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A recently retired professor once told me that over his forty-year career he’s watched students regress one year each decade: today’s seniors are at an intellectual level of the freshmen of his early years of teaching. I have no way of evaluating that assertion, but there are a fair number of faculty members who believe that a gap year would do students a world of good. Perhaps a year of decompression from the admissions process and time spent building confidence would give students the means to resist some of the baser group temptations that seem to mark freshman year.

Princeton has put this idea into action with its Bridge Year Program: nine months of overseas public service work. This year 35 soon-to-be-Tigers will spend their time on Princeton’s dime in Brazil, China, India, Peru and Senegal.

Princeton Bridge.jpg

Good for Princeton for insisting on a serious commitment here — not just edu-tourism. Nine months is an honest invesment, as one undergrad noted:

I remember that the first time we told local shopkeepers and community members that we were staying for nine months, they thought we had misspoken in our broken Hindi. “You mean nine days or nine weeks,” they’d reply. It was beautiful to watch them realize over the course of our stay that we weren’t just tourists passing through, but students and volunteers who cared about forming lasting relationships in our new home.

The College might consider such an idea.

Addendum: Harvard has long had a curious feature called the “Z-list,” which the Crimson defines as follows:

Z-list, that elusive list that comes after the waitlist. A handful of students will be plucked from uncertainty and receive an offer of admission deferred. If they agree to take a gap year, Harvard guarantees a place for them next time. For 2018 applicants, that would mean a spot in the Class of 2019.

Harvard takes 20-50 people off the Z-list, and the Crimson notes that Brown has a similar program which averages about 26 admits each year.

Addendum: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, when I was an undergrad, B-schools accepted most incoming students straight out of college. That practice is a rare thing today — for good reason: back in the day, newly minted MBA had a reputation for being long on arrogance and short on experience and wisdom. Should undergraduate education move in this direction, too?

The rue du Faubourg St. Honoré in front of the Elysée palace — home to the French Président — is now closed to all traffic, though the H&K MP-5-carrying policeman there assured me that this state of affairs would not last too long. That said, one thinks of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, which has been shut down since 9/11.


Later on my bicycle ride, I was stopped by a hurrying young trooper when I tried to photograph the U.S. Embassy. He went so far as to look at the last images on my iPhone 6 to make sure that nothing depicting the fortified building was recorded there.

The Embassy is surrounded by heavy, concrete posts at about one-foot intervals — in order to prevent bomb-carrying vehicles from parking directly against the building’s walls. It seems that a distance of several feet from a wall allows a bomb’s blast to disburse, limiting interior damage significantly. This fact was once explained to me by a Guinness salesman on the Falls Road in Belfast, when I asked him why there were garbage cans filled with concrete all around the pubs that we were visiting to collect money. He also enjoyed telling this erstwhile Bain consultant, after the fact, that in one of the bars we entered, “everyone was carrying a gun.”

A film about sexual assault on campus with the name The Hunting Ground appears ready to be released in March. There is no mention of Dartmouth in the official trailer, but at 1:15 an image of SAE appears, and a young woman asserts that the letters stand for “Sexual Assault Expected”:

The same filmmaking team produced The Invisible War, an exposé of sexual assault in the military. That film focused on the problem of serial predators, a scourge previously evoked in these pages.

Addendum: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine will also reach theaters this year.

Churchill Nobel.jpgGovernment Professor Russ Muirhead, who graciously allowed me to audit his Political Speech seminar four summers ago, is a fellow admirer of Winston Churchill. He is also the kind of guy who has a favorite footnote. On the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death, let’s enjoy it together. Historian A. J. P. Taylor’s included the note in his 700-page English History, 1914-1945 (Oxford History of England). Please read all the way through to the end:

Taylor footnote.png

To my mind, one can fairly make the assertion that Winston Churchill singlehandedly saved more than Britain; he saved the world.


Jane’s Defense Weekly, the go-to publication for matters relating to weaponry and defense, has weighed in with its own witty take on the world’s favorite phrase. It notes that France’s only aircraft carrier, the nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle, is en route to the Persian Gulf to participate in the fight against the Islamic State:

Charles de Gaulle Aircraft Carrier.jpg

Winston would have been pleased at the resolve shown by today’s French government.

In a memo to the students who asked for a review of their punishment for violation of the Honor Principle in Randall Balmer’s Religion 65 class, Interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer details the different sanctions leveled on students:

Ameer Sanctions.jpg

As we have reported, once students have paid their debt to Dartmouth, no trace of a probation or suspension will appear on their transcript.

Dean Ameer is nobody’s fool. Students seem to have made every possible argument as to why they should not have been put on probation/suspended/had their course grade reduced. The Dean replied dutifully to each point, and in addition, she included this more forceful replique in her memorandum:

Ameer Sanctions Excessive.jpg


Addendum: Congrats to the Dean for her vigorous prose (ignoring, of course, the infelicitous repetition of the word “purposeful” in the above paragraph) and tight reasoning. One can scarcely imagine such language coming from the pen of her predecessor, the justly forgotten Charlotte Johnson.

Addendum: The Valley News summarized the state of the cheating scandal in an article yesterday.

Amy Allen.jpgAlthough Dartmouth’s Office of Public Affairs has said nothing, Penn State’s Department of Philosophy is proud to announce that it has a new chair: Professor Amy Allen, currently the Parents Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities at guess-which-College on the Hill.

Professor Allen’s research interests are not to my taste — according to the Philosophy department website, “Her research and teaching interests are in Continental philosophy, with a particular emphasis on the intersection of critical social theory, poststructuralism, and feminist theory. She has published widely on the topics of power, subjectivity, agency, and autonomy in the work of Foucault, Habermas, Butler, and Arendt.” — but by all accounts she is a good colleague, a serious scholar, and she is respected in her field. Allen was the chair of the Department of Philosophy from 2006-2012, and she is currently chair of the College’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program

Addendum: When do I get to write about the stars that we have stolen from other schools?

Matt Slaughter.jpgThe selection of Matt Slaughter as Tuck’s next Dean is another great decision for the school. As with so many other professors at Tuck, and in the undergraduate Economics department where he taught from 1994 to 2001, Slaughter excels in multiple areas: he is an excellent teacher (winner of the Tuck Class of 2011 Teaching Excellence Award and the 2001 John M. Manley Huntington Teaching Award for undergraduate faculty), a superb research scholar (author of 28 publications that have been cited in more than 100 other scholarly works), a distinguished participant in government (a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the advisory committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and a member of the academic advisory board of the International Tax Policy Forum), and a respected public intellectual (op-ed pieces in The Financial Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post).

Once again, Tuck is showing Dartmouth how a small school in New Hampshire can compete with anyone.

Tuck Dean Slaughter.jpg

Here is the College’s press release, and the Valley News’ report.

John Harp.jpgWhen students pushed the administration at 1,100-student Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa to change their dining services provider, V.P. for Student Affairs John Harp (right) did his homework. He understood students’ concerns about the mediocre quality of food provided by Sodexo, a publicly traded corporation that provides dining servces to institutions all over the world. Students put forward the name of the Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMC) as an alternative.

BAMC — which is unrelated to the cooking magazine Bon Appétit — was founded in 1987 in Silicon Valley, and its headquarters is still in Palo Alto. It began life as a purveyor of dining services to companies and museums in California, and it branched out when its management saw a real opportunity to serve high-quality food to schools.

BAMC Splash.jpg

Harp found the idea of BAMC’s fresh dishes prepared to order to be enticing in comparison to Sodexo’s steam tables of food cooked in large batches. In visiting three other colleges, he found that BAMC does what it says. Not only is BAMC’s food fresh as advertised, but the structure of the storage areas of the company’s dining halls backs up that assertion. As compared to standard institutional food businesses, BAMC’s sites have far less dry storage space devoted to canned goods and other pre-packaged food items, and a great deal more space allocated to coolers holding fresh ingredients, many of which were sourced from local farms and small businesses.

Cornell College came to an agreement with BAMC, and the company began serving food to its students in 2012. The entire Sodexo staff was hired directly by BAMC. They were given extensive training, an effort that was needed because serving freshly prepared food requires better organization and more intense work. In its first several years of operation in Mount Vernon, BAMC increased both the number of food service workers and the wages and benefits that they received. Nonetheless, within two years approximately 75% of the Sodexo workers had left for other jobs. BAMC’s open-to-view food preparation — which it calls “exhibition cooking” — and its work pace are more akin to a private restaurant than an institutional dining hall. It seems that many workers were unwilling or unable to adapt to these changes, despite better compensation.

For students, the cost of Cornell College’s obligatory, all-you-can-eat dining plans increased somewhat. However Harp found that students saved money overall: the high quality of BAMC’s food meant that they chose to eat less frequently in town restaurants. Harp says that Cornell College’s dining hall cuisine is “the best food in town.”

The only hiccup in the transition was finding the right BAMC managers to supervise the dining facility. Harp watched BAMC work with several people before finding the right leaders in their organization to work at Mount Vernon.

Addendum: Cornell College’s full dining plan with BAMC will cost $4,800 for the 2015-2016 academic year. That figure contrasts with the total current cost of $5,550 for Dartmouth’s SmartChoice20 plan. Once again, I would cite this difference as an example of Dartmouth doing less with more.

Addendum: Below is a partial list of BAMC’s 500+ clients:

Education: Penn, MIT, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Case Western Reserve, Denison, Hampshire, Carleton, Oberlin, Reed, St. Olaf, University of the Pacific, Washington U. in St. Louis, Wheaton College.

Corporate: Adobe, DreamWorks SKG, eBay, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Google, Levi’s, Lucasfilm, Nordstrom, Oracle, Plantronics, SAP, Starbucks HQ, Sony, Target Corporation, Twitter, Yahoo.

Museum and specialty venues: Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago, AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), Getty Center and Villa (Los Angeles), Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix), Theory at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, Public House (San Francisco), Panorama at the Saint Louis Art Museum, TASTE Restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum.

Addendum: John Harp also noted that BAMC listens attentively to students’ wishes for particular recipes. Here’s a flyer from the dining website at Carleton College, a longtime BAMC client :

BAMC Carleton.jpg

Addendum: UC Santa Cruz’ Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems has written a thorough case study of BAMC’s business model.

A reader writes in to let us know that other schools do things differently from high-cost-low-quality-much-disliked Dartmouth Dining Service:

I’m a follower of Dartblog who has never written before, but this one prompted a reply, not only because you featured one of our favorite food servers here in Concord, NH, Boloco’s Ben Nawn, but also because it appears Dartmouth is ripe for the kind of student-initiated foodie takeover sweeping the nation, in which huge food service companies are ousted in favor of real food from a clever chef.

Our daughter, now in MS working for FOOD CORPS, and others in the class of 2012 at tiny Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, IA (the “other Cornell”) worked very hard to replace Sodexo, the pricey and somewhat bland food service at their college with one far healthier and responsive.

Below is the college’s announcement when it happened.

Keep up the great work!

Cornell Dining Comp1.jpg

Of course, Dartmouth Dining Services is not run by a “huge food service company”; the situation is even worse: an institution of higher education managed by academics and their subordinates is trying to run a dining service that can serve thousands of meals per day. The results are predictably appalling and expensive.

Bon Appétit seems to be the real deal. Its website announces the following attributes of its food service sites:

Bon Appétit Management Company is an on-site restaurant company offering full food-service management to corporations, universities, museums, and other specialty venues. Based in Palo Alto, CA, we operate more than 500 cafés in 32 states. All Bon Appétit food is cooked from scratch, including sauces, stocks, and soups. Widely recognized as a pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, we are proud to be the first food service company to:

● Cook 100% from scratch
● Directly support small, local farms
● Serve only sustainable seafood
● Address antibiotics overuse in our meat supply
● Serve only cage-free shell eggs
● Tackle food’s role in climate change
● Advocate for farmworkers’ rights
● Commit to pork raised without gestation crates
● Serve only third-party verified humanely raised ground beef

Geez. Wouldn’t it be amazing if students went to Class of ‘53 Commons because they wanted to do so, rather than because the College’s rules forced them to go.

Addendum: The Bon Appétit company has produced an engaging video:

Addendum: The success of the King Arthur Flour café in Baker is an example of what dining at the College could become in the hands of a creative, entrepreneurial operator.

As expected, Phil will be unveiling his Moving Dartmouth Forward agenda on Thursday, January 29. What was not expected is that his oration will take place at 8:30am the morning after Wednesday night Greek house meetings:

Hanlon Speech.jpg

The stated capacity of Moore Theater is 480 seats. Given that there are about 4,000 students on campus, and Greek membership totals 2,213, will the fire marshal have to keep an eye on overcrowding? Or will students be too worse for wear to show up? Maybe that is Phil’s point?

Me thinks that Wednesday night meetings will be animated. In the Greeks’ place, I’d make sure that brothers and sisters attended Phil’s presentation in massive numbers.

Addendum: The second para in Phil’s memo reads like an SAT prep question:

SAT Grammar.jpg

Just who is “them”? The committee? Barbara Will?

The NYT seems to have understood that if only fraternities — and not nationally affiliated sororities — can hold campus parties with alcohol, then they will likely abuse their monopoly power:

Local Sororities Comp.jpg

The article spends a moment focusing on a local Dartmouth sorority that holds parties:

An interesting case study exists at Dartmouth, where Sigma Delta, a sorority with no national affiliation, does hold parties with alcohol in its well-kept house. Events feature female bartenders, female members at the doors and women designated to remain sober and monitor the scene. A social chair at Sigma Delta, Molly Reckford [‘15], said that female students routinely have said they preferred parties there rather than at fraternities.

“Especially younger girls feel much more comfortable coming to our sisters for help if they need it, rather than men having almost all the power,” Ms. Reckford said. “That dynamic is one of the key reasons fraternity members feel so entitled to women’s bodies, because women have no ownership of the social scene. You can’t kick a guy out of his own house.”

A great many people in Hanover have comprehended this sad fact for a great many years, but the administration’s policy has long been that no new sororities would be created that weren’t affiliated with a national. Such sad, and typical, short-sightedness. I wrote about this issue starting in 2010, and this space’s clearest statement came in 2012: Reforming Fraternities: Reduce Their Absolute Power.

Addendum: The College’s sororities are not as dry as all that, but the drinking takes place behind closed doors, thereby belying Dartmouth’s honorable and longstanding tradition of open-door parties.

The other day we noted stars who had been poached away from the College by more energetic and ambitious schools. We cited people like Mike Gazzaniga, Walter Sinnot-Armstrong, and Jamshed Bharucha; however, several people have written in to justifiably mention Professor Victor Ambros (below left) as being of the same quality — see his CV here. In fact, Scientific American puts him in its “Should have won a Nobel Prize” category. He left the College for UMass Dartmouth in 2007 after fifteen years in Hanover.

Ambros Sci Am Comp.jpg

To say that Ambros’ scholarly work has had an impact on his field is a serious understatement. Let’s turn to Google Scholar, which lists eight research papers that have been cited by more than 1,000 other researchers, and 38 papers cited by more than 100 colleagues in Ambros’ field:

Victor Ambros GS.jpg

Ambros’ departure is yet another example of Gresham’s Law applied to the academy. If the College were supporting our top faculty members, their continued presence would attract other young professors of potentially equal quality — leading to a further increase in the average ability of our faculty members and a concomitant improvement in the intellectual climate of the Dartmouth community. Over the past twenty years, the flow has been very much in the opposite direction.

Addendum: An alert reader notes that in November Ambros was one of 14 biologists, physicists, and mathematicians to win a Breakthrough Prize — an award which the Globe noted was “founded by a Who’s Who of entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley technorati.” Each recipient was given $3 million.

When I return to New Haven for my Law School reunions, I often note posted directions to both Yale undergrads’ reunions and Yale Directed Studies events. Directed Studies is Yale’s optional freshman year Great Books program, and it seems that the bonds among its participants are so strong that they group together after all these years. The program defines itself as follows:

Directed Studies, a selective program for freshmen, is an interdisciplinary study of Western civilization. One hundred twenty-five students are accepted each year.

All students enrolled in Directed Studies take three yearlong courses—literature, philosophy, and historical and political thought—in which they read the central texts of the Western tradition. The fall term introduces students to the principal works of classical antiquity and to the Judeo-Christian tradition. The fall term ends with the Middle Ages. The spring term begins with the Renaissance and ends with the twentieth century.

Each course meets weekly for one lecture and two seminars; seminars have eighteen students and one faculty member. The regular lectures and seminars are complemented by a series of colloquia. Distinguished members of the faculty are invited to speak on major issues arising from the work in the program, on related disciplines not included in the program, and on the relationship between Western civilization and the non-Western world. Colloquium topics in recent years have included poetry and translation, the origin of consciousness in Greek art, Christians, Muslims, and Jews in medieval Spain, and Western views of China.

Interestingly, DS attracts the attention of top Yale faculty members. The erstwhile Dean of the Law School, Tony Kronman, teaches in Directed Studies now.

The closest Dartmouth gets to Yale’s successful program is our Humanities 1-2 sequence, which seems to be enjoying renewed popularity under the direction of Professor of French and Comparative Literature Andrea Tarnowski. According to The D, the program this year received 135 applications for its 48 slots. The courses immerse students in some of the classic works of Western literature and fulfill the requirements normally represented by Writing 5 and the Freshman Seminar. I like this self-description:

Humanities 1 and 2 draw students who love reading, who enjoy immersing themselves in books that have profoundly influenced Western culture from Antiquity onwards, and who are not daunted by intellectual challenge.

In the age of Instagram and Twitter, the phrase “students who love reading” seems almost old fashioned and romantic. How nice to see it again. The Humanities 1-2 website also offers a deeper rationale for participating in the program.

In a well functioning institution, the administration would build on Humanities 1-2’s success. First off, I’d suggest putting all of the freshmen signed up for the Humanities sequence next year in the same dorm (not the Choates, please). The faculty could also offer an optional Humanities 3 course in the spring term. Once the education and social value of that arrangement is proven, the College might consider a Dartmouth version of Directed Studies. Imagine students reading great books over an entire year in the company of other students whom they know well, with everyone support by the same engaged faculty members. Such a program could well encourage undergrads to choose to do other things than vomit on each other in dirty basements.

Addendum: Dartmouth Now did a good profile of the resurgent Humanities 1-2 sequence in November.

Addendum: I am a big fan of the Humanities for all the usual reasons, and for a non-standard one, too, which I laid out in this post: Why the Liberal Arts? To Make Money!

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

It is a shame that someone can’t get their act together to make Sophomore Summer a signature learning experience at Dartmouth. Jim Wright saw the potential there but fumbled around with it because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do (he envisioned classes with field trips and such). Jim Kim saw it as simply another way of promoting himself and his networking opportunities rather than creating a serious learning opportunity (shocking, I know).

But it would be the perfect opportunity for some sort of shared learning experience like a Great Books program or something. And I think by sophomore summer the kids are mature enough to actually get something out of that (Freshman year I think might be too difficult). In addition, I think that the usual crop of Dartmouth profs could be supplemented by some really outstanding visiting profs who would be happy to spend a summer in Hanover teaching Dartmouth kids in that sort of environment.

To put it another way, the only year of law school that really works well is first-year, and the reason is that it is a shared learning experience, where the in-class and out-of-class experiences reinforce each other. After that the students become so scattered with different classes and activities that the academic experience breaks down.

The problem, of course, is that it takes not only vision, but vision of the right sort to turn Sophomore Summer into a signature learning experience for the College rather than an obligation that every student has to undertake.

Synagogue Plaque.jpgParis is decidedly on a war footing: there are pairs of combat-ready troops in front of Jewish institutions all over our neighborhood. They are carrying the French FAMAS assault rifle and they wear flak vests and full camouflage uniforms. Two soldiers stood guard outside a synagogue near us that had been attacked in 1980: four people died there in a bombing. To their right is a wall-mounted plaque that reads:

To the memory of Jean-Michel Barbé, Philippe Bouissou, Hilard Lopez Fernandez, Aliza Shagrif. Killed during an odious attack perpetrated against this synagogue on October 3, 1980.

Synagogue Soldiers1.jpg

A Canadian man of Lebanese descent was recently extradited to France and charged with the bombing. His is accused of detonating 22 pounds of explosives packed in the saddle bags of a motorcycle parked in front of the synagogue containing 300 Sabbath worshipers. This event was the first fatal attack against the Jewish community here since World War II, but far from the last.

The French have deployed about 10,000 troops to stand guard at threatened institutions. That figure has to be somewhere near 10% of France’s front-line combat troops — a figure that is unsupportable in all but the short-term, if France is to fulfill its other defense obligations. However the public reaction could be negative when the protective troops stand down from our neighborhood’s school’s and synagogues.

Addendum: Heavily armed gendarmes were also present at our children’s school out in the suburbs.



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