Recent articles

College Pulse produces a wealth of data, and pretty good data at that, given the large number of students who respond to CP’s easy-to-answer surveys. Once a student’s profile has been entered initially into Pulse’s database, the student need only answer specific questions in future surveys. Then the CP software can analyze the data along any number of lines. Here is CP’s survey of students’ political affiliation. I’ve reproduced the data about the College’s athletes:

Pulse Political Affiliation.jpg

Two and a half times as many varsity athletes lean right as non-athletes. I wonder why that is?

On CP’s display page, you can also click on such categories as Race, Class Year, Financial Aid, Gender, Greek Affiliation, Income, Region and Sexual Orientation to find out how various groups of Dartmouth students define themselves politically.

A few more tidbits of political information: Dartmouth men were three times as likely to vote for Trump (15%) as women (5%). And athletes were twice as likely to vote for Trump (12%) and three times as likely to support building a wall along the Mexico-US border (14%) as non-athletes (6% and 4% respectively).

CP can also ask qualitative and informational question. Here are the choices of a representative sample of Dartmouth students (mostly seniors) for this June’s Commencement speaker:

Graduation Speakers.jpg

I’m glad that a few people thought of Jake Tapper, this year’s speaker. Certainly CP is better at eliciting proposals than the College’s Council on Honorary Degrees. The D reports:

In total, the council typically receives between 100 and 150 nominations before the October deadline, of which it selects between four and six honorees in addition to the speaker.

In addition to simple suggestions, CP let’s you slice and dice the data to see the speaker preferences of different cohorts of students by race, gender, sex, major, affiliation etc. Not bad.

When someone asks me, “What do students think of that?”, the best that I could do until recently is hazard a guess. However a new web-based app, College Pulse (see an overview), which has been created by Terren Klein ‘17 and lead programmers Ben Packer ‘17 and Robin Jayaswal ‘18, seeks to systematically and efficiently survey Dartmouth students about their experiences and opinions:

Users logs in with their college netID and select the poll that they wish to take. Upon completing a poll, community members may visualize and filter the data by various demographics directly on the platform. Unlike existing survey platforms, students receive points for every survey they complete. These points may be cashed in for rewards of the students’ choice, anything from free pizzas to a donation to a charity of their choice. Every poll is recorded on students’ profile, leading to increasingly comprehensive data and cross-referencing between polls. Poll administrators are able to target their sample based off of demographic information or answers to previous polls.

The genesis of the app was the November 12 BLM library invasion. Did students support the demonstrators’ in their protest, or were people opposed to such aggressive behavior? Who knew? Students sought to make sense of what had taken place, what they believed, and whether or not their beliefs aligned with those of the larger community. No reliable, student-centered opinion platform existed to provide clarity, leaving both administrators and students without insight. Needless to say, Yik Yak was not up to the task.

Campus Pulse.jpgJust as the founders of Uber saw an opportunity when they could not find a cab, so did Terren and his mates sense a hole in the market. And they felt that new technology could give them a way to question large numbers of students at a low cost/query. They got to thinking, and they got to coding.

This week we’ll look at the result of several College Pulse surveys to achieve a better understanding of the state of the College. Let’s start with Admissions information. Pulse’s survey asked students a variety of questions, including at what other schools they had been accepted and rejected. The poll was sent to a randomized group of 2150 Dartmouth undergraduates on October 28th, 2016; 974 students responded.

At a recent faculty meeting, Phil noted that when given a choice with other Ivies, we very rarely come out the winner. He was right. Pulse’s repondents’ experience showed that only as against Cornell do students consistently choose to come to Dartmouth; 15.5% of respondents admitted in the regular decision pool could also have gone to Ithaca. And only a very loyal few picked the College over HYP:

Pulse Acceptances at Other Schools.jpg

Of the Dartmouth students who took the survey, Yale admitted 2.3%; as did Princeton (the same people?); and Harvard accepted 1.7% (click on the image to enlarge it).

‘Twas not always so. I chose Dartmouth over Yale. As did plenty of other people in the day: we wanted a smaller institution with plenty of contact with members of the faculty (not that Phil cares in the slightest about that).

Conversely, around a third of Dartmouth students were rejected at HYP, and a goodly number were dinged at the other Ivies:

Pulse Rejections at Other Schools.jpg

Conclusion: Wright/Kim/Folt/Hanlon have done a lot to turn the College into a safety school.

Addendum: As Terren works the kinks out of the app, he is happy to do surveys if they seeming interesting. Pulse’s website invites anyone to suggest ideas for future polls.

The next time you see a glossy College press release or brochure about Phil’s supposedly much-loved house system, keep in mind the below:

$20 Tea.jpg

Maybe the last few Teas have not been fascinating enough? Maybe none of them have been? Maybe that’s why the administration needs to pay students to show up for a photo-op?

As we previously reported, the Winter Carnival committee announced that there would be no snow sculpture on the Green again this year. Fortunately, for a second year in a row, a number of students rallied to the call and put up a creditable effort:

Carnival Sculpture 2017.jpg

At first The D reported that the Town of Hanover restricted the sculpture’s height to four feet:

This year’s snow sculpture was built on the Green by a group of students, alumni and faculty on a volunteer basis. The project was spearheaded by a group of students, led and organized by Mercedes de Guardiola ‘17, and alumni passionate about the College’s Winter Carnival traditions. The Winter Carnival Council announced on Jan. 13 it would not be focusing efforts or funding on the snow sculpture.

Due to town permit restrictions and limited time, the dragon-shaped sculpture had to be under four feet in height. Additionally, the limited snow was another obstacle the team had to work around, the organizers said. [Emphasis added]

Four feet! But I did a little digging, and Town Zoning Administrator Judy Brotman informed me no such limitation came from Hanover.

Then I heard from Maria Mercedes de Guardiola ‘17, who filled me in on the source of the four-foot height restriction:

The concern came from Risk Management - honest mistake by the D. There was a concern that it might collapse and fall on someone because usually the sculpture has to have a diagram and have an engineer look it over, or something along those lines. We didn’t have the time to get all of that done. We also didn’t have any permits. There were a lot of time restrictions for the sculpture this year, but the alumni and community support was terrific.

Four feet! This time for real. Just which beancounter in the bureaucracy came up with that number? Are we supposed to believe that there is some insurance restriction on the height of snowmen? Don’t make me laugh. Any group of seven-year-olds can build a snowman higher than four feet. And there is no risk, except a theoretical one, that some snow will fall on people and injure them. Gimme a break.

What you are seeing is a textbook example of the bureaucracy in action. Some faceless nobody doesn’t want to make a mistake, so the word goes out that a ridiculous limitation will be the rule of the day. Gosh. And how pathetic. And typical of modern-day Dartmouth.

Addendum: During winter carnivals of yore, students engaged in more stimulating activities (courtesy of Michael Hinsley’s explorations in Rauner):

Football Stadiup tobaggan run1.jpg


Granite in their brains, indeed.

But will the College allow such wantonly Dionysian behavior?

Carnival Snowball Fight 2017.jpg

I can see why Monet liked to do series: different light, weather, and seasons all show varied aspects of a scene. My beloved swimming hole in Norwich is deeply asleep now:

Norwich in Winter1.jpg

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Reminded me of some of Asher Durand’s cathedral like woodland scenes:

Asher Durand.jpg

Regarding your post about Francesco Hayez, I’d take issue with your comment: “Hayez (1791-1882) doesn’t seem to make it into the canon as taught at the College,…” I think most Neoclassical, Academy-trained artists from the 19th century are largely ignored by art historians everywhere, not just at Dartmouth. Those same academics seem to think good art didn’t start until the 1870s.

When Lady Gaga jumped from the stage at the end of her Super Bowl halftime performance, she caught a bejeweled football that was passed to her by Brian Mann ‘02:

The Boston Globe has the whole story:

mann gaga.jpg

The months go by, and I still can’t figure out why Phil hasn’t invited Kyle Hendricks ‘12 back to the College. At least, his high school did him the honor:

Kyle Hendricks HS Comp.jpg

Kyle would be a big hit on campus. But Phil just doesn’t have that human touch. He goes to Dartmouth sporting events and sits alone with Gail and nobody else. How about working the crowd, drumming up support, recognizing friends and acquaintances, and making people feel like they are at a small college and that he loves it, too.

Addendum: Not everyone can have a full range of talents, but Phil’s main weakness is that he does not recognize his many weaknesses. If he did, he’d have people around him who would advise him to bring people like Kyle back to Hanover. But then Phil feels no need to listen to others. He is an immodest man, even though he has a great deal to be modest about.

Jake Tapper will be giving the Commencement address in June. He announced his invitation on Stephen Colbert’s show:

Steven Colbert Jake Tapper.jpg

Here is the College’s release.

Addendum: A few other schools have announced their Commencement speakers: Penn: Senator Cory Booker; Wellesley: Hillary Clinton; Barnard: Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders and associate professor of medicine at the University of Montreal; Brooklyn College of City University of New York: Senator Bernie Sanders.

Dartmouth has a wealth of experienced professors who lead their respective research fields, while also working closely with students — inspiring them in the classroom and leading them in laboratory environments. And while at Dartblog we talk frequently about problems that need to be fixed at the College, there are still many bright spots. Our professors deserve more recognition for their achievements. As such, this is one of a series of posts that shines a spotlight on the best professors in Hanover:

Sean Smith.jpgSean Smith is Professor of Computer Science and an expert in information security. As yet another example of a faculty member whose work has applications outside the university setting, Professor Smith approaches his subject from a holistic perspective — by examining both the hardware and the human components of security. Doing so has allowed him to make important contributions to real-world developments in the field of computer science throughout an impressive career that spans the public and private sectors, as well as academia.

Smith’s childhood in Pennsylvania, much of which he spent playing with ham radios and other fun electronic doodads, set the stage for a lifelong interest in technology. After four rugby and hash-filled years (“hash” here equals trail running for the worried D.A.R.E. graduates among us) at Princeton, from which he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Mathematics in 1987, Smith made his way back to his home state for his doctorate, which he earned from Carnegie Mellon in 1994. Although Smith reflects on his years in Pittsburgh and advises doctoral students to spend less time on a trail or a bike than he did and more in the office, his performance was impressive enough to secure a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he performed security-related work from 1994 to 1996.

In 1996, Smith moved back east to IBM’s Watson Research Center, located in Yorktown Heights, New York. There, he designed the security architecture for the IBM 4758 secure coprocessor, which under his leadership was the first coprocessor to earn an FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-1 Level 4 security validation; essentially, if anyone tried to tamper with or compromise the hardware, the hardware would find out. Smith, who believed that the academic environment held unique promise for research that could change the world, began teaching at Dartmouth in 2000. He received tenure in 2006 and a promotion to the rank of full Professor in 2011.

Information security is of paramount importance in today’s computer-reliant world for an obvious reason — people, governments, and other organizations may have incentives to gain access to systems which seek to remain uncompromised. Potential targets range from your email account to power grids. In order to ensure that data remains private or that the lights don’t go out, it is necessary to understand how computer security systems may be undermined from a technical standpoint, as well as how human behavior relating to the design, maintenance, and usage of such technologies affects the ability of systems to defend themselves. By examining these two factors, Smith has produced an expansive body of research (an h-index of 43 and 6138 citations).

We can look at two articles written by Smith to get a sense of what this dual approach looks like in the scholarship. The first, titled “Circumvention of Security: Good Users Do Bad Things,” highlights the fact that computer users’ level of cooperation with security tools that have been put in place for their own benefit often limits how useful those tools really are. Smith and his coauthors, Jim Blythe of USC and Ross Koppel of Penn, explain how people often attempt to work around even simple security measures like passwords and time limits on usage sessions. This may be done in the interest of convenience, but it compromises information security in the process. One lesson to be learned: We should be designing security systems so that people can get their jobs done without having to write down and share passwords. The second article, “Magic Boxes and Boots: Security in Hardware,” emphasizes the role that well-designed physical computer architecture can play in forming a secure system. Smith goes on to describe in some detail the story behind the development of the aforementioned IBM 4758 coprocessor, and although things get a bit technical after the second page, it’s well worth a read.

Smith stays busy in the classroom as well, where in recent terms he has taught Operating Systems, Computer Architecture, Theory of Computation, and Compilers, the last of which he redesigned in order to better meet student needs. A one-time course called “Risks of the Internet of Things to Society,” offered in Summer 2015, led to a recently-published book. Additionally, he directs Dartmouth’s Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS), which pursues and facilitates research into information security.

Addendum: Here’s a video of Professor Smith down in Concord discussing self-driving cars alongside Andrew Kun of UNH and Joe Cunningham of the NHTI. The whole presentation is interesting and worth a look, but Professor Smith introduces himself around the 4:50 mark:

Here’s a chart that gives one pause. It was prepared for this space a while back by a thoughtful undergrad with a taste for figures. The College’s most popular departments are the ones giving out the lowest grades (and I’ve been told that Econ has recently tightened things up even more):

Course Popularity and Difficulty.png.jpg

From the looks of things, the departments that students feel are relevant (pre-med/law/b-school track?) are tough graders, and the Humanities (who have no greater supporter than your humble servant, despite the fact that too many faculty members have lost their way) feel the need to entice students with easy A’s.

Perhaps the administration could work on this problem, rather than building silly community houses.

Addendum: The College leads the Ivies in inflating grades over recent decades:

Grade Inflation over time national.jpg

However, as a report from Grade observes:

It’s worth noting that Dartmouth and Duke are in the upper right corner of this chart not because their grades are high relative to similar institutions today, but because their grades were low in 1960.

The College was once a tough place, too.

Erratum: Government Professor John Carey (a subject of Dartblog’s Guide to the Stars) writes in with a correction:

I agree that the chart plotting enrollments against average median grades by departments/programs is interesting. However, it was not “prepared for this space a while back by a thoughtful undergrad with a taste for figures.” It was produced by a thoughtful undergrad, Zachary Markovich ‘15, enrolled in the course Data Visualization (GOV16/QSS17) in Spring 2015. The course is taught by GOV Professor Yusaku Horiuchi. As one of the requirements for the course, students find primary source data and produce original analyses centered around graphical representations. Professor Horiuchi enlists colleagues to assess the best representations and select those that warrant special recognition - which is why I recognize this graph. Note that the version of the graph you have printed has part of a laurel wreath in the upper right-hand corner. The graphs from GOV16/QSS17 are on display in Silsby and the ones that earned special recognition have the little laurels on them, which suggests that Dartblog’s reporter probably photographed a graph from the display. That is fine — it’s a nice graph on an important topic — but the original source should be accurately reported.

Duly noted.

Addendum: Zach Markovich ‘15, who prepared the graph at the start of this post, writes in with a comment:

Although it’s definitely possible that “soft” departments give higher grades to attract students away from more lucrative majors, I think there other explanations of the trend as well. It’s equally plausible that students without an aptitude or passion for the subject matter quickly abandon less career relevant majors when they get low grades in their first classes but stick it out in the “hard” majors because they think they’ll ultimately be rewarded for it even though they received poor grades. The ultimate result is that the distribution of grades across majors looks the same, but for a very different reason. A good example of this effect might be classics, which had a reputation for giving very harsh grades, even though it’s grade distribution is middle of the pack. My best guess is that the trend in the graph is a combination of both these factors. For readers interested in the confounding effect of student sorting between majors on observed grade inflation, I’ve written a paper on this subject with Dartmouth Goverment professor Michael Herron that they can find here.

As we noted last week, yesterday evening the Hanover Planning Board heard comments from the public concerning a proposed change to the Town’s Zoning ordinance:

Hanover Zoning Change Para.jpg

The object of the change is fraternities, those owning their own land, who might lose College recognition. If the new rule is enacted, these Greek houses would be placed in a stranglehold, unable to rent their premises to students, and therefore obliged to sell to Dartmouth.

However, the Planning Board did not expect to run into the buzzsaw of Jeremy Katz ‘95, whose oration on the topic, if not quite one for the ages, certainly gave the members of the Planning Board pause:

My name is Jeremy Katz and I am a Trustee of NH Alpha of SAE Trust. Our Institution owns the real property and improvements at 38 College Street in Hanover. I am providing testimony on the proposed changes to the Student Residence definition.

First of all, regardless of any position on the actual proposal, the stated goal to achieve clarity in the zoning ordinance is appropriate, correct and deserves commendation. We all benefit from having rules that are clearly understandable and impartially enforced.

Second, I want to correct the record that was put forward in the zoning proposal where it has been stated and additionally implied that “Dartmouth College” was always the institution that was referenced in the student residence definition. There is no factual record that this is true, and in fact there is much to the opposite, as follows:

First, many institutions presently exist and have always existed in the Institutional zone. My institution is one of them. The adoption of the 1976 zoning ordinance specifically mentions that the zone is home to many institutions and the Town wanted to make it more institutional over time. People have the ability to be specific when they want to be, and had the voters in 1976 wanted to convey to Dartmouth a monopoly on student housing extending to third party property in 1976 they would have specifically used the words “Dartmouth College” instead of “many institutions.”

Second, the present ordinance is very, very vague. Just to be clear, those are not my words. Those are the words of attorney Bernie Waugh, Hanover Zoning Board member who stated them in open deliberations at the ZBA regarding the definition of student residence. In fact, the actual quote is “It is very, very vague as to what ‘in conjunction with’ may or may not mean.”

Attorney Waugh is a pre-eminent attorney specializing in municipal law. If he does not know what the present definition of the student residence means, we can’t expect many other people to.

But he is not the only person. The Ordinance is trusted to a Zoning Administrator for enforcement and supervision. Hanover Zoning Administrator Judy Brotman reportedly stated during her deposition in the Alpha Delta case that she did not know what the words “in conjunction with” meant in the zoning ordinance definition of student residence either.

I once heard the argument made that the North should have simply purchased all of the slaves in the South in 1860 to end the nation’s peculiar institution. Importation of new slaves had been illegal for many decades, so slavery could have been ended by expropriation — at a far lesser cost that the lives and treasure consumed by the Civil War.

To its credit, the Hanlon administration seems to be motivated by a similar pragmatism, as the Valley News reports:

Rennie Farm Fund.jpg

Dartmouth College has created a program to compensate neighbors of Rennie Farm for potential losses in the housing market caused by pollution from the former medical dump site near Hanover Center.

The “Value Assurance Program,” as school administrators are calling it, will allow people living near the former hillside farm where Dartmouth’s medical school dumped contaminated lab animal carcasses decades ago to apply for reimbursement from the college if they are unable to sell their homes, or if they have to mark them down significantly.

College officials said the program was an effort to stabilize the market and calm concern in the neighborhood over property values, given that some residents have had their land listed for months with barely a nibble.

We’ve referred to the Rennie Farm pollution problem in the past: over the years dead lab animals contaminated with dioxin-bearing chemicals were buried by Dartmouth researchers on the farm. The dioxin has leached into the groundwater contaminating the wells of some neighbors.

Rather than engaging in an endless and expensive legal battle, the College has fessed up to its liability, and is taking financial responsibility for it. Good move. The administration will save time and money in the long run, and keep the goodwill of the community.

Addendum: Here is the Dartmouth News release.

Brilliance Stupidity.jpgThere’s plenty of dumb stuff going on in the Hanlon administration, but this one could be the topper. It seems, or so many professors believe, that the only way to receive a substantial raise at the College today is to let the administration know that you have an offer from a competing school.

One of management’s jobs, at least in any rational organization, is to keep tabs on the achievements of employees. When certain people excel at their positions, a good manager sua sponte rewards them with a raise, a bonus or some other form of compensation. Doing so obviates the need for the kind of give-and-take negotiation that generates bad blood. In my own business, in the case of top performance, I like to offer a raise before someone’s annual review date. People respond well to such attention.

The Hanlon crew abdicates this responsibility, putting the onus on a prof to scare up an offer from another institution. Such laziness. Deans should be closely following the achievements of professors: a book, an award, a much-cited article, and even great teaching. A reward should be quickly forthcoming. Faculty members not only appreciate a raise, but they are more than gratified that their hard work has been recognized.

In not doing so, and in waiting for a professor to elicit a competitive offer before taking action, the Hanlon administration’s policy results in several untoward knock-on effects:

1. Professors need to spend/waste time interviewing at other schools;

2. In doing so, they might actually like what they see elsewhere and choose to leave the College;

3. At the least, ill-will is generated as profs lose valuable time in an empty interview process;

4. Over time, other schools will learn that Dartmouth professors often aren’t interviewing seriously, but are doing so only to generate a competing offer.

Is there any upside to this policy — other than freeing administrators from doing their jobs. If so, please let me know.

And so, in another little step, is a great institution laid low.

Addendum: A Dartblog reader writes in:

Your four points about the flaws inherent in forcing professors to get an outside offer before offering a merit raise are spot-on, in my experience, particularly point #2. This is not, however, a problem unique to Dartmouth or the Hanlon administration: this is how it works everywhere I have been, and everywhere I have spoken to friends and colleagues. Short of winning a major national prize, there is simply no way for mid-career faculty to get a significant merit raise aside from demonstrating value on the open market by securing a competing offer.

It is immensely frustrating to outsource our professional evaluations in this fashion: my ability to gain a merit raise is determined by a search committee at another school deciding that my work is a good fit for them, rather than my home department accurately and honestly assessing its own needs. It is not a very positive comment on the faculty’s confidence in assessing their colleagues’ work.

On the hiring side, this practice also makes it very difficult to run senior searches at the associate and full level, since a good segment of the pool has applied primarily in hopes of getting a better offer from the home department, and it is near impossible to tell who is who. Top choices drop out very frequently at various points in the process without explanation.

Of course, the process of awarding merit raises in-house generates all sorts of other ill-will, which can be equally corrosive to the department and morale. This post hits a number of themes very accurately—but it is extremely inaccurate to suggest that this is a problem particular to Dartmouth or to the current administration.

NFL 1st and Future.jpg

The Mobile Virtual Player has won its category (Training the Athlete: “Educational and training innovations designed to reduce injury during practice or competition. Innovations may include training techniques or equipment”) in the NFL First and Future Pitch Competition. If you are not up to speed on the MVP, here is a summary of a true innovation in football training:

Prizes include $50,000 from the NFL to further develop the MVP, acceptance into Texas Medical Center’s renowned startup program TMCx, and two tickets to Super Bowl LI.

Keep an eye out for Buddy Teevens ‘79 and Mrs. T in the crowd today. Or will John Currier ‘79 be there with Buddy? (What a great class!)

Addendum: The panel choosing the winners was made of the following members:

- Ed Egan, Ph.D., Director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University’s Baker Institute

- Rich Ellenbogen, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and Co-Chairman of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee

- Bernard Harris, M.D., M.B.A, CEO and Managing Partner of Vesalius Ventures

- Mae Jemison, M.D., Principal, 100 Year Starship

- Chad Pennington, former NFL quarterback, NFL Legend

- Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures and healthymagination

- John Urschel, Baltimore Ravens guard and center


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