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A walk around Brown’s Providence campus last week found the school to be in good nick. The Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts seemed well maintained (nice flowers), and the 2010 building itself is spectacular:

Brown Center for the Creative Arts.jpg

Not bad for a school that has an endowment per student figure that is less than half the size of the College’s. Brown seems a tightly run ship: with over 42% more students (9,073) than we have (6,350) and 32% more full-time professors, Brown does very well for itself with an annual expense budget that is $80,000,0000 less than ours.

An outfit called StudySoup — a notetaking service for college students — has ranked the best schools for women studying Computer Science. We are #2 among the Top 20 programs, based upon the number of women in the undergrad CS major:

StudySoup CS ranking.jpg

That said, anyone can compile a best list; we should be suspect of people who seem to think that the College’s Women in Science Project was founded “in recent years.” It was created by former Professors Karen Wetterhahn and Carol Muller ‘77 in 1990.

Addendum: A professor writes in:

Thanks for highlighting the StudySoup article. FWIW, their rankings appear to be based solely on percentage of majors who are women. I would imagine that the figures are self-reported. And that they are not considering women’s colleges. (I know for a fact that Wellesley has a higher percentage of female CS majors than we do.)

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The Athletics Department website describes one interpretation of the origins of the Indian symbol at the College:

Starting in the 1920s sportswriters (primarily representing Boston’s many newspapers of the day) began to regularly use the nickname “Indians” in their coverage of Dartmouth’s football team as it achieved a position of national prominence. The usage was grounded in reference to the College’s founding mission in 1769 - the education of American Indian youth (known today as Native Americans) in the region.

For about 50 years thereafter, the nickname “Indians,” though never officially adopted by the College, was used actively and interchangeably with “the Green,” “Big Green” and “Hanoverians” by the news media and in Dartmouth publications in coverage of the College’s teams. The Indian symbol also appeared on uniforms of athletic teams during this period. [Emphasis added]

We all know the Hovey Murals in Thayer, which date back to 1938, but the adminstration talks less about how American Indian iconography was central to the College back into the 19th century. I was alerted to one manifesation of the importance of Indian images when the above-pictured, 1909 cane came up for auction recently. The sale’s descriptive text noted that Dike’s Canes in the United States had an entry regarding canes at the College (the book is in the Sherman Art History library):

Dartmouth Canes Excerpt.jpg

A selection of old canes:

Dartmouth Cane Selection.jpg

The cane at auction was owned by one B. M. Scully of the Class of 1909, who walked the Hanover Plain just as you and I do. He is no more.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Enjoyed your post this morning. As I own six of the vintage canes, it caused me to take a closer look — one from 1924, one from ‘25, two undetermined as of this writing. One, however, from the same class of 1909 with the name T.A. Fardy etched on the back. Also, one from the class of 1907 with the name of E.H Frost. All are in quite good shape, with the noses and eyelids bearing the brunt of any damage over the years.

Keep up the great work re: our beloved alma mater.

Addendum: And another:

Quaker Oats Man.jpg

Good piece. I’ll spare you any of my waxing nostalgic about family D canes (we’ve got tales and canes from both sides), but surely you remember the silly Eleazar version, which appeared on your watch. As I recall, it was promptly dubbed the Quaker Oats Man.

Even as Phil seeks to increase the number of undergraduates by 10-25%, additional information confirms that the experience of students at smaller schools binds them more closely to their almae matres. Forbes Magazine’s Grateful Grads Index (GGI) puts the College on top, ahead of even Princeton and a host of other friendly, small schools. Here’s how the index is calculated:

This metric ranks private not-for-profit colleges with more than 1,000 students by analyzing two important variables: median private donations and gifts per student over 10 years, as reported to the Department of Education; and the Alumni Participation Rate, or the percentage of graduates that give back in the form of donations to their colleges each year— regardless of the dollar amount. This measure, from the Council for Aid To Education, is averaged over 3 years… The private donation per student figure gets a 75% weighting in our index and the alumni participation percentage gets a 25% weighting.

Forbes 2017 GG index.jpg

The GGI is a measure of the enduring impact institutions of higher learning have had during the lives of their living alumni. It sure looks like the College has had a winning strategy over the past 50-60 years. The next Ivies after Princeton to appear on the list are Yale (#14) and Brown (#16). They are, after Dartmouth and Princeton, the third and fourth smallest Ivies respectively. Funny how that works, isn’t it? The four Ivies with the largest undergraduate enrolment are further down the list: Penn (#20); Harvard (#26), Cornell (#38) and Columbia (#52). What can I say? Small is beautiful.

That said, the data that is the basis of the College’s #1 ranking seems suspect. Look at U.S. News’ information on alumni giving:

U.S. News Alumni Giving.jpg

By these numbers, Princeton would beat us handily. In fact, the U.S. News numbers for Williams, Bowdoin, Davidson and Wellesley, too, are all quite different from the figures used by Forbes.

But there is no need today to belabor discrepancies in the data. The takeaway is that smaller schools give their students a special experience that both educates them and bonds them to their alma mater in ways that large schools cannot match. Alumni can then go out into the world armed with special skills, and they accomplish great things. Phil’s alternative is to dumb down the undergraduate experience (which is what will happen if we grow larger, no matter what he says), and then try to recruit distant researchers to the faculty who will, er, maybe, accomplish great things.

I’m not betting on Phil to get this one right.

Provost Dever has taken a break from her job search; it seems that she is back in town, at least for a few days, because the faculty has received a memo announcing the recruitment of yet another diversity bureaucrat: a Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. Just what we need:

Vice Provost for Diversity1.jpg

First off, savor Provost Dever’s, um, prose — recall that she was a Professor of English and Gender Studies. She sees fit to include some variation on the word diversity seven times in her first paragraph. And it isn’t as if she is not on notice regarding leaden writing. We have pointed out her monomaniacal focus in the past.

Observe also the requirement that the new Vice Provost be a tenured member of the faculty who will work half time. That criterion bespeaks a reduction of 50% in a professor’s teaching load — the loss of two courses from the curriculum each year — in order to ensure that departments do what they should already be doing. Is that what we need?

However the back story is a little more complicated: the details can be found in the first annual report of the committee charged with monitoring the administration’s 72nd (or is it the 73rd?) effort to increase faculty diversity:

Diversity Report June 30, 2017.jpg

This fifteen-pager contains not a single statistic in its rah-rah support of the College’s efforts to achieve “inclusive excellence” (speaking of leaden writing). But it does have one solid observation:

Finding: The accountability structure as currently construed has one potentially fatal flaw: While it is clear who is accountable for what, it is not clear to whom they are accountable. This may reflect a culture/tradition that prefers a “soft” or horizontal hierarchy. It may also reflect a structural issue with the college’s organizational chart at the top (see next Finding). It is the sense of this committee that the Executive Team has taken real ownership for the Action Plan. However, one unintended consequence of this ambiguity in messaging about who won’t tolerate failure of the Action Plan is the implication that failure of the Action Plan will be tolerated.

Recommendation: Create a leadership organizational chart accompanying the Action Plan that makes explicit the bidirectional flow of resources on the one hand and accountability on the other. For each item in the Action Plan, in addition to identifying who is the responsible entity (this is already done), indicate from whom are the necessary resources and incentives to be provided, and by whom is the responsible party ultimately held to account.

Finding: Arts and Science is the largest academic unit in the College and thus where the vast majority of tenure-track faculty hiring and retention occurs. There appears to be a nuanced reporting relationship between the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Provost, and the President. In particular, the Action Plan situates accountability for faculty diversity in the Provost/President area, however it appears to be broadly understood that in Arts and Sciences it is the Dean of Faculty who holds near- autonomous authority over faculty hiring and retention. It is not clear whether or in what ways the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is accountable to the Provost or President.

Recommendation: Clarify these reporting relationships. Ensure committed leadership by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in regards to the Action Plan. Ensure responsible execution by the Associate Deans of their faculty hiring and retention functions, as outlined in the Faculty Manual. Facilitate collaborative relationships between the Dean(s) and the Provost office on faculty diversity initiatives through ongoing, regular and long-term engagement, to ensure the charge and culture of promoting diversity is maintained even when personnel changes.

By way of background: traditionally at the College the Dean of the Faculty has been responsible for the undergraduate academic program; the Dean reported directly to the President. The Provost managed the three graduate schools and the physical plant. When Jim Kim arrived in town, given his inexperience, Carol Folt was elevated to a re-jiggered Provost’s position that held sway over the Dean of the Faculty, too. But the faculty pushed back (both against Carol and the realignment of responsibilities); hence a second reporting line from the Dean of the Faculty upwards to the President (click on the image for a closer look):

Dartmouth Org Chart April 5, 2017.jpg

As a result of this dual reporting structure, the “Inclusive Excellence” committee has pointed out that while Provost Dever has arrogated to herself the responsibility for the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts, in fact, Dean of the Faculty Elizabeth Smith will be doing all the heavy lifting, with, to date at least, no intervention from the Provost’s office.

Carolyn Dever’s reaction to this finding is to place another brick in the bureaucratic wall. The new Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity will just get in the Dean of the Faculty’s way.

So who cares? You should. Either undergrads have just lost two courses each year forever, or some other faculty member will pick up the slack — at a cost of more than $100,000/year.

And so it goes.

Addendum: The College’s new Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity will complement the existing Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity (IDE), the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, and the Council on Institutional Diversity and Inclusivity. I guess that these folks need a lot of help.

Addendum: Read nothing into the fact that the above org chart has no line connecting Phil Hanlon to the other members of the senior administration. All appearances aside, he is not floating airily above the fray; he deserves blame for a great deal that goes on at the College these days.

Addendum: The D has a tough-minded report on the external review committee’s evaluation of the College’s Inclusive Excellence initiative:

An external review of the action plan for the College’s Inclusive Excellence initiative found that while the plan has clear objectives, it lacks in-depth accountability, a faculty retention strategy and student involvement. The external report, which was released more than a week after the College’s self-imposed deadline, is an effort to increase transparency and accountability in its policy initiatives.

Addendum: A professor sees poetry hidden in Carolyn’s missive that I completely missed

Maybe I’m imagining things, but the first paragraph of this latest opening in the Provost’s Office has some powerful musical qualities. The first, second, and third sentences are each carefully structured to climax on diversity. The fourth has two mentions of diversity at each end, elegantly framing the sentence. The fifth sentence diversifies, twice intoning diversity at the end of each hemistich. That adds up seven, surely not by chance. Finally, the next paragraph gently restates the theme.

Fat chance!

Addendum: And don’t forget diversity.

An alumnus from the 1970’s writes in:

I’m aghast at the idea of a big jump in enrollment. Reasons offered are worse than silly, and will dilute the unique character of Dartmouth — union of place and small size/mostly undergraduates. Not sure why this isn’t covered in alumni communications, or maybe I just overlooked it.

Here’s the thing, though. I love the College and want to continue to support it. I’m a modest donor, but a steady one. I count in the percentage of gifts, a decline of which is cited as disapproval of the recent/current Administration policies.

I remember in my student days alums withholding contributions based on anti-war and liberal activities on campus (both of which I favored at the time). I thought then that conditional alumni love was unfair. If you love the College, you support it.

So what to do?

We all give to the College in gratitude for the things that Dartmouth has done for us, but at the same time, whether we like it or not, our giving (or not) sends a message to the administration regarding our support (or not) of the institution’s current direction. So, as my correspondent writes, what to do?

First off, as we saw last week, alumni are already speaking with their checkbooks. The capital campaign itself is dead in the water, and the number of alumni giving to the College and the amount of money that they are giving are both dropping rapidly. Why?

I expect that the people who are withholding their usual gifts are motivated by a broad range of reasons: the Hanlon administration’s evident efforts to turn the College away from its historic focus on undergraduate education in favor of a research-based agenda; by Phil’s attempted appointment of a non-Ph.D-bearing Dean of the Faculty who favored boycotting all Israeli universities; by the dishonest derecognition of several fraternities much loved by generations of brothers; by the administration’s spineless tolerance of library disruptions by aggressive students. Alumni might even have had enough of a bloated bureaucracy whose burgeoning cost has given us an annual tuition sticker price just shy of $70,000? The list goes on and on and on.

Conversely, we might ask people giving money to point to specific steps taken by the administration to improve the College. There’s not a lot to talk about, is there?

In the end, my view is that alumni should be thoughtful and deliberate with their giving — just as they are, for example, in raising their own children, from whom they might on occasions withhold generosity in the face of bad behavior. Such an action is an honest form of love.

Donating money because one has always done so does little more than enable the Hanlon administration to continue on its current, errant path. Is that what alumni want? Is that an effective expression of love for Dartmouth?

My recommendation would be to put your gifts aside for the moment. Each year in the future, place that hard-earned money in a special account until the day the Trustees come to their collective senses and appoint a President who wants to move the College forward into broad, sunlit uplands, and away from the disorganized swamp of mediocrity that marks today’s Hanlon administration.

Addendum: When I write “disorganized swamp of mediocrity,” I do so based in part on the many administrative foolishness that you read about in this space, but also from learning about inside information that I am not free to disclose. The latter material only serves to reinforce my concern about the poor quality of the College’s leaders.

Addendum: For alumni unwilling to cut the College off completely, an alternative strategy would be to direct giving to specific entities within Dartmouth — like the Political Economy Project — that are doing great work with undergraduate students, rather than sending money to the central administration via the Dartmouth College Fund. A drop in giving to the DCF will register with the Trustees and the administration almost as strongly as a decline in the percentage of alumni who give donations each year.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

You can also give to specific teams. I give to squash and tennis.

Addendum: And another:

I believe the low point in this process was the administration tarring the alumni-nominated Trustee process and essentially eliminating it. They nearly lost their run of the table to a democratic proxy contest. Had they done so, things might be far different. Indeed that process began when Alumni pulled Dartmouth’s bacon from the fire financially [in 1891], and were given those seats by agreement and to prevent the problems of that day and this one.

Not donating is a real dilemma. We both know the money donated is what keeps Dartmouth aid flowing… in addition to supporting a bureaucracy. My class is marketing our giving plan in terms of the sponsorship of scholars. All this said, the participation numbers may be speaking for themselves, and my opinions about staying in the process and giving may be an anachronism.

I doubt that I ever mentioned this to him but on one stifling summer day in Hanover, two years after he’d left for bigger things, I decided to tread from my dorm to an auxiliary library to withdraw the senior thesis of Joe Rago ‘05. Is there ever an honorable reason to pull someone’s senior thesis?

I wanted to examine how Joe could be so good. Was his way of turning a phrase limited to rich quarry like food court and a now-defunct Dartmouth PR platform called “the BuzzFlood.” (“At first, I was bowled over by the chowder-headed nonsense they were serving, but lately, I’ve started to come around. Inspired by their hard work, I realized that I, too, must shore up my brand.”) Or was he good with serious stuff, too?

When Peter Robinson ‘79 informed me on Friday morning that Joe had died suddenly, I was in an instant recalled to that summer, to the Berry annex, and to Joe’s senior thesis, whose odd title was still graven in memory: “New-Englandisms & Fanaticisms in Proper Boston.” A rich survey of Boston ghost stories. I can’t think of an undergraduate work remembered more than ten minutes after its consummation; here was one whose evocative title lurked in my mind for twelve years. As it turns out, Joe was good with serious stuff, too.

After Dartmouth Joe went to The Wall Street Journal with, I think it is fair to say, a reservation that it would require too many pairs of crisp trousers while offering too few ice-cold beers–not quite, that is to say, the genuine writerly experience. But I was able to witness Paul Gigot ‘77 become a mentor who seemed, to me, ennobling of Joe; and Joe speedily shaped himself into one of the great journalists of the young century.

In a political age in which buzz-flood P.R. hazes over reality, creating parallel realities of preferred fact patterns, it actually takes an opinion journalist to get to something true. This is why (you may be realizing) you have not read a worthwhile straight-news article in a year or more. It’s why Joe’s series on the Affordable Care Act deserved, and won, a Pulitzer; and was, more to the point, true.

In my time as a Robert L. Bartley Fellow on the Editorial Page of The Journal, I saw Joe cut through complex policy like greased lightning through butter, to borrow another phrasing of his. “What should I say when I meet with Melanie Kirkpatrick and Paul Gigot,” I asked Joe one late night before my interview. “Mumble something from Burke; that’s what I did.”
Joe, I found, preferred in his editorials to show rather than to state, and never shied from mustering facts where they were needed. These were culled from Washington sources astonished to receive an actual phone call from an actual intelligence searching for actual facts. Yet he avoided extraneous information where it had a tendency to cloud. This was Burkean indeed, because Joe, I learned as I observed him, tried to reduce until a problem was irreducible. In modern American politics, problems are reducible quite a bit. They are mostly invented.

A funny story of Burke is that he almost published a gargantuan history of England from Caesar to Queen Anne but abandoned the entire thing because Hume had already come out with his. Lord Acton said “it is ever to be regretted that the reverse did not occur.”

And this is where I am left after Joe’s passing. I fully expected to instruct children and then grandchildren to read Rago at the breakfast table, later on holidays home from college, and then in the thicket of some thorny life question. It would have been convenient to allow the style and genius of Rago to suffuse them generally, yet damning it, at edges of disagreement, with snapshot memories: Rago taking on board beers at Ryan’s Daughter on East 85th Street, Rago haunched on an unfortunate sofa in the office of the Review, Rago on the floor of The Journal at evening, reviewing the day’s work on a broad, white, flaxen sheet, erasing solecisms and applying a touch of style, in a mood approaching joy.

When it first became clear that the Hanlon administration was determined to increase the size of the undergraduate student body (and build new dorms around the Bema), I wrote a post on June 7 detailing the arguments against the planned expansion:

What is Phil’s (and Mike’s [erstwhile Dean of the Faculty Mastanduno]) goal in adding a few hundred students to each class? It’s not hard to discern: they want to make more cluster hires: groups of outside researchers focused on solving the world’s big problems in order to up the College’s prestige (undergraduate students be damned). Of course, the problem is — and this is always a problem for an administration that chooses not to cut an ounce of bureaucratic fat (and that has a dead-in-the-water capital campaign) — how to pay for these new folks?

For Phil the answer is easy: extra students means extra tuition income. That’s the strategy he adopted at Michigan in the face of the fallout from 2008-2009 financial crisis. He told me so himself when I met with him a few months after he had arrived in Hanover. I commented that in the press he had been depicted as a determined cost-cutter; “No, no,” he said, “I balanced the budget by increasing the size of the student body.”

Oh, great. More students in Hanover — but no additional athletes — means a great deal more tuition income (remember that over half of our students pay full boat) at little extra cost, especially if you shoehorn students into bigger classes and you don’t increase the size of other facilities like the HOP or the gym or the dorms. (Remember how those 51 Fahey doubles became triples, and how additional people will be jammed into the re-built Morton Hall. Expect a lot more of the same.) That’s more money for researchers and research, even though students receive a diluted experience.

How disingenuous that the administration’s recent press release includes the following assertion:

The task force’s charge includes the requirement that any potential growth plan must at least break even financially.

In reality, the whole point of the extra students is to take in more money. If 56% of the College’s current students pay full fare (including financial-aid-needy athletes), one can expect that 60%-70% the planned additional students will pay full tuition, room and board. That’s an extra $8-20 million each year in income — depending on whether the administration increases the number of students in Hanover by 10% or 25%.

Will that money go to upgrading decrepit dorms, raising the salaries of underpaid faculty, or renovating academic buildings that have long needed refurbishment? You have doubts, too, right?

But, back to a debate about size. How is little Tuck doing? It has a high ranking among business schools and a uniquely loyal alumni group. The Yale Law School, my other alma mater, is one of the smallest of the major law schools, yet it is perennially the highest ranked. In fact, three of the four top-ranked law schools are the smallest ones (Yale, Stanford and Chicago). What does that tell you? Maybe small size is everything?

The only other Ivy that comes close to Dartmouth in alumni loyalty is Princeton — note that the Tigers happen to be the smallest school in the Ivies after the College.

In the final analysis, what we are seeing here is further evidence that Phil Hanlon has little imagination or vision. He cannot see beyond copying at Dartmouth exactly what other prestigious research universities already do. Flattery maybe high praise, but belated imitation is no more than following boringly after what your competitors have achieved long before you. Dartmouth should be Dartmouth; it can’t be Michigan (and it should not want to be).

The administration should concentrate on making Dartmouth better before it thinks of making the College bigger. But maybe that’s too difficult for Phil: doing so would take more work than just opening the floodgates.

Addendum: A dedicated reader writes in:

Increase the student body by as much as 25%? What a terrible idea - Phil Hanlon seems intent on dismantling everything that makes the College unique. And there are few things I dislike more than cloaking what are essentially money-grubbing schemes in anodyne phrases like “better the world” and “amplify our impact on the world.” Ugh.

Addendum: A ‘12 writes in:

Similarly dismayed upon reading last week’s post on the idea of increasing class sizes. I too want to take issue with the following sentence:

“The small size makes it more challenging for the College to enroll a new class that represents interests in a variety of academic disciplines outside the classroom and from diverse backgrounds.”

I thought the committee was on a fact-finding mission and didn’t have conclusions yet? This sentence sure sounds like a pre-baked rationale for increasing class size. Will the task force explore the “opportunities and challenges” of a smaller class size? Maybe facts will point to that being a better way to make the world a better place (what’s our telos after all?). By the way, what are “academic interests” that are “outside the classroom”? Whatever they are, is gathering a variety of them the goal outcome of enrolling a new class? What about in-classroom academic interests?

My questions lead the witness but they bear asking. The people who run the College should be held to account for their words. Words matter. Using ill-constructed arguments (with grammatically-challenged sentences) to mask the meaning of words is a problem. The false rationale presented by the administration for this action (even before it will be inevitably pursued) is unbecoming of Dartmouth, and it wouldn’t pass muster in a Writing 5 class. Shame on the administration. I call on the College’s professors to use their considerable political power to push back on the administration’s “reforms” that harm the College and its students.

Thank you for all you do, Joe, to shine a spotlight on the administration’s sophistry, incompetence, and even laziness in doing whatever it is they’re doing to the College.

Addendum: A ‘20 writes in:

I am a ‘20 and currently still on a “housing waitlist.” I’m sorry, but Phil Hanlon trying to increase Dartmouth’s student body is like the captain of the Titanic planning his next voyage. The administration should first prove it can house its current student body before it further increases its burden. Ideological objections aside, we are talking about an operational nightmare for an inept operator.

Addendum: As does an ‘18:

Been enjoying your coverage (or perhaps cringing at, but only the subject matter) of the student body increase proposals. I’d note that the anonymous ‘20 you quote might want to remember that the R.M.S. Titanic’s captain, a man named Edward Smith who had quite an impressive beard, had the courage and good grace to go down with the ship. I wonder if Hanlon would do so.

Aside from that, I take no pleasure in witnessing Hanlon’s escapades in this. I suppose he is at least trying to do something, but it’s quickly making me wish he’d go back to doing nothing. I don’t understand how we can wish to add students when we lack the resources for the ones we already have. Dining halls are cramped, the library doesn’t have enough seats for exam times, it’s not infrequent to have to wait days for books since they’re already out, the gym is often quite full, and housing, of course, is on shorter rations than a Soviet bread line. (I was booted from my initial housing already and thrown into an entirely different cluster far away from the main campus.) If it’s true that the Bema would play host to new dorms, I think we should mourn that, too: it’s a beautiful spot of seclusion and nature within our campus and its destruction would be a tragedy.

I, for one, never would have come to a larger Dartmouth. I came because I wanted a smaller college experience, passing up family traditions at Harvard on one side and Brown on the other in favor of a more rural, smaller, and tight-knit community. But it seems that Big Research University, Inc., is coming to Hanover no matter what we do. I wonder if the energy exists within the alumni and the studentry to resist this at all, particularly after so many other awful policy initiatives. And would it matter if we tried?

The next time you think that you have been dealt a bad hand by life, cast your thoughts to these trees on the Appalachian Trail on the way up to Velvet Rocks. Both the large and small one are growing on top of huge boulders, taking nourishment from whatever detritus they and other plants may provide:

App Trail Trees2.jpg

App Trail Trees1.jpg

The larger tree seems to have cracked fissures into the rocks on which they proudly stand — and the two seem to survive through the four seasons come what may.

Addendum: Special snowflakes take note. If you want to learn grit and resilience, take a look around you. Young pine trees can’t run to the dean every time life becomes challenging.

We pointed out on June 27 that the College’s new questions on the Common App have increased yields by identifying people likely to come to Hanover, if admitted. However, though effective in increasing our yield, the policy turns out to have a secondary effect, as Inside Higher Education reports:

Demonstrated Interest Comp.jpg

So what’s our preference: show a higher yield for its PR value, or seek to attract a class of more meritorious students? Currently we lead the Ivies in the number of kids coming from 1% families (20.7%), and only Princeton has fewer students from the bottom 60% of family income (we only have 14.4% of undergraduates from this cohort).

Add to this data the fact that we offer financial aid to fewer students than any other Ivy (here and here) and you have the virtual certainty that Phil Hanlon and Carolyn Dever will bore us silly with talk of diversity and inclusion, but in reality Dartmouth will remain a school for rich folks, plus a small, token group of kids who are not from the wealthy classes.

Of course, a day without criticizing the bloated bureaucracy would be like a day without sunshine — so let’s note that admissions departments play lots of games, at least in private, to insure that preference is given to full-boat kids. After all, that extra money is urgently needed, right?

In the dog days of August, Phil Hanlon announces a new initiative to radically expand the size of the undergraduate student body. Don’t be fooled by any language in the press release about dispassionate investigation; this train is leaving the station — as we noted a couple of months ago:

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Commentary will follow on Monday, but let’s just review past enrollments courtesy of the Dartmouth FactBook:

Dartmouth Student Enrollment 2002-2016.jpg

These figures reflect enrollments in the fall quarter, data that is slightly different from the College’s information. Undergraduate enrollment increased from 4,084 to 4,310 students between 2002 and 2016: a change of 5.53%. Grad student numbers grew from 1,539 to 2,099 over the same period of time: a jump of 36.4%. Say no more.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in preemptively:

You called it. Here we go…looks like Phil is rolling out the Michigan playbook. I can’t wait to see the development of Dartmouth Plan 2, to minimize capital required for expansion. No doubt, it will expand the academic calendar to include weekends. Sophomores will be required to take all their classes on Saturdays. And the instructional day will expand to run from 6 am to midnight. All students will be able to schedule the remaining days in infinite ways. For those in a rush, it will be possible to complete a term in 19 consecutive days.

Addendum: An undergraduate writes in:

I hate the idea of a larger undergraduate body. It will not just mean a less personalised and more factory-like approach to education at the College, but it will also mean that we could soon see the expansion of the Choates, by far the ugliest buildings on campus. Students will also face increased pressure to compete with lacking infrastructure i.e. the libraries. If Hanlon is truly determined that increasing the size of the undergraduate body will be a financially viable idea (and continue to cause a decrease in alumni donations), he first has to work on the infrastructure. The incoming class of 2021 might be sleeping in tents on the Green for all we know! Furthermore, most students who apply here choose to apply due to a limited number of things: the Ivy League status, liberal arts, the great outdoors, small class sizes, and the smallish undergraduate body size (as well as the focus on undergraduate education, an achievement which we were ranked #7 by US News). If you take away small class sizes and the small undergraduate body, you take away two fifths of the reasons to apply to Dartmouth.

Thank you for all that you do Mr. Asch. I hope that Hanlon hears you, but I believe that you are a voice crying out in the wilderness when it comes to the president. He is dragging Dartmouth down, and at the end of the day, he takes us down with him…

And an alumnus:

Just read your post about Hanlon wanting to increase the student body and had to laugh at this line (and I can’t believe you didn’t highlight “diverse”):

“The small size makes it more challenging for the College to enroll a new class that represents interests in a variety of academic disciplines outside the classroom and from diverse backgrounds.”

Rather than larger student body, why doesn’t Phil focus on a better student body? How? I am sure Phil would ask (or maybe he wouldn’t). Stop losing the top students to other schools. If he focused on the quality of the education (and professors), everything would take care of itself without having to admit more students.

Also, didn’t you just do a piece on Tuck being a small school that goes toe to toe with the bigger B-schools?

And another:

So if Dartmouth expands its enrollment by 15-20% the universe will be an immeasurably better place. What absurd, unmitigated hubris!! And a transparent lie. If Hanlon expects anyone to believe this nonsense, then he is manifestly unfit, even beyond the extensive evidence you have already provided, to lead.

And so on:

Very distressing to see today’s post about Hanlon’s plan to increase the size of the student body. I agree with the alum who wrote “looks like Phil is rolling out the Michigan playbook.” In fact, I can confirm first-hand that he is doing exactly that.

A few years ago, I showed up at Phil’s office hours to inquire about creating graduate-level courses as senior seminars, for students who wanted to be more competitive in applying to graduate programs. I asked him what the situation was at Michigan. His reply: “At Michigan, the undergraduates are a source of revenue.” Very disheartening that he is bringing that mentality to Hanover now.

A well-connected alumnus writes in:

Based on conversations with faculty, I think that what is holding them back from calls for Hanlon to be replaced is the concern that his replacement would be no better, and very possibly worse. The horrible Yale President Salovey was said to have been in the running for the Dartmouth job that went to Hanlon. [JA Note: Salovey was offered the top job at Dartmouth; he used our offer to pressure Yale into making him the University’s President.]

The management recruitment process is broken; the Trustees use an established firm [Isaacson, Miller] which yields up credentialed mediocrities whom the Trustees can’t be bothered to second guess.

Why they can’t just pick a known winner, like the head of Tuck or the Engineering School, is a mystery. Maybe they feel they can’t be blamed if things don’t work out if they used a name recruitment firm. Sad!

There’s an old cowboy saying: “If you do what ya’ always done, you’ll get what ya’ always got.” One would think that our Trustees would have learned their lesson by now. We’ve had a string of weak Presidents over the past two decades, and our ranking, reputation and fundraising continue to suffer.

Jim Wright was such a lackluster President that many people in Hanover vowed to never choose an internal candidate again. Jim Kim seemed a glossy antidote to plodding Wright; we soon learned that Kim was all flash and no substance. And Hanlon? No flash — and no substance either. Sheesh.

And the grad school deans? Thayer Dean Joe Helble is driving Thayer forward. He has vision and smarts. Dean Matt Slaughter at high-flying Tuck is the whole package, too, and he has the added advantage of having taught in the undergrad Econ department for eight years before moving down the hill. Geisel Dean Duane Compton has been in town for only four months, so he is something of a cipher right now, and besides, the med school is a mess in desperate need of sorting out. Both Helble and Slaughter would be a marked improvement on Phil, that’s for sure.

Addendum: If Brandeis can do it, so can we:

Brandeis Lawrence Comp1.jpg

For all the controversies Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence endured over the past few months, the failures that ultimately doomed his tenure were more fundamental, insiders say: His fundraising just wasn’t good enough and his administrative track record was wanting.

Last Friday, Lawrence announced that this would be his last semester at the Jewish-sponsored, nonsectarian university in Waltham, Mass., outside of Boston.

“After careful consideration, and in close consultation with the Board of Trustees, I have decided to step down as President at the end of this, my fifth academic year,” Lawrence wrote in his announcement. “For the time being, I am looking forward to returning to full-time scholarship and teaching as a senior research scholar at Yale Law School.”

Although Lawrence was popular with many students and helped stabilize Brandeis’ finances in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the austerity measures he imposed (even as his own compensation rose) made him unpopular among faculty members. All the while, his fundraising failed to measure up to his longtime predecessor, Jehuda Reinharz; he was seen as having made several administrative missteps and he stumbled through numerous controversies over the past year.

Perhaps some of our Board members should go to Waltham to see how to remove a President who is not getting the job done.

In the run-up to this fall’s Dartmouth-Brown game at Fenway Park, Football Coach Buddy Teevens ‘79 threw out the first pitch there on Monday:

Coach T Fenway.jpg

From the looks of things, Buddy threw a strike on the outside corner, but his foot left the rubber awfully early:

With virtually everyone on the football team graduating in four years, and his work on the MVP and the prevention of concussions meriting national attention, not to mention the DP2 program, Coach T is carving out a new role for a head coach. My thought runs to Daniel Webster’s pithy quotation, “Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades: shoemakers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers, a monster watch; and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men.” Buddy does, too.

Addendum: How does President Buddy Teevens sound to you. Maybe not serious, but anything is better these days than President Hanlon.

Phil Hanlon15.jpgAs ye sow, so shall ye reap, Phil Hanlon. Four years of ineptitude are being reflected in fundraising numbers so dismal that people all over higher education are talking. Rather than accelerating in the run-up to the formal announcement of the capital campaign, donations to the College are dropping precipitously.

Numbers at the Dartmouth College Fund are causing fundraisers to shake their heads, though the surprise is limited, given that at a springtime meeting between student leaders and DCF organizers, the students let the alumni muckymucks have it in no uncertain terms. They confirmed in words what the senior survey stated in numbers: Phil Hanlon and his administration are deeply unpopular.

Participation in giving by alumni dropped over the past year to about 39% — the first time in Dartmouth’s history that involvement has fallen to such a low level — from 42% and 43% in the two most recent years. In my day, the College and Princeton were neck and neck at about 70% giving; Princeton’s most recent figure was a healthy 56.8%. (The only major school to currently approach the old-time numbers is Tuck, where 70% of living alumni contribute money annually.)

Beyond the drop in giving by individuals, total giving is way down, too, by double digits below the year’s target according to several sources. The shortfall would be in the order of tens of millions of dollars.

The administration’s high-handed treatment of fraternities, AD in particular (here and here), seems to be motivating many loyal alumni to turn away from the College. One story making the rounds is that this spring Phil received an envelope with checks from ten of his Class of 1977 Alpha Delta brothers. Each one was for the same amount: $0.00.

Will the Trustees finally act, now that the numbers are clear? Certainly the Board has long received deeply troubling qualitative reports regarding the Hanlon administration. Today the Trustees can assess the results in incontrovertible quantitative form.

How can anyone not see what a disaster the current administration is?

Addendum: As a low-energy guy, Phil Hanlon is hardly an inspiring fundraiser. And he has little to share in the way of new ideas or initiatives when he talks about his plans for the College. That he has not fired his ineffective and much-disliked direct report, Senior VP for Advancement Bob Lasher, speaks volumes about Phil’s inabilities as a manager. He does not recognize talent, or its absence, and he can’t cut loose a failing administrator.

Addendum: The College’s sad results come against the backdrop of a stock market that hits new highs week after week (including yesterday). In addition, the capital campaigns of institutions like Harvard and USC have set all-time records in the past year; both schools surpassed their ambitious goals. Why not the College? You know why.

Addendum: An older alumnus writes in:

If the latest numbers on alumni giving aren’t the last straw, there may not be one. 39 freakin’ per cent! That’s unthinkable for anyone who was in Hanover in our time.

But regarding your suggestion that the Trustees defenestrate Phil: and then what comes next? After a three-decades-long parade of Freedman, Wright, Kim, (Folt), and Hanlon, you might reasonably ask if we can do any worse. The horror is that these same Trustees may be up to that challenge.

If this were a business or political organization, one of the first sources of candidates to succeed Phil would be promotion from within, especially when there appear to be two excellent leaders running the graduate schools of business and engineering. Nah — too rational.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Not looking forward to being a head agent going into a Reunion Year in this environment. Our class participation fell 7%, almost entirely due to war on AD and SAE, against backdrop of placating #BLM, Duthu fiasco, etc.

Thumbnail image for Mark McPeek1.jpgProfessor of Biology Mark McPeek, who has already graced Dartblog’s Guide to the Stars, writes in:

Joe, I hope you are well. A new academic year is fast approaching, and the confluence of a few events today have made me wonder what a bunch of Dartmouth faculty and alumni might suggest as the primary text for an “as yet imaginary” Big Ideas course that incoming students might have to all take together. Hence, I thought of you and Dartblog.

This morning I was reflecting on the recent failures of the ACA repeal efforts by the US House and Senate, which made me think about what I’d force every single person in those bodies to read right now. As I was in the middle of that, I responded to the annual e-mail inviting me to lead first-year orientation sessions on various topics. This will be the second year that a group of faculty will speak to students during orientation on the topic of “What is a Liberal Arts education?” Dan Rockmore also told me that his new edited volume on “What Are the Arts and Sciences?” will be sent to each incoming student. However, as I understand it, Dan’s excellent book (the chapters of which were all authored by Dartmouth faculty) will simply be given to the incoming students.

All of these made me consider what one book I would not only give each incoming student, but in fact assign for every incoming student (and perhaps every congressperson and senator) to read and discuss as part of a campus-wide course (e.g., if we had a Big Ideas course in students’ first year), if I ran this place. For example, my son just graduated from Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech asked all in his incoming class to read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” before arriving on campus, and they discussed the book as part of a campus-wide class on science, race, social policy, economic injustice, individual rights, intellectual property and ownership, and the conflicts that arise from clashes among these competing interests in students’ first semester on campus. (My understanding is that Georgia Tech chooses a different book each year.)

My choice would be Adam Smith’s “The Theory of Moral Sentiments.” As I’m sure you know, this is Smith’s treatise about the roots of morality, and it defines the philosophical underpinnings of what he would go on to write about in “Wealth of Nations.” However, most people across the entire breadth of today’s political spectrum have completely lost sight of the fact that the moral foundation of capitalism, as outlined in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” is self-restraint and caring for neighbors. I think folks on both sides of today’s political chasm would be shocked to compare their own assumptions about the foundations and workings of capitalism with the true moral and philosophical underpinnings of the economic system in which we live. Smith’s basic argument is that self-restraint and caring for neighbors define “the perfection of human nature” and by extension the perfection of society. This ultimately makes selfishness a virtue because the individual’s selfish motivations are for her/his own perfection as a restrained and virtuous citizen, and in so doing one sees her/his own economic well-being as a function of the well-being of others in the larger society (remember Smith’s admonition about the roots of “the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker”). How one moves towards these goals and fosters these values is the argument to be had.

I would be very interested to hear what list your readers would suggest if each were in charge of defining the one book that they think the incoming class should read and discuss as part of a campus-wide educational experience at Dartmouth, and hear a few sentences on their rationale for their choice. Perhaps you could ask such a question on Dartblog and collate the responses? I suggest this out of pure selfishness and simply for my own curiosity, but who knows - perhaps a groundswell might build someday to put something like this into the curriculum.

Also, with all those new students coming on campus in a few weeks, they might like some intellectual suggestions for reading outside class.

In any event, I think we all would welcome some intellectual discourse on the internet these days.

Best wishes,


Sing out, dear readers.

Addendum: Readers write in:

A professor at Tuck:

The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart, by Bill Bishop. The book documents how Americans have self-selected into increasingly homogeneous communities, even as the country itself remains heterogeneous. Once you see the basic idea, a lot of what you see makes sense when viewed through that lens.

Honorable mentions to Bowling Alone (Robert Putnam); Letters to a Young Contrarian (Christopher Hitchens); In Defense of Elitism (William A. Henry III).

An older alumnus:

That last recommendation (In Defense of Elitism) from the Tuck professor was an excellent one. I would pair it with one by Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars (NAS): Diversity: The Invention of a Concept. Hint: it takes a slightly different angle on the topic than our dear leader and carolinclusion & deversity.

about a decade or more ago, it dawned on me that jim wright had one of those pull-strings coming out of his back, and every time it was pulled, a voice would parrot, ‘diversity, diversity.’

A recent alumnus serving in the military:

In light of the post on big ideas. I would have everyone read Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community, written in 1953. Nisbet was a professor of sociology at Berkeley. Nisbet’s book is an account of modern Western society and the human desire for community and civic flourishing amidst the wreckage of the two great wars, totalitarianism, and the growing power of the centralized state. He writes: “The greatest single lesson to be drawn from the social transformations of the twentieth century, from the phenomena of individual insecurity and the mass quest for community, is that the intensity of men’s motivations toward freedom and culture is unalterably connected with the relationships of a social organization that has structural coherence and functional significance.” Also: “Economic freedom has prospered, and continues to prosper, only in areas and spheres where it has been joined to a flourishing associational life.” Nisbet connects economic, social, and moral flourishing together in a way that is suitable for any student of the liberal arts.

Another alumnus:

Joe: my suggestions:

Looking forward to what results from this idea. Thanks.

A dedicated reader:

For all students

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, original pub 1946 BUT … A zillion translations and editions including one published in 2017
For obvious reasons (see below) I like the two with intros by Rabbi Harold Kushner, that’s 2006 and 2014

(Rabbi) Harold Kushner, Nine Essential Things I Have Learned About Life
Author of bestseller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, nearer the end of his life, distills his life experience

Matti Friedman, Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War . Book discussion I lead, retired academic and NOT Jewish, wrote for publication that this is one of the best three books he’s read about war, and then he led a discussion on it for friends of his.

And for Jewish students or Christian students interested in the real Judaism and how it impacted Christianity and any other students interested in the big ideas of how to treat other human beings in this life, it’s really about how to behave in this life so that if there is an afterlife, one’s “transcript” speaks to one’s essential menschlikeit, or humanity for a general audience

Ron Wolfson, The Seven Questions You’re Asked in Heaven: Reviewing and Renewing Your Life on Earth (yeah yeah sounds like self-help, but it isn’t, it’s about ethics and more)

Another young alumnus:

I remember being asked to read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel as an incoming freshman, with the understanding that it would be important for a lecture during Orientation. I got bored with the book, but pushed myself through to finish it, only to be quite frustrated when the lecture ended up having nothing to do with the book. The takeaway I had from that experience is that if you’re going to assign reading for incoming students, make sure that there’s programming to support it to make the students feel like the read was worth their while.

An older alumnus:

I know three books they should read:

The Fountainhead….Ayn Rand
The Constitution of Liberty…F.A. Hayek
The Radicalism of the American Revolution…Gordon S. Wood

An alumna:

I already gave What Are the Arts and Sciences to my ‘21 son. Granted, we are a geek family. He’s VERY excited and having a difficult time deciding what to study and this book has given him some perspective.

On the matter of required (or recommended) freshman reading, the ‘21’s were all sent a copy of A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe and instructed to read it before orientation week.

A happy alum:

Prof. McPeek asked for book ideas. I would suggest the poems of Robert Frost, especially “The Road Not Taken.”

Am recovering from quadruple bypass surgery. A day after I reached the hospital, a cardio surgeon said, “Technically, you were dead.” I rank these words as the most beautiful and uplifting I’ve ever heard as I had to be alive to hear them. It was an attack of arrhythmia from a previous heart attack 22 years ago. Was extremely lucky and glad I have a second chance at life.

A young alum:

I hope you’re well. As a regular reader of Dartblog, I saw the request from Professor McPeek for the book recommendation.

More than a book recommendation, I find his rationale for the “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” compelling. Not only have free markets been under constant attack since the financial crisis, but also the current responses in the world have steered towards populism and socialism. Thus, a critical discussion about the morality of free markets could be very useful for the incoming class. Free markets are a fundamental cornerstone of our civilization and embody the realization of true justice and fairness.

Nevertheless, I would be concerned whether the book would be engaging enough for the incoming class. I am quite sure some could critically engage with the book while others may still require the foundations of a liberal arts education to fully benefit from the analysis.

My recommendation would be a book which demonstrates how academic discussions can be carried out by “grown-ups” i.e. without name calling and retreating into partisanship. An introduction to academic discussions based on evidence and logical arguments. I hope this would encourage the incoming class to engage in discussions in an academic way throughout their studies and maybe the radical idea that you can disagree with someone philosophically (politically) and still cherish them as your friends.

An older alumnus:

If it’s not too late for a late entry in response to Mark McPeek’s readings solicitation, I would offer Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind. (I see you already have one entry citing Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis. I haven’t read that one, but I expect it’s also insightful.)

The great strength of The Righteous Mind is that (among other things) it defines a finite set of personal value dimensions that strongly determine our philosophical and political beliefs. So we are able to examine our own value structure relative to those with whom we agree or disagree politically.

And another:

I would recommend: “Ye Will Say I Am no Christian.” The Thomas Jefferson/John Adams Correspondence On Religion,Morals and Values. Edited by Bruce Braden. A fascinating back and forth between two of our founding fathers, particularly timely in today’s political environment.

And a longtime reader:

I’m a great believer in the ability of the finest books for children to touch truth and make it manifest in a way that the most scholarly, erudite works, despite their merit and value, cannot.

For students (and faculty) endlessly exhorted to repeat the mantra of diversity and inclusion, until their eyes roll back in their heads, a restorative:

The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell (1965; available in hardcover and paperback)

To me, the most profound examination possible of how to truly love the other as the other is; of what makes a family, and the nature of truth itself, in a book for the youngest but suitable, as they say, for all ages.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, by DuBose Heyward (author of the novel Porgy and the librettist for Porgy and Bess; 1939)

Who knew an Easter fable could demolish misogyny and racism with nary a polemic, diatribe or stern lecture in sight?

Any fully adult person who is not brought to the edge of tears or a voice-stopping thickened throat by the last pages of these books is, I declare with head-shaking sorrow, a person so stone-hearted that we can only shake our heads in wonder that a pulse therein may be detected or respiration observed.

But sentiment is not the object here. Truth is, and prose as we might hope the young are, somewhere, still taught to write.

Addendum: My take on Professor McPeek’s question shies away from the social sciences. I’d recommend E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View. Beyond being a celebration of romantic love — some of the most glorious writing on the subject in my experience, and a topic that undergraduates need to think about more — the book has as its main theme the wrestling with and breaking free from social convention. Dartmouth is easily as ridden with unspoken social rules as was Forster’s Victorian England. If students would work harder on their inner lives, they would be both happier and better equipped to solve the world’s problems.

Mark McPeek Responds:

Just as I anticipated: a collection of excellent recommendations across a range of perspectives. I have a lot more reading to do. Also, given a few conversations I’ve had about this off-line, perhaps this might spark some reevaluation of educational goals both across disciplinary boundaries in the first year of a student’s time here and within majors once they get going full steam.


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