Recent articles

I am sure that he is gassing on about things of which he knows little or nothing, but at least he is doing so in a Dartmouth tie. The other day the NYT published this picture of Jim Kim at the IMF’s recent annual meeting:

Kim Tie Comp.jpg

To cite alumni of recent prominence, did Hank Paulson ‘68 and Tim Geithner ‘83 wear Dartmouth ties when working as Secretary of the Treasury? Only on rare very occasions according to Google Images (Paulson, Geithner).

However the time for levity is over for Jim Kim. The Times ran a lengthy profile piece on him this week that mixes a great deal of unverifiable puffery about Kim with pointedly critical comments from insiders at the Bank. Our former President really knows how to work the media — perhaps his only real skill.

However in Washington the World Bank staff is close to open revolt. Kim is holding another town meeting today to try and calm anger at the mess that is the result of his consultant-driven re-organization of the institution. More than a few people at the World Bank have come to recognize that in regards to Jim Kim, there is no there there. He was purportedly booed at last week’s town meeting; who know where things will go today?

The Dartmouth faculty did not have the nerve to bring a no-confidence vote to the floor of a faculty meeting, even though most professors are protected by tenure. Will World Bank staffers find the courage to openly call for Kim’s resignation, even though many could be sent home to countries where the quality of living doesn’t measure up to their lives in Washington?

The old adage states that it is easier to row with the current than against it. Should the College put resources towards reinvigorating undergraduate education (#11-but-falling) or should we invest in our various graduate programs? Let’s look at how they stand vs. the other Ivies according to U.S. News:

Dartmouth Grad Schools Rank 2014.jpg

An ugly situation. Other than Tuck and the primary care section of the Med School, nothing that Datmouth does outside of undergraduate education is anything other than worst-in-show in the Ivies (okay, okay, Earth Sciences is second-to-worst). Is there any reason to think that an investment of money, time and effort will change that situation.

If you ask a Bain consultant which areas of an enterprise merit investment, the answer that you would get is simple: spend resources where you have a strong chance of real return on your efforts. Trying to drive our small, mediocre graduate programs to the top of their respective fields is a poor bet. Why do we think that we might succeed in the competitive world of higher education? Do we have a group of extraordinarily faculty talents who inspire confidence, as John Kemeny did when he was given carte blanche by John Sloan Dickey to build the College’s Math department in the 1950’s? If such professors are there, Phil and Provost Dever should point them out. I don’t see them.

Sharp-eyed readers will wonder why the College’s much-praised Economics department does not appear on the above list. That’s easy. Econ has no graduate program, and for a good reason, about which we have already written:

The highly regarded Economics department is already there to show the College how it can be done. Econ has no need for grad students. The question has been discussed over the years in Silsby, but the faculty’s conclusion seems to be that it would take twenty years of hard work to develop a first class graduate program. Why do so? The effort makes no sense when the same energy applied to the education of today’s undergrads gets them admitted into the best economics graduate programs and B-schools in the country.


A close observer of the College writes in to comment on Phil’s plan to develop a graduate student center. Lots of food for thought here:

Expanding the A&S graduate program — by number of students — and building the facilities necessary for faculty research in the natural sciences and medicine has been where all of the presidents since Freedman have been diverting the College’s resources, as evidenced in its rising debt levels and increasing endowment payout percentages over this period.

The relative disinvestment in the undergraduate program is striking; for example, one would expect that all of those new A&S graduate students would have instructional jobs supporting the undergraduate program, but the number of undergraduates has barely budged (up 5%) while the number of graduate students is up by almost the same number of bodies and by roughly half again in percentage terms (up 50% since 2000).

In all of this, it is important to remember that A&S graduate students typically get a stipend (salary), health insurance, and free tuition, so they probably cost the College about $40,000 each on an annual basis (admittedly, a guess). At the same time, the College’s tenured faculty aren’t teaching the courses that these graduate students are teaching.

And the research that these graduate students are helping the faculty to do actually costs the College real money (a rough rule of thumb is that a $1.0 million NIH grant costs about $1.1 million to $1.2 million to run, so you lose 10% to 20% on every grant you receive).

These efforts go a long way towards explaining why the College has become more heavily indebted and chronically cash short over the last 20 years. Freedman, Wright, Kim and Folt all apparently chose not to tell the alumni about — or get their support for — where the money and investment was going, effectively quietly playing a game of *…you bet your College….* in an effort to transform Dartmouth into a Harvard on the Connecticut.

I have no idea where the Trustees were in all of this. Why the faculty seem to think that they need a dedicated graduate school facility is beyond me.

Note especially the observation that research grants do not cover the cost of the research that is done. The College’s 2013 financial accounts list “Sponsored Research Grants and Contracts in the amount of $181,517,000. If the actual cost of this work is 10%-20% beyond this figure, then the rest of the College is kicking in between $18 million and $36 million each year. Is this the best use of our money?

Addendum: An alumnus who was both an undergrad and a grad student writes in:

Having been both an undergrad, as well as an A&S graduate student at Dartmouth I think I have some insight regarding this matter. I don’t agree with increasing the size of the College’s graduate programs, and I agree that a loss of focus on undergraduates has clearly, and detrimentally, occurred. However, there is a need for a separate space for A&S graduate students. There is also a definite need for *some* A&S graduate students, as there are certain departments, especially in the sciences, where graduate students are necessary to support research (that research also often incorporates undergraduates).

The fact of the matter is that being an A&S graduate student at Dartmouth today is depressing. While the professional schools have their own spaces and cultures, A&S graduate students feel like second class citizens. As an undergraduate, I actively resented graduate students on campus using my resources while not being immersed in my culture. I then got to feel that resentment first hand as a graduate student where one is forced to blend-in to a place that offers few socially mature outlets (at least on campus).

Individual A&S graduate programs are too small to actively maintain their own vibrant spaces or social scenes. There needs to be a place on campus where a Biology PhD student will regularly and actively run into a Computer Science masters student. If we’re going to have A&S graduate students at all (and we do need to) then let’s offer them the dignity of a place to call their own, just as the professional schools enjoy.

As an aside, the “close observer” who wrote in about the cost of graduate students doesn’t take into account that some masters programs are cash cows (MALS for example (and perhaps tragically/notoriously)). I’d like to see some charts and real figures of the actual costs (including revenue from graduate student research grants). I suspect his hyperbole is a bit overblown.

We are big fans of Paris’ Vélib public bike program. You buy a subscription, go to a stand (there is supposedly one within 300 yards of any point in the city), swipe your card to retrieve a bike, and then pedal away. A smartphone app lets you locate a stand and find out how many bikes are in it, and how many free spaces are left for you can drop your bike.

The system as it is conceived is wonderful, but it has two major problems: the bikes take a terrible beating; it is not infrequent that you arrive at a stand and half the bikes have flat tires, detached chains, bent pedals, worn-out brakes, and on and on. The other difficulty can be finding a stand with any bikes at all. Some areas of town have a constant bike deficit — like our area of the 16th — and others have such a surplus that it is hard to find an open space at which to drop off a bike. Hence the hard-working souls, like the fellow in the picture below, who use purpose-build bike carriers to bring Vélibs from surplus areas to deficit zones.

Over the years Dartmouth has experimented with free bike programs — though not ones that involve unlocking and locking bicycles that are associated with individual users’ ID cards. In short order most of the bikes have ended up in the river or the forest. I am not sure that a Vélib program would work at the College, unless it used thousands of bikes. Too many kids go in one direction at a time for the system to provide reliable transportation. And then there is the little matter that snow lies on the ground for four months or so each year.

Velib Recharge.JPG

One hell of a football game. Look at how the team fought back from deficits all afternoon:

Dartmouth Yale 2014a.jpg

Harvard and Princeton are still to come, but it is nice to feel hopeful in the middle of October. We have a team with a lot of heart — and a talented QB!

Addendum: Here’s the College’s press release, and the Valley News’ report, which noted that Dartmouth kickoff man Riley Lyons ‘15 made three tackles in the game and possibly injured his shoulder. And in a departure from recent sorry tradition, even The D had a story out about the game within hours of its conclusion. Do I sense budding enthusiasm in Hanover?

LB Cover.jpgLB Comp.jpgLet’s compare this cut and paste excerpt from Lisa Birnbaum’s 1984 College Book with the reality of Dartmouth today:
● Tuition and room and board added up to $13,637 in the 1984-1985 academic year. In 2014 dollars that’s only $31,218 — just over half today’s cost of $61,947.
● SAT scores of 600/600 are a little hard to compare; the College Board inflated the scores a decade or two ago.
● 4,500 undergrads is pretty much where we are today, though I expect that the number of support staffers serving them was well below 2,000 (that figure grew to 2,408 in 1999, and it’s 3,443 today).
● Animal House (1978) brought no additional notoriety to the College, except perhaps among the unwashed. Dartmouth’s reputation for wildness had been established two hundred years before the movie came out.
● “Throwing up on each other”? In 1984? And I thought that Andrew Lohse made all that up in 2012?
● Nice to see a mention for beer pong, though it seems that there are relatively few cups on the table — only one? Really? I recall at least three.
● “Beer is life itself”? I haven’t heard that quote in a while. Do students still refer to the Bible? And no mention of doing shots of cheap vodka?. The only equivalent phrase today is that the administration’s primary concern is “the life of the staff.”
● “Work pretty seriously all week; party pretty seriously all weekend.” I wonder if the definitions of the words “week” and “weekend” were the same then as they are today. In 2014, the weekend begins on Wednesday after classes end. Methinks that inflation has reared its ugly head once again.
● “Eleazar’s Dungeon” sounds like Fuel and the Hop Garage and any number of other “alternative social spaces” that were going to give students something else to do other than go to the frats. Someone could do a fun piece on all of the different, edgy ideas that educational administrators have come up with to entice students away from the Greeks — every last one of them abject failures.
● Today’s top major is Econ (called Ecy back then, when the department was a mess); it is a fair bit more popular than Govy, which has been eclipsed by Psychology and Brain Sciences, too.
● (Ex-)Presidents still teach math.
● The Choates are still the worst dorms. They probably have been so since the day they opened.
● The legal drinking age has gone from 20 to 21, though back then, any numeral was more a guideline than a law, and neither S&S nor the Hanover Po cared much at all if students drank a beer or two or ten.
● Probably more coke now.

Correction: A reader writes in:

Eleazar’s Dungeon was founded by students / student organizations it was a comedy club set in common ground in the Collis Center. It was not an initiative from the administration.

Imagine a little school in New Hampshire that is utterly focused on its mission, run lean and smart, with committed students and a terrifically loyal alumni body. And it doesn’t even have the word “university” in its name. Could such a place achieve renown on the global stage?

Sure it can. The Economist has ranked Tuck as the world’s second-best business school.

Economist Tuck 2014 Comp.jpg

We’ve written in the past how Tuck, like the Yale Law School, could be a model for Dartmouth’s renaissance.

Addendum: The Kim administration milked Tuck and the other professional schools for all it could in balancing the budget. Net tuition revenue rose dramatically over the past few years.

Addendum: The Princeton Review ranked Stanford as the top B-school in its list of The Best 296 Business Schools, 2015 Edition. Columbia came in second, Harvard was third, and Tuck ranked fourth.

The most recent edition of the Alumni Magazine is to be commended for its clear-eyed reporting. In addition to a detailed review of the drubbing that we are taking in the national press, the most recent edition contain a gritty piece of literary journalism by Eva Xiao ‘14: Can Students Police Themselves? The answer is, well, let’s hope so. Xiao’s fluid prose describes the alcohol-and-hormone-infused life of an evening at the College from the perspective of a member of the Green Team, the student-run group that seeks to diffuse sexual assaults in the making. It is worth reading if only to compare your own undergraduate experience with that of Dartmouth’s current denizens of the night. One can’t help but feel that many students today are seeking a kind of physical and emotional anesthesia in music so loud that Xiao’s “skin hums” and such copious amounts of alcohol that drunken students are to be seen all over campus. I don’t find the picture pretty.

Xiao DAM piece.jpg

Xiao is an acolyte of newly tenured English Professor Jeff Sharlet, about whose own writing we commented here, and whose students have published several editions of 40 Towns (Xiao was an editor there), a publication focused on aspects of life in the Upper Valley that don’t often make it into the the glossy magazines about the area (Isaiah Berg wrote a piece in this space about 40 Towns).

Addendum: Some stories seem to hold the media’s attention — sexual assault, hazing, binge drinking — and others don’t get any traction. Cocaine use at the College is widespread, as we have reported here, here and here, but nobody seems to care.

I’m sorry that I could not attend EVP Rick Mills’ presentation today. I don’t recall the College’s administration/finance guy ever presenting material on his own, nor taking questions in an open forum like this.

Mills Town Hall Comp.jpg

Mills, to my mind, is the most interesting player in the Hanlon administration. Let’s follow closely his ideas for setting the College right.

Addendum: Dartmouth Now reports on Mills talk here; the D’s story noted that only 115 people people were in attendance at the meeting, almost all faculty and staff.

You will recall that Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson left Dartmouth and its 4,276 undergraduate students this summer to assume a similar role at 990-women Scripps College in California. With a career trajectory like that, I expect that she’ll be a diversity dean at Emerson College in another year or two. In any event, Scripps was in the news this week for disinviting George Will from a speaking engagement, as the Claremont Independent reports:

A prominent conservative political pundit was uninvited from speaking at Scripps College, in a program designed to promote conservative views on campus, because of his conservative views.

Nationally syndicated columnist George Will was slated to speak at the ninth annual Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program, the mission of which is to bring speakers to campus whose political views differ from the majority of students at the all-women’s college, but had his invitation rescinded after he wrote a column about sexual assault on college campuses.

“It was in the works and then it wasn’t in the works,” Will said in an interview with the Independent. “They didn’t say that the column was the reason, but it was the reason.”

Will also told the Independent that Christopher DeMuth, former president of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the most influential conservative think tanks in the country, resigned from his position on the program’s speaker selection committee over the decision to revoke the invitation.

The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Public Affairs Program was established under the belief that “a range of opinions about the world - especially opinions with which we may not agree, or think we do not agree - leads to a better educational experience,” according to the Scripps College website.

Hmm. I guess that Scripps wanted to hear conservative views, but only certain ones.

A review of the reporting on the issue did not link the decision to Scripps’ new Dean Johnson, but I am sure that with her extensive legal background and deep affection of the First Amendment, Charlotte was first and foremost in arguing that Will had no place on her campus.

Addendum: How tone deaf can Scripps be to the PR cost of its action? Allowing Will to speak might have singed the ears of some of its ever-so-delicate students, but at least the school would not have joined the ranks of Smith, Brandeis and Rutgers in punishing invited speakers for words that they had said or written.

Third of a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

As we’ve seen, the College’s decision to overcompensate the staff have been enormously expensive. In comparison, even though Brown has a third more students and faculty than we do (and more total full-time and part-time employees), the cost of wages and benefits at Dartmouth exceeds the equivalent cost at Brown by $86,715,000 (in fiscal 2013 the College spent $475,574,000 on compensation and Brown spent $388,859,000).

This difference in compensation accounts for almost the entire gap in the cost of of running the two institutions. The fact that urban Brown is able outsource certain functions, for which the College has to employ its own staff members, does not influence the overall expense of the two schools: Dartmouth still costs $105,491,000 more each year to run than Brown ($835,273,000 versus $729,782,000). Most of this amount is covered by the extra $58 million that we are able to draw each year from our endowment — a luxury that less-well-endowed Brown does not have — and from our higher tuition and lesser financial aid.

But what if the College had been run with an eye to the excellence of the student experience, rather than the welfare of the staff? What educational opportunities are we giving up in paying hugely-above-market wages and benefits to non-faculty employees?

Obviously, we could hire many more faculty members (remember that a junior professor in the Humanities costs only slightly more than twice the annual wage of a DDS cook helper: interestingly the cook helper is not required to have even a high school diploma to apply for the job, whereas the junior faculty member has at least nine years of post-high-school education at the country’s finest colleges and universities). More professors would mean fewer students turned away when they sign up for classes (the oversubscription problem), smaller classes with greater student/professor interaction, and greater research and scholarly output.

More money directed toward education would also allow us to renovate dorms and classroom facilities that have grown long in the tooth, if not utterly decrepit. The Choates and the River Cluster were considered campus slums when I was a student in the 1970’s; today they are not only cramped and ugly, but they are filled with mold. And ask any faculty member what it is like to teach in antiquated structures like those of Dartmouth Row — superficially elegant buildings with steam radiators, leaky windows, and no ventilation. Putting fifty students in a Dartmouth Hall classroom requires open windows at all times, even if the temperatures is -20° outside — there are just so many times that students can re-breathe the same air.

Most importantly, less waste on overpaying the staff would give us the opportunity to lower tuition. I’m not talking about taking this year’s $61,947 total cost and cutting it by a few percent. Let’s be bold and cut that outrageous figure by half or even more. Recall that of the College’s total expenses of $835,273,000, only slightly less than $120,000,000 is covered by net undergraduate tuition payments.

The effect of the huge cost of attending the College cannot be overstated. As a matter of diversity, 55% of undergraduate students currently come from families who pay the entire expense of their education without financial aid — an obviously unrepresentative demographic. Additionally, this huge sticker price deters qualified, non-rich students from applying, even ones elgible for financial aid.

But most importantly, whether one is paying the cost of a quarter-million-dollar education or not, the perceived need to earn a return on such a huge investment distorts student priorities in real ways: parental pressure and looming student loan repayments force students into fields that pay well, and away from the Humanities and other more academic pursuits. The intellectual caliber of the College suffers as students grub for grades with which to impress employers, and shy away from the seemingly impractical explorations that are the soul of a liberal arts education.

You can believe all you want in setting the staff’s wages through the generous principles of social justice, but, at least to this observer, the list of foregone pedagogical opportunities and educational distortions is far too high a price to pay so that an army of cook helpers, custodians and administrators can live an existence much more comfortable than their friends working in identical jobs that pay market wages in the Upper Valley. The College has more consequential goals than being a social welfare agency, and thereby allowing the quality of Dartmouth education to decline.

Addendum: As we have documented in detail, the high cost of running the College has influenced the admissions process itself to its core. In the past few years, markedly increased attention has been given to development cases, and the College had ramped up the number of legacy, private school and early admissions admits, in addition to scaling back our financial aid program.

Second of a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Let’s compare Dartmouth’s compensation levels with the earnings of all other Americans. There are two ways to do so: we can compare cash-money wages, and we can look at the total value of wages and benefits.

First: money wages. The lowest paid DDS worker (a cook helper with no educational credentials or training of any kind) has a starting money wage at the College of $16.78/hour. That hourly wage works out to annual cash earnings of a hair under $35,000/year. Based on the chart below (derived from U.S. Census data), the College has decided in the exercise of its magnificent munificence that an unskilled Dartmouth worker with no education or professional training should be earning more money than approximately 60% of all American workers (see red arrow). Does that make sense to you?

Total Money Income Arrow.jpg

How did the administration come to that figure, when a cook helper fifty yards away at a Main Street restaurant in Hanover is earning $11.00-$12.00/hour — a figure that is already superior to 40% of American wage earners?

Or putting my rhetorical question another way, does it now make sense to you why we are the second most expensive Ivy? Of course, it logically follows that almost all other Dartmouth workers are in the top third of America’s wage earners.

Second: Let’s look at total compensation, which at Dartmouth includes wages, pension benefits (a 9% contribution of wages for workers over 40 years of age), family health benefits (which Trustee Al Mulley once publicly said came to over $12,000/year for each employee family), and five or more weeks of vacation each year based on seniority.

By any standard, Dartmouth’s total compensation plan is extraordinarily generous. Main Street cook helpers, who already have a far lower wage than their Dartmouth equivalent, receive no pension benefit at all, and only get an employer contribution to their individual health insurance (Dartmouth’s plan, which covers entire families, is classified as a “Cadillac” plan under Obamacare rules — the College will be subject to a federal tax of $2 million each year starting in 2018 for its luxury plan). Their vacation is limited two or three weeks each year.

The College’s generosity puts a Dartmouth cook helper into a compensation category superior to 70% of American workers. The rest of the staff sits happily in the to quarter of all workers.

Now don’t get me wrong. Generosity is a good thing, but only if it is feasible in the context of the higher goals of an institution like Dartmouth. Tomorrow we’ll see what the real cost has been of grossly over-paying the thousands of members of the College’s support staff.

Addendum: We looked at the same compensation issues in greater detail a few years ago.

In a piece entitled World Bank Moves to Quell Staff Revolt, the Financial Times describes the increasing organizational chaos and staff discontent at the World Bank:

The World Bank’s chief financial officer has agreed to forgo a $94,500 annual bonus in order to quell a staff revolt hitting the bank as the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors gather in Washington for its annual meeting.

Jim Kim, the World Bank president, has been facing criticism from staff since he announced plans to radically reorganise the bank’s structure as part of a plan to make $400m in savings. But employees have been expressing increasing annoyance with the changes since they were implemented in July.

That staff revolt flared again last week after it emerged that Bertrand Badré, who joined the bank from Société Générale in March 2013, was being awarded an annual “scarce skills premium” on top of his $379,000 annual salary.

At a hastily called meeting on Tuesday that was witnessed by an FT reporter, Mr Kim told staff members that Mr Badré would be giving up his bonus. But that did not stop the president from facing a tirade of questions from concerned staff who complained of sinking morale, increasing layers of management and a culture of penny pinching as a result of the restructuring.

Is anyone in Hanover surprised?

When Jim Kim flits of to his next shiny job (the UN?), he’ll have left the same shambles at the World Bank that he did in Hanover.

Addendum: The FT is no friend of Jim Kim. In an April editorial, the paper plainly said that he was not qualified to lead the bank.

First of a three-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

If you learned that the College had engaged the President’s brother’s construction company at twice the normal rate to do a project, you would certainly disapprove. And if the President then came to you and told you that his brother really needed the work, both for the health of his business and the well-being of his family, would you still disapprove? Of course, you would. That excuse would not change your view that the decision was an improper one. If the President wants to help someone in whom he had a personal interest, he should do so with his own resourses, not those of Dartmouth.

Obviously, the President has a fiduciary duty in spending Dartmouth’s money; he must do so as prudently as possible in order that the most money possible be available for educational pursuits — the core mission of the College as defined by its charter.

Let’s go one step further: imagine that you find out that the President, without consulting the faculty or making any public announcement, had decided to pay the 3,443-member staff of the College far above the market wage and benefits in the Upper Valley for similar labor and services. Why would he do this? He might explain that this decision is in line with his personal political views on income inequality and social justice. Would you approve now? Not me, for the same reasons as above. What are Dartmouth’s priorities? Certainly teaching, research and the residential lives of students are more important than offering generous compensation to the support staff — a term that we don’t often hear any more.

But how should wages be set? Answer: the same way that we set the cost of the other products and services that the College buys. We go out into the market, look at the price being paid by others, and make offers accordingly. If we pay less than the market, we won’t be able to hire anyone. But why pay more? Our goal should be to fill jobs at a fair rate — in this case, the wages and benefits being paid by other companies in the Upper Valley for most jobs (labor, administrative), and the wages and benefits paid by other institutions of higher learning for positions where we compete with other schools (faculty, senior administrators). We might add a slight premium in order to be known as a good employer, but other than that, why pay more than the market?

Another metric that people sometimes proffer is the notion of the living wage — a concept that contains a calculation that starts off with the assumption that the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25/hour) is unconscionably low. From there, the local cost of living is factored in to determine what wage should be paid so that a worker can live a minimally good life. Today MIT runs the Poverty in America Project, which has created a Living Wage Calculator: a device that estimate what a fair and equitable minimum wage is in various parts of the country. Here is the current figure for Hanover (the numbers are the same for other locations in the Upper Valley):

Living Wage Calculator.jpg

The key figures in the chart above are the Living Wage for a single person: $9.20/hour; and for two adults and two children: $19.11. In the latter case, that figure can be divided in two if both adults work.

I can testify from both personal experience that these Living Wage figures are never discussed among employers in the Upper Valley — nor is the legal minimum wage — for one simple reason: the free-market economy of New Hampshire is sufficiently prosperous that an ad in the paper for jobs at these rates will elicit no responses at all. The federal law regarding the payment of minimum hourly wages and the moral law of the Living Wage have both been rendered obsolete by the law of supply and demand. The basic wage in our area is closer to $10.00-$11.00/hour.

Given those facts, how is it possible and/or justifiable that DDS’s starting wage for utterly unskilled SEIU workers is $16.78/hour?

Addendum: MIT’s Living Wage Calculator puts the living wage in New York City at $12.75/hour for a single adult — evidence of the high cost of living in NYC, and the more reasonable cost of life in Hanover.

Last week, in a memo first announcing the formation of a Dartmouth Library Collections task force, Provost Dever wrote to the faculty and staff to present a committee that will study the implementation of an epochal change at the College: the creation of a freestanding graduate school building:

From: Carolyn Dever
Date: Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 4:11 PM
Subject: Announcement

Dear Dartmouth Faculty and Staff:

With the fall term underway, I write to inform you about the formation of task forces that I have appointed to address two areas of critical development for the College…

The second task force will address the formation of a Dartmouth School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. Graduate education and basic research are critical aspects of all great universities, including Dartmouth. Last November, in his address to the General Faculty, President Hanlon outlined his priorities for the coming years. Among these was an idea to create a freestanding graduate school, similar to the one proposed during the strategic planning process. The development of this vision does not presume an expansion of the size or scope of graduate programs. It does presume a forthright commitment to excellence, consistency, diversity, and innovation in the area of graduate education, aligned with our high institutional standards in the areas of undergraduate and professional education.

My expectation is that the task force will reach out to numerous campus constituencies over the coming term to generate an array of options for the new school’s design and implementation. The task force will be informed by best-practice data from peer institutions about graduate education and postdoc support. I would like to thank these faculty colleagues for their willingness to serve on this task force:

Andrew Bernard, Jack Byrne Professor of International Economics, Tuck School of Business
Rebecca Biron, Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature
Deborah Hogan, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine
Adam Keller, Instructor in Community & Family Medicine and of The Dartmouth Institute; Chief of Strategy and Operations for The Dartmouth Institute, Geisel School of Medicine
Jon Kull (Chair), Rodgers Professor at Dartmouth College; Professor of Chemistry; Dean of Graduate Studies
Dean Madden, Professor of Biochemistry, Geisel School of Medicine
Brian Pogue, Professor of Engineering, Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth
Adrian Randolph, Leon E. Williams Professor of Art History; Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Arts & Humanities
Andrew Samwick, Sandra L. and Arthur L. Irving ‘72a, P’10 Professor of Economics; Director, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center
Elizabeth Smith, Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences; Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences
Ross Virginia, Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science; Director, Institute of Arctic Studies within the Dickey Center for International Understanding

As the work of these two important faculty committees develops, I invite each of you to share your thoughts with your colleagues who are directly involved. Thank you for your engagement in these discussions.

Carolyn Dever, Provost
[Emphasis added]

The ill-advisability of this step cannot be overstated.

Firstly, in the present context of dropping rankings, plummeting application numbers, and an ongoing PR assault on the College, one would think that the Presdent, the Provost and the Dean of the Faculty would be focusing their attention on restoring the College’s place as the premier undergraduate program in the Ivy League.

Not so. In fact, it seems the effort to design a graduate student building is no more than a continuation in the growth of the graduate program at the College — to the ongoing detriment of undergrads.

Look at the total number graduate student at the College in 2000: 1,329 — of whom 523 were grad students not in the profession schools:

Dartmouth Enrollments 2005-2009A.jpg

By 2013 the grad student metastasis had advanced further:

Dartmouth Enrollments 2004-2013.jpg

Over thirteen years the total number of grad students had climbed 64.3% to 2,066, of whom 774 were not in the professional schools. The growth in A&S grad students was 48%, a pace that seems to be accelerating. During this time, I recall no faculty vote or Trustee announcement of such a radical reorientation of the College.

One can imagine President Hanlon on the stump in the upcoming capital campaign as he plumps for donations from (undergraduate) alumni for this new building. I hope that more than a few alums respond that their money is reserved only for an Ivy League school that has its primary focus on undergrads, and if Phil wants to get funding for programs and structures that undermine that goal, he can look elsewhere.

In the meantime, our ranking will drop further, too many other buildings in need of renovation will continue to rot, and the quality of undergraduate education at the College will slide. If Phil Hanlon and Carolyn Dever focus on a grad school, that state of affairs won’t change, though maybe, just maybe, we’ll earn the right to call ourselves, I don’t know, the Harvard of New Hampshire? A bad trade.

In competitive terms, Dartmouth still has a chance to build on the qualities that have made it a unique and successful institution since 1769. To construct a grad school and try to play catch up with HYP is a foolish and wasteful goal: such an effort will not succeed, and it will undermine the remaining strengths of the College. This kind of policy comes from weak and unconfident minds who limit their ambition to doing what others have already done. Better leaders chart their own unique course, as we have seen in Dartmouth’s history over close to two and a half centuries.

Addendum: The administration has had its eye off the ball for almost two decades now, and the undergraduate life scandals that pile up one on top of the other are evidence of that fact. How long will this go on? How long can it go on before the College is irremediably harmed?

Addendum: A member of the Class of 2017 writes in:

In regards to your most recent Dartblog post, I feel compelled to point out that the creation of a “freestanding graduate school” implies an administrative reorganization, not the construction of an entirely new building. The offices of the graduate school would probably be housed in already existing spaces across different buildings on campus.

I believe that this assertion is in error. Provost Dever noted in her remarks above:

Last November, in his address to the General Faculty, President Hanlon outlined his priorities for the coming years. Among these was an idea to create a freestanding graduate school, similar to the one proposed during the strategic planning process.

In the Strategic Planning document related to graduate studies, Graduate Education
for the Future
, the following mention appears on page 6:

The new DGS [Dartmouth Graduate School] would visibly bring Dartmouth schools and centers together and should be physically housed in a prominent location on campus.
[Emphasis added]

Maybe the administration has been waiting so long to renovate Dartmouth Hall because it wants to use the iconic building for graduate students.

Addendum: An alumnus who is a faculty member at another institution has an opinion:

Joe, regarding your post called “Grad Student Creep”: I was surprised that you made no remark about what instantly struck me as the creepiest detail in the page you quoted, the make-up of the “task force.” It includes not a single person devoted to literature. Of its 11 members only two are from the Humanities, Biron and Randolph; and even Biron seems not *really* a humanist. She is a ‘Literary Theory’ and ‘Gender Studies’ type, or in other words, a social scientist.

In my experience this sort of thing is always very bad news. The cleverest way to subvert an institution is to do it not by fiat from the top, but through cleverly chosen committees which seem democratic, but exclude anyone who might make serious trouble, or have basic objections.


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