago we published the account of another SAE brother, someone who is no friend of Andrew Lohse, that backs up Lohse’s description of events. Or look to Crispus Knight ‘03’s book, Three For Ship, which covers much the same territory. Or Snowden Wright ‘04’s 3,970-word-long post, Dirty Rush, published in The Good Men Project blog. Even Dartblog’s Isaiah Berg ‘11 has written in this space about the weekly ritual of doming at fraternities. And columnists in The D have commented on hazing rites for years, as has the press. Of course, hazing is not limited to frats; sororities get down and dirty, too.

To my mind, anyone denying Lohse’s description of events is following the kind of cynical PR strategies that marked the College for too long (but do not seem to be continuing under Phil Hanlon). Folks, it all happened.

As for Lohse now, he’s moved on to new passions, as Mashable reports:

Lohse is a frat boy turned feminist, though he shies away from being defined by any particular political movement. He is sensitive when talking about Greek life and the problem of campus sexual assault.

“If being a feminist means speaking up about these issues and equality,” he says, “then you could call me that.”

He explains why he eventually couldn’t defend belonging to a frat, which he calls “an emotional, psychological pyramid scheme.” He cites theorists Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, who famously wrote about how institutions wield power against the powerless.

How to explain this evolution? Well, as I see him, Andrew Lohse is a joiner, and then he is not. He jumps into an activity feet first, and then asks questions only later. As but one example, during his time in Hanover he wrote for all three of the College’s student papers: the decidedly middle-of-the-road Dartmouth, the right-wing Review and the left-wing Free Press (now defunct). Those episodes of his Dartmouth career didn’t make the book, but his experiences as a journalist are part and parcel of a character that led him to embrace the very worst aspects of SAE’s debauched fraternity behavior, and then decide for various reasons (some good, most bad) that the fratstar life was not for him after all.

As a very public opponent of gender-segregated Greek life and a participant in the fight against sexual assault, Lohse will doubtlessly throw himself quite completely into these campaigns — probably until he finds his comrades in arms wanting, perhaps until he finds himself bored, certainly until he moves on to another battle that is more attractive than the last disillusioning one that he left.

Is that a good thing? I’ll leave that question up to you to decide, but from my perspective any college student who commits himself fully to a project, and then looks around and asks himself why, makes a pretty good dinner table guest and is a courageous person. Whatever his motives, Andrew Lohse has done a service for Dartmouth in exposing a type of behavior that should not take place in Hanover. He is no excellent sheep.

Addendum: Beyond his ephemeral passions, Andrew is a serious musician. In the below video (apologies for the poor miking) he accompanies Masha Kurikova on the double bass in a version of My Funny Valentine at the Interplay Jazz and Arts summer workshop in Woodstock, Vermont:

The strength of a culture can be measured by its depth: in café societies like Italy and the German-speaking lands, even modest towns have several elegant pastry and coffee shops. The best little place here in the seaside town of Maiori on the Amalfi coast is the Pasticceria Napoli, whose vaulted space is located in a palazzo that a wall plaque dates to the 1400’s. The Pasticceria’s signature product, among a great range of goods prepared in the back room laboratorio, is the Coda d’Aragosto — the lobster tail. Its crackly pastry is filled with a rich, yellow custard. Of course, beyond the sweets and the architecture, the establishment is only complete when the stooped proprietress, Pina, is there to greet everyone, and call us all “amore.”

Coda d'Aragosta.JPG

The obituaries of Dartmouth alumni can cause one to pause with wonder. Could a life have been any more complete? George Munroe ‘43 passed away last week at the age of 92. Below is his NYT obituary as I have reordered it for clarity:

George Monroe.jpgAs a young man, Munroe was an outstanding basketball player on three Ivy League championship teams at Dartmouth and led Dartmouth to the national championship game of the N.C.A.A. tournament in 1942. That year, he led the Eastern Intercollegiate League in scoring and was named to several All-America Teams.

His service in the Navy during World War II included duty as a combat information center officer on the battleship Maryland in the Pacific. The Maryland took part in the invasion of Okinawa in 1945, where it survived damage from Kamikazi plane attacks.

Later, while attending Harvard Law School, he played in the professional league for the St. Louis Bombers and Boston Celtics. Munroe graduated from Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School with honors and from Oxford University in England where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Before joining Phelps Dodge, Munroe practiced law in New York as an associate with Cravath, Swain and Moore and Debevoise, Plimpton and McLean and worked in the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany in the early 1950’s, serving first in Bonn as a lawyer and later in Nuremberg as a justice of the U.S Court of Restitution Appeals of the Allied High Commission.

He led the copper mining and manufacturing company Phelps Dodge Corporation from 1969 to 1987 through a difficult period for the domestic copper mining industry, as it struggled to meet growing competition from abroad and new environmental requirements at home. Munroe continued to increase the company’s production as a new hydro-metallurgical process was developed to reduce the need for smelting in the production process and Phelps Dodge, which had been the third largest United States copper producer, emerged as the domestic industry leader and one of the largest producers in the world.

Munroe was a trustee of Dartmouth College for 14 years and the chairman of its board for three years. He was also a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, serving on several of it’s committees for 25 years, and chairing the Museum’s finance committee for 8 years. Other board memberships included the Henry Street Settlement, the YMCA of Greater New York and the Academy of Political Science, of which he was chairman for 10 years. He was a director of several major corporations, including the New York Life Insurance Company, the Manufacturers Hanover and Chemical banks, the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation, Manville Corporation and New York Times Company and was a Public Governor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Munroe is survived by his wife of more than 45 years, Elinor Bunin Munroe, an artist and award-wining film maker, and by two sons by a previous marriage, Ralph of Orange, Virginia and Taylor of Atenas, Costa Rica and a grandson, Zachary. Mr. Munroe decided not to have a funeral or memorial service. Contributions may be made to the George B. Munroe Scholarship Fund at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755 or to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10021 in lieu of flowers or condolences.

Don’t be too picky. Just because he had to go to Harvard Law, and not Yale, does not mean he wasn’t a helluva guy.

Addendum: While we are looking at great Dartmouth lives, MIT Professor John Waugh ‘49, who revolutionized the use of high resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, passed away last week, too. The tools that were the results of his breakthroughs are used daily by scientists all over the world.

Waugh received an honorary doctorate from the College In 1989.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

De Mortuis nil nisi Bonum*, they say, but during Munroe’s tenure as Trustee two failed Dartmouth presidencies were launched, those of McLaughlin and Freedman. When Freedman got really out of control in his war against the Dartmouth Review, Munroe did nothing. The infamous, College-organized “Rally Against Hate,” in which Freedman tried to drive the Review out of existence, occurred when Munroe was Chairman of the Trustees.

I wrote Munroe at the time telling him I thought he should be ashamed of failing to sanction Freedman, and he responded with a furious letter of self-justification.

Like many other men who are capable and successful in their lives, Munroe made a poor Trustee. He failed to exercise the managerial oversight that is the responsibility of Trustees, and was an unconditional supporter of Freedman who should have been fired.

In the end Freedman paid the price of his demagoguery. I was told by a friend who was a senior officer of the Harvard Corporation that Freedman had been on the top three list of contenders for the Harvard presidency (to replace Derek Bok in 1991), which was his and his wife’s long-time ambition, but his handling of the Review caused him to be dropped from consideration. I think Freedman had actually believed that his efforts to crush the Review would endear him in Cambridge.

So let us honor the memory of George Munroe for a life well lived in other respects than his role as College Trustee and Board Chairman.

* “Of the dead, nothing unless good.”

Economics Professor Danny Blanchflower, virtually a household name in the UK for his performance a few years ago on the British equivalent of the Federal Reserve, has published a 1752-word piece in the Times Higher Education supplement that uses the College as a case study:

Blanchflower Times Comp.jpg

He takes a starting point the shift in the number of majors by department at the College over the past decade, emphasizing the growing number of Economics and STEM majors and the concomitant decline in Humanities fields like English and foreign languages:

Blanchflower Major Changes.jpg

Blanchflower emphasizes that the allocation of faculty members by the administration has not followed the students:

But that generates a major resource allocation problem, especially in terms of faculty, who are dominantly found in departments where the students haven’t been for decades (such as Russian) or where students are leaving in droves (English). Some departments now have more academic staff than students taking majors…. The humanities division now has approximately five times as many faculty as the economics department, yet both teach the same number of majors. Something is wrong here.

Academic staff are in exactly the wrong places to fit the new student demands in a world of high tuition fees; previous administrations allocated faculty incorrectly to where there were few students or where student demand was about to fall (the reasons for this are unclear). A random allocation based on the drawing of lots or throwing darts at a dartboard would have been a better way to allocate faculty.

He ends the piece with a series of suggestions on how the administration can better balance supply and demand. Give it a read.

Addendum: Blanchflower makes the observation that students are crowding into disciplines with the potential for high post-graduation earnings in an effort to justify/recoup the quarter-million dollar investment that they are now making in their education. This is an important point. The College’s failure to control costs has directly contributed to the corruption of its core educational mission.

Addendum: As we noted a month ago, in light of financial pressures, some commentators are re-thinking the way that colleges are ranked. Money Magazine, as one might expect, focused on, um, money (“the most bang for your tuition buck” was their delicate phrase). By its lights, the school with the best overall ROI is Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The Ivies rank as follows: #4: Princeton; #6: Harvard; #11: Penn; #15: Yale; #19: Brown; #22: Columbia; #24: Dartmouth (tied); #24: Cornell (tied).


There is more churning at OPAL, the College’s equivalent of musical chairs. The administration seems to hire just about anyone for these jobs, as long as they meet some kind of diversity quota. The folks there come and go, come and go.

The newest change is that Reese Kelly (left below), Director of the Center for Gender and Student Engagement and former LGBTQIA Advisor, has been named Interim Director. He’ll have a budget well in excess of a million dollars and a staff of eight people, even though he does not have much of any management experience. He’s only been at the College since the start of 2013, having finished his postdoc at Middlebury at the end of 2012.

In addition, Karlos Santos-Coy, Assistant Dean and Advisor to First Generation Students, has resigned. He has been at the College for less than two years, and word is that he is leaving the College along with his patron, former OPAL Director Alysson Satterlund of “Phiesta” fame.

Reece and Kelly.jpg

Whoever the administration picks as the next Dean of the College will have a lot of work to do in this area. Translation: an ongoing trainwreck.

Addendum: A longtime reader writes in with an interesting perspective:

Thanks for writing about the OPAL changes. As a former Dartmouth employee, I can tell you I always dreaded having to interact with that office. They were generally unresponsive, and when they did respond they carried a self-righteous attitude that was off-putting.

As part of my duties, I occasionally wrote news updates on happenings in the OPAL office. I can’t tell you how many times Reese Kelly demanded that I include “Dr.” and “PhD” in his title whenever he was mentioned — even though I was never asked to do that by the College’s many distinguished (and approachable) professors.

It’s ironic that a staffer would never let me forget that he had a PhD, and yet the vast majority of professors I dealt with asked me to call them by their first name.

Comparing the materials coming out of the Athletics department and out of Admissions is an education in marketing. To understand that point, first savor this affecting, one-minute video about being a student/athlete at the College:

Lovely, don’t you think? We’re not going to admit to a tear in the eye, but in sixty seconds the film establishes a real connection with the viewer. Now read the leaden, cliché-ridden prose of Dean Maria Laskaris ‘84’s main Admissions webpage:

D1-5 Comp.jpg

Are there any phrases in there that don’t land with a thud? “Learning knows no boundaries.” “This is your opportunity.” “The Dartmouth Difference.” “Define success your way.” Ugh.

But the topper is certainly, “The return on investment will be enormous.” Eleazer Wheelock must be turning in his grave. Is that the kind of thing that Admissions thinks will influence prospective students? Or will total applications fall by 14% again this year?

My father always says, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” The folks in Athletics understand that high school students fall in love with a school; Admissions thinks that a 17-year-old makes a rationale calculation. The latter observation is wrong in any circumstance: it is triply in error about the small College.

When Phil asks Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno to assume other responsibilities, he might ask the same of Dean Laskaris. After her 27 years of plodding service in Hanover, it’s time for a change. We need fresh blood in Admissions, too.

Addendum: Neither Athletics nor Admissions use the phrase “Dartmouth College,” anywhere in these materials, though it does appear in tiny type in the copyright footer at the bottom of the Admissions page. Memo to everyone: Carol is gone.

Addendum: We’ve commented before about Admissions’ inaccurate and sloppy writing.

Although it makes no similar promise to residents of Canada — who pay markedly lower tuition and fees — McGill University in Montreal has found another way, beyond reasonable prices, to court students from south of the border: fixed tuition for all four undergraduate years.

McGill Tuition Comp.jpg

Savor those words: “Tuition rate is guaranteed for the duration of the program as long as there is no break in enrollment or transfer of the degree program.” With costs at the College rising on the order of 4.8%/year for the last five years, except for this year’s 2.9% increase (still twice the CPI), a senior enjoying a program at Dartmouth that emulated McGill’s restraint would pay 15.10% less tuition than freshmen. Real money.

Let’s interpret McGill’s policy as yet another crack in the dike against lower prices for higher education. More cracks will appear, until at some point the dam bursts open. The school that can radically cut its bloated cost structure, and thereby be able to slash tuition, will be admired far and wide, and will have resources to spare to create an extraordinary educational program. Is anyone listening?

Addendum: As we have noted in the past, today if you want frozen tuition at the College, all you have to do is pay the full whack in advance. With tuition alone costing $46,763 in the coming year, that step would mean writing a check to cover the non-room and board part of your child’s undergraduate education in the amount of $187,052.

As we have noted before, Tuck is doing pretty much everything right (here and here), but the school has not escaped the gouging of its students that was Jim Kim’s real legacy at the College. Under Kim, real cash income from grad students rose 46.6% between 2010-2013 (from $41,869,000 in 2010 to $61,399,000 in 2013 — a jump of $19,470,000); over the preceding nine years, income had increased by only 36.2% ($11,132,000). As a result, Tuck’s tuition and fee structure now put it at the top end of B-Schools according to U.S. News:

B-School Costs.jpg

Observe Stanford’s clear effort to differentiate itself despite sharing a #1 ranking with HBS and Wharton. By attending Stanford you save yourself $8,000-$14,000 over two years as compared to Harvard, Wharton and Tuck. I bet that top students can make that calculation even before taking managerial accounting.

Addendum: As dedicated readers know, the College suffers from the same longterm shortsightedness as Tuck regarding the cost of attendance. While we like to think that we compete for the same students as Harvard, Yale and Princeton, we offer fewer students financial aid than any of our Ivy sisters, and the total cost of 2014-2015 tuition, room and board, and fees at Dartmouth ($61,947) is higher than HYP (in fact, higher than all of the Ivies except Columbia): 11.7% higher than Princeton ($55,440); 5.7% higher than Harvard ($58,607); and 3.6% higher than Yale ($59,800). Ask your parents (or yourself) if they would have preferred that you go to Princeton and save them $24,228 over four years as compared to attending Dartmouth.

Pulitzer Prize winner Joe Rago ‘05, formerly Editor-in-Cheif of the Review and normally a fine thinker, had a piece (pdf) in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday on Andrew Lohse’s book. Let’s just say that Rago has done better work in the past.

Rago WSJ Comp.jpg

He repeatedly calls Lohse a liar, but declines to say if Lohse’s entire account of hazing is a lie, or just some parts of it. The ad hominen line of argument is without end:

“this putative whistleblower’s harrowing portrait”

“the hazing he claims to have suffered”

“These may be the worst, and least trustworthy, confessions in the 16 centuries since St. Augustine’s.”

“I found his story far-fetched, and anyone ought to question the testimony of an aspiring Bret Easton Ellis.”

“Mr. Lohse’s book is the result of two catastrophes of quality control — the college admissions office’s invitation to Hanover and then Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s decision to give him a bid.”

“Are his confessions honest — or ex post facto baloney meant to serve his political agenda and, by the way, help land a book deal and (fingers crossed) movie treatment? I wonder.”

“Maybe Mr. Lohse is the first person in history to expose the college’s human-rights violations. Or it could be that his gonzo literary flights run contrary to the lived experience of tens of thousands of people.”

The worst hazing rite I can imagine is spending time inside the mind of Mr. Lohse.

Geez. Saying that Lohse should not have been accepted to the College is the twentysomething equivalent of a playground nahnahnahNAHna. Rago’s counterargument is that he knew guys from SAE, and they, Sir, were not the kind of people Lohse describes:

“Nor does violent physical and psychological abuse square with his fraternity’s reputation. I knew the brothers of SAE as student-body-president types with a taste for champagne and pastel critter pants, not sadism.”

Anyone familiar with the members of SAE of the Class of 2012 versus Rago’s Class of 2005 knows that Lohse was in a house under the newfound influence of several brothers from the southern states of the good ol’ USA, a place where the depth of hazing practices makes Dartmouth look like, well, a kiddie pool. These new additions to the house ramped up hazing to levels that Rago would not recognize — as an SAE brother who was present at the festivities confirmed in a lengthy submission to Dartblog more than two years ago. But then Rago knows that. He is way too smart to believe that just because he knew a few SAE brothers way back when, then the house could only behave one way, a nice way, forevermore.

More tellingly, while Rago sings the College’s praises (Has anyone in Admissions taken note? Joe hopes so), at least he doesn’t go so far as to say that he himself was simon-pure as an undergrad. Was there no hazing in his own house, no cocaine, no binge drinking, and no chest-pounding about sexual conquests? If Rago is going to set the record straight, he should clarify things from his own perspective, too. No hazing or binge drinking at Phi Delt, Joe?

Addendum: The D has still not had a word to say about Lohse’s book. (However, if you are interested, last week there was a full-length article announcing that the Coed Council members endorse new constitution.) Too bad. There are a good many members of past D directorates who know first hand what went on in SAE’s basement when Andrew Lohse was present. I imagine that freedom of the press includes the freedom to take the 5th.

Many Italians like their version of a rotund pumpkin — zucca — but the real deal in southern Italy is zucca nostrana, “our zucca,” an orange-fleshed vegetable that can grow a yard long. There’s a field up the street from our place where every year some of the monsters grow between the bars of a wrought iron fence. Nobody seems to know how the proprietor extracts his harvest. Zucca can occasionally make its way north; I would occasionally spot it at a Milanese market when shopping my senior year with my host mamma — with whom we are vacationing again this year for a week on the Amalfi Coast.

Zucca Comp.jpg

Zucca is usually served as a sauce with pasta of mixed sizes and types — you can buy it like that. It is prepared with a typical base of olive oil, garlic and hot pepper. The flavor is, well, the flavor of zucca. Great food does not taste like anything else. Whatever is not consumed a tavola in the evening can be happily enjoyed the next day. In fact, some people believe that pasta a zucca is a dish best served cold.

Back when men were men, women were women, and insurance companies (or perhaps just timorous bureaucrats?) didn’t actively seek to leach all the fun out of life, the Green was a center for the dormitory-based and fraternity intramural leagues. We played softball and touch football there in the fall and the spring. Strolling passersby would stop to chat with friends, loll along the sidelines, and cheer on their favorite dorm or frat. If pressed for time, they would cut across the outfield or the endzone, and live to tell the tale.

Dartmouth Baseball on the Green.jpg

Three years ago President Kim organized a single softball game on the Green. A great deal of care was taken to ensure that no bystander could possibly be near a flying ball. There hasn’t been a game since then.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

What good is it having Phil Hanlon ‘77 as President if he can’t combine his power and memories to restore traditions that have been mistakenly eliminated from Dartmouth. Does he expect his multi-building clusters to have the social cohesiveness to restore intramural sports?

Emily Esfahani Smith ‘09 had a review (pdf) yesterday in the Wall Street Journal of William Deresiewicz’ book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. A fuller treatment of the book’s themes can by found in a dialogue between Harvard’s Harry Lewis (author of Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?) and Deresiewicz in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Excellent Sheep.jpg

The book recalls for me a work by one of my professors at Yale Law, Tony Kronman, entitled Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life.

I hope to review the book anon.

Jim Aronson3.jpgThe Scarlett Johansson movie Lucy is in theaters at the moment, and the film refers several times to the female Australopithecus afarensis, the putative first human, discovered several decades ago in Ethiopia, whose age was determined to be over three million years. A little reading was in order.

It turns out that Lucy’s age was estimated using samples recovered and methods refined by recently retired Professor of Earth Sciences Jim Aronson. No less an authority than Wikipedia reports:

Lucy Skeleton.jpgThe Lucy fossil was dated reliably in 1990-1992 by applying the argon-argon radiometric dating method to the volcanic ash surrounding it. Initial attempts were made in 1974 to estimate the age of the fossil using the potassium-argon radiometric dating method in James Aronson’s laboratory at CWRU, now moved to Dartmouth. These efforts by Maurice Taieb and Aronson were hindered by the scarcity of datable crystals, the fact that the volcanic rocks in the area of concern were chemically altered or reworked, and the complete absence of pumice clasts at Hadar. Lucy’s skeleton occurs in the part of the Hadar sequence that accumulated with the fastest rate of deposition, which partly accounts for her excellent preservation. The older ash was about 18 m below the fossil and the younger ash only 1 m below, closely indicating her age of deposition.

Fieldwork at Hadar was suspended in the winter of 1976-1977. When it resumed thirteen years later in 1990, the more precise argon-argon technology had been improved by Derek York from the University of Toronto. In 1990-1992, two suitable samples of ash found by Aronson and Robert Walter [Aronson’s 1980 PhD student, and long-time research colleague] were argon-argon dated by Walter at 3.22 and 3.18 million years in the geochronology laboratory of the Institute of Human Origins.

Note: the field photo above of the various recovered parts of Lucy’s skeleton was taken by Jim in 1974.

A story goes that back in the day, when Jim was asked his occupation, he would reply, “I date older women.”

Addendum: Curiously enough, when Jim retired two months ago, the praise that he received at the faculty meeting elided his professional achievements:

Aronson came to Dartmouth as a research professor in the Department of Earth Sciences in 1998, and has been a dedicated and active member of the department, as both a teacher and a contributor to departmental business, throughout his relatively short time at the College, said Associate Professor W. Brian Dade, chair of the Department of Earth Sciences.

“Jim is warmly regarded by not only his departmental colleagues, but as well by a generation of Dartmouth earth science majors for his breadth of knowledge of all things geological, as well as his upbeat personality, humility, natural curiosity, and his endearingly nonlinear thought process,” Dade said.

Dade said in Aronson, the idea that a person encompasses all the stages of their life experience is especially evident.

“In a single conversation, he could be an absent-minded professor wondering where he parked his car, a gray-beard sage sharing hard-won wisdom, a mature student of nature with the inquiring mind and vigor of a mid-career scientist at the peak of his powers, or an exuberant child experiencing things for the first time with wonder and amazement,” Dade said.

Someone should have done better homework. Isn’t Dartmouth a research university in all but name?

No alcohol.gifWord is floating around campus that the administration might try to ban hard liquor (anything other than beer and wine) when the new social life rules are announced in the fall. Such a policy would follow the lead of Maine colleges like Colby, Bates and Bowdoin.

The idea is an interesting one for it seems to understand that the most significant change at the College over the last few decades has been the increasing prevalence of hard liquor on campus. Beer ruled the social world in my day, but as I have written before, when the administration outlawed fraternity taps serving fresh beer from kegs, the move led directly to pre-gaming with strong drink that could be easily smuggled into dorms (a bottle of vodka more easily evades the prying eyes of UGAs and S&S than sixpacks).

Such an idea might work if it were the object of a Grand Bargain between students and the Dean of the College’s office: students would accept and self-enforce a ban on the hard stuff in exchange for the return of taps at Greek houses (with no limits on the amount of beer served at parties — limits that are routinely cheated on today anyways) and permission to bring beer into dorms. S&S would stop interdicting such supply missions, and UGAs would not report beer/wine drinking by students (though UGAs could enforce the hard liquor ban).

Such a solution might not satisfy teatotalling absolutists, but it could lead to a reduction in incidences of blackout drunkenness and the myriad problems that result from severe incapacitation. It’s a lot harder to get loaded on beer (most beers fall between Keystone’s 4.2% and Bud’s 5.0%) and wine (12.5% to 15%) than on vodka/whiskey/rum (usually 40%).

One surprising counter-argument — at least for me — to the above idea is that women seem to prefer hard liquor to beer because vodka and other distilled drinks contain no carbs (a 12oz. can of Keystone Light has 5g); alcohol has a similar number of calories by volume whatever the vehicle used to convey it.

I wonder if the administration has the nerve to propose such a idea. Nitpicking critics will rail against the return of taps, to be sure, but the quid pro quo might be the basis for real progress.

Addendum: Memo to the IFC and Panhell: Go to Dean Ameer and propose this idea to her before she proposes it to you. You take ownership that way.

Addendum: An attentive reader writes in:

Your “Grand Bargain” essay is a good one. Some of the fraternities, like “TDX,” have had policies of not serving hard alcohol for some time. As your correctly point out, pre-gaming is a huge problem. If the College allowed the same social activity to occur in the dorms that it allows in College-owned sororities, then it would make the campus less dependent on the Greek system.

Lastly, President Hanlon should rename his initiative “Moving Dartmouth Backward”, as he is just rehashing the same hackneyed ideas of the Freedman/Wright student life initiatives.

I find it incredible that the College wants to promote experiential learning except when it comes to life skills, in which case it just wants to tell students what it thinks the answers are. Either Hanlon has no confidence that the College can help teach these skills or he believes the College is admitting students incapable of learning them.

Addendum: A rising junior adds a comment:

What prompted me to finally write in after keeping my opinions to myself was your post on banning hard alcohol. I have attended a few events this summer aimed at getting the Greeks’ perspective heard by the Steering Committee. One of my group of friends’ main ideas, one which we have expresses to members of the committee countless times, is to institute an open-door pregame policy in the dorms similar to the policy at Stanford and Vanderbilt. The idea is to only allow beer and wine at pregames, while having a policy in which UGAs can monitor the levels of drinking at the party with no repercussions for the students drinking (which they are going to do, no matter what the College says or does).

This plan cuts out hard alcohol in dorms where most of the reckless drinking is done anyways. Hard alcohol in Greek houses is less of a problem, as it is typically only in private rooms and thus generally out of S&S’s ever-watchful patrols. It seems like a no-brainer to institute this open-door policy, along with making sororities go local. The Greek system has to fix a social system that is entirely dependent on Greek houses to host parties, taking on all the risk, while getting yelled at with charges of exclusivity if steps to minimize risk, such as guest lists, are imposed.

Many of our ideas have been expressed to the committee, and we recognize changes must be made. However, the amount that they take our suggestions into account will surely shape the response by the students. We’ll see what the committee suggests (most likely on the day after The D stops publishing for the fall, before the six-week break with no students around to protest and before the winter term with one third fewer students than a normal term, so they can make these sweeping changes with as little backlash as possible).

Sorry to rant, but I feel like these are commonly held beliefs around the Greek community.

Though The D hasn’t written a word about Andrew Lohse ‘12 for many months (at least as far as I can tell; the paper’s website search function is still a mess), his memoir is receiving plenty of attention in the national press. See reviews, extended comments, and excerpts in Rolling Stone, the NY Post, the UK’s Daily Mail, Cosmo, and Newsweek.



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