Recent articles

Inge-Lise Ameer.jpgWhen Inge-lise Ameer was named Vice Provost for Student Affairs, this space had a post entitled The Dean of the College Disaster. And now that she is leaving the College — with no professional forwarding address provided — the Dartmouth News buried the announcement of her departure in the second half of a scintillating press release entitled College Reorganizes Student Affairs Leadership Structure:

Dever thanked Inge-Lise Ameer, the vice provost for student affairs, who is leaving the College, for her six-and-a-half years of valued service and commitment to Dartmouth. The vice provost’s position will not be filled.

“Inge has been a key member of the student affairs team, serving in numerous roles since the day she arrived at Dartmouth, always finding a way to make a positive difference in the lives of students. Her ideas and her concern for students will be missed,” Dever said.

During her tenure, Ameer helped launch the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” initiative in the student affairs departments. In addition, she initiated and guided significant advances in student services, including the planning and opening of the Ross Advising Suite in the library, resulting in a 30 percent increase in student utilization of the services offered by the undergraduate deans.

Ameer also advanced campus services and access for students and other community members with disabilities, worked with faculty to create and implement the Advising 360 pilot program for first- and second-year students, and ensured the continuation and expansion of the First Year Student Enrichment Program for first-generation students.

Provost Carolyn Dever should never have placed Ameer in such a position in the first place. Dever’s nose for talent is as blocked up as Phil’s is. Competence and confidence have nothing to do with it, dearie; both our President and Provost look only for doctrinaire, politically correct, fellow travelers — and the College is the worse for it.

Ameer’s Doctor of Education thesis topic should have been enough to warn Phil and Carolyn to steer clear (Day-to-day race relations at Harvard College: The student perspective), but given their party-line politics, the tract probably enticed them:

Distinguishing this study from previous research on racial climate is its emphasis on exploring students’ experiences and interpretations of their day-to-day positive and negative cross-race interactions. Based on semi-structured interviews with seven African American, seven Latino, seven Asian American and seven white undergraduates, it examines students’ interpretations of these interactions, the differences in racial groups’ descriptions and reports of their experiences, and the strategies students employ to develop successful cross-race relationships. Data analysis incorporates two processes: drafting analytical memos (Strauss, 1987) and transcribing and coding the interviews and memos (Patton, 1990).


The study’s findings indicate that students experience a strained civility in their cross-race interactions in extra-curricular activities, in housing, and in the curriculum. Students arrive with different orientations: white students arrive excited about being part of the most racially diverse community they have ever belonged to. Students of color, on the other hand, are primarily focused on exploring their own racial identities with other students of color. As a result, students of color face nervous and awkward moments with white students who have little skills or strategies for living daily in a racially diverse community. Comparatively, white students experience students of color as not being interested in them. These factors contribute to tense daily cross-race interactions and result in students across race turning to racial stereotypes for explanations of these interactions.
[Emphasis added]

However, even though Ameer was hired, her performance subsequent to the BLM library invasion fourteen months ago should have resulted in her dismissal at that time:

Below is a transcription of the first part of Dean Ameer’s comments:

Inge-Lise Ameer: I’m very sorry about all of this. I know it doesn’t help, but we’ve received a lot of terrible calls today, too, and we’ve told them that they were all, you know, ridiculous, and that the protest was a wonderful, beautiful thing.

Geovanni Cuevas ‘14: Can you elaborate on that?

Inge-Lise Ameer: You know, people, there’s a whole conservative world out there that’s not very nice.

Geovanni Cuevas ‘14: They’re fucking racists. Don’t say they’re not very nice. They’re fucking racists. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to blow up like that.

Inge-Lise Ameer: I’m not going to say that. But it was hard. We’re on Yik Yak all the time and we’re constantly contacting them: Please take this down. Please do this. Stop doing this.

We fought bored@baker. It’s finally down. It took five years to get that stupid thing down.

And all I can keep saying, as I’ve been saying with students all of the last few days, if you’re feeling unsafe, and you’re not feeling that you’re getting responded to, then you contact me directly. And will deal with it, because that is not right, and I don’t want you feeling this way, I don’t want any of you feeling this way.

And I think that the reaction to the protest in the library has been, I think that it just displays our society very clearly right now.

Enough said.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

True to the spirit of “Mad Men,” the College managed to bury the fact that Ameer has finally been shown the proverbial door. While a simple press release stating “we have heard you and are making changes” might have served to signal that President Hanlon was finally focused on the “in the trenches” changes needed to restore Dartmouth as an champion of undergraduates, I guess we should at least applaud the long overdue result if not the obfuscated process!

Addendum: As does another:

I’m stunned by the information you gave on Ameer’s doctoral work. You can interview 28 people in a “semi-structured” way and become a Ph.d.? I’m in. That sounds fun, quick, and easy! Maybe, you’d all like to join me. The notion of drawing conclusions about how an entire group feels for the sake of policy creation from such a statistically small sample is laughable. How did she pick these people? Did she ask them questions that resulted in the answers she wanted, or the “semi-structured” answers she wanted? And by the way, Dever needs to go too.

Addendum: And yet another.

Hoo-ray! … nice way to start the new year. Maybe now, finally, the administration is beginning to get back on a better track. Did, me wonders, a reduction in “gift giving” have something to do with Ameer’s departure?

Addendum: And another:

Thanks for your reporting on the outgoing Vice-Provost and the Dean’s Office. While it is a step forward that Hanlon finally realized his mistake in splitting the Dean’s office in two, the real test will be if they get rid of the Dean of Student Affairs Liz Agosto and the other dead wood in Parkhurst. We can only hope that Dean Biron will work on improving the undergraduate experience rather than building a bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, Hanlon still is unable to provide strong leadership and vision for Dartmouth. Happy New Year and Kind regards.

Addendum: And another:

Thanks for your January 6th post. The You Tube video of Ameer addressing the snowflakes sickened me yet again. “I know its scary [for you] to file a report”… “Our new Provost is very much in support of all this” [ref. to Demonstrations]… WHAT????

Your post references a comment from Provost Dever that Ameer gave “6 1/2 years of valued service and commitment to Dartmouth.” At what cost per annum in dollar terms and total lack of ‘grown up guidance’ from a Dartmouth Senior Administration official? This “leader” should have been shown the door within 24 hours of this video being posted. Do you think that this type of non-leadership has had an impact on current Dartmouth Fundraising?….well, let me think on that…let me really ponder that for a while…I’ll get back to you on that!

Yesterday, I presented the design of our experiment intended to compare financial aid across the Ivy League for three different hypothetical applicants. Today, we reveal the results.

The y-axis on the graphs below represents the net of total anticipated grant aid (institutional and federal) subtracted from the cost of attendance for each university; in other words, it is the amount that would have to be paid by a student via some combination of loans, family contributions, and student savings/job income. Some schools artificially deflated the out-of-pocket family contribution by assuming a heavy loan burden and/or significant student financial contribution through on-campus work (Cornell was particularly egregious on this point). However, since we’re primarily interested in the total amount that has to be paid out by families — regardless of where that money comes from — this sort of creative number-fudging has been ignored.

What are the morals of this story? Well, number one — all institutions (except Brown) appear to be more or less equally affordable for people from low-income backgrounds. Columbia is a little pricier and Cornell (strangely) claims to be a bit cheaper, but at this level, the playing field seems relatively even:

Ivy Financial Aid Tennessee1.jpg

In the middle-class scenario, Harvard and Princeton begin to separate themselves from the rest to the tune of approximately $5,000 to $10,000 a year (not taking into account Brown). Multiply that over four years and you have a new car. Dartmouth and Yale can make 2,000 or so compelling arguments against Columbia and Penn and twice that many against Cornell. Meanwhile, Christina Paxson at Brown is looking around her office for a folder large enough to hold all of the checks that have been arriving in the mail before she runs to the bank:

Ivy Financial Aid Minnesota1.jpg

Our more affluent student sees a particularly large division between Harvard and Princeton on one hand and everybody else on the other. Columbia and Penn, which are the next least-expensive, are almost $20,000 a year more than Princeton in this case. Dartmouth will cost around $7,000 more than Columbia and Penn, putting it slightly behind Yale and next to Cornell. (President Paxson is still at the bank):

Ivy Financial Aid NY1.jpg

So while Dartmouth doesn’t bring up the rear thanks to Phil’s partner in crime in Providence, the College does little to separate itself from the non-Harvard/Princeton contingent despite our large endowment relative to everyone except HYP. (Yale, curiously, lags behind). Amidst weak applicant numbers and concerted efforts at yield management, wouldn’t Dartmouth be wise to take advantage of its favorable financial position as compared to say, Columbia, to set itself apart when sending out aid offers? I can think of no more effective way to make the College more appealing to prospective students. Money, unlike poorly produced admissions videos, is something that people can understand and respect. Give students concrete and sensible reasons (as measured in dollars) to choose Dartmouth over its peers, and they will.

Or we can just continue to brag about how our new energy institute, which is named after an oil tycoon, is going to solve the world’s sustainability problems. Maybe that’ll work instead?

Part 1, Part 2

Menchildren.jpg

As the cost of higher education skyrockets across the United States, universities’ ability to provide financial aid to prospective students is often a deciding factor in where students choose to go for their undergraduate degrees. Schools competing for the best applicants therefore find it advantageous to be generous.

Dartmouth, as one of the richer schools in the country, should in theory be able to position itself ahead of the pack here. The College is the fourth-richest school in the Ivy League as measured by endowment per student, and although we lag behind Princeton, Harvard, and Yale by some distance, we are far wealthier than Columbia, Penn, Brown, and Cornell:

Dartmouth Endowment Per Student 2014.jpg

In order to get a general idea of how financial aid packages shape up across the Ivy League, I created dummy accounts for three imaginary students on the College Board website, which hosts financial aid calculators for five of the Ancient Eight. (Obnoxiously, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton host their calculators on their own websites).

Each student represented, roughly speaking, a different slice of the broader applicant pool as divided up by economic background: Student 1 was from a working-class family in rural Tennessee; Student 2 was from a middle-class family in the Twin Cities; and Student 3 was from a white-collar family in suburban New York. All had parents who were married and two siblings not yet in college. Because the calculators require detailed financial information, I came up with portfolios for each family:

Student 1, Tennessee
Income: 40K
Checking/savings/cash: 1K
Non-retirement investments: 30K
Home value: 150K
Home purchase price: 100K
Outstanding debt on home: 50K

Student 2, Minnesota
Income: 75K
Checking/savings/cash: 5K
Non-retirement investments: 75K
Home value: 300K
Home purchase price: 200K
Outstanding debt on home: 100K

Student 3, New York
Income: 150K
Checking/savings/cash: 10K
Non-retirement investments: 200K
Home value: 500K
Home purchase price: 280K
Outstanding debt on home: 140K

A few notes: The estimates for home purchase prices were based on the average sale price of a house in each area in the year 2000, and the outstanding debt figure assumes a 20% down payment and a 30-year, fixed rate mortgage at 8% that was refinanced down to a lower rate at some point in the mid-2000s. Additionally, I gave each student an income of $2000 for the previous year (from a summer job, for example) and savings of $1000.

The calculators also take tax deductions, investment income, and other factors into account; I entered zero for all fields not covered by the above information in order to make things easier for myself. The estimates given by the calculators will therefore not be entirely representative of what each family would actually have to pay, as these things will come into play for most people in real life. However, the important thing is that the same exact information was entered into each school’s calculator so that we can form a fair comparison between all eight Ivy League schools.

Tomorrow, we’ll reveal the results. In the meantime, feel free to amuse yourselves by guessing where Dartmouth stands for each scenario. Do we bring up the rear, or will McNutt have a surprise in store for us all?

Part 1, Part 2

A reposting of a piece from last term:

You bitch about the present, you blame it on the past

I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass

Get Over It — The Eagles (Hell Freezes Over, 1994), Don Henley, Glenn Frey

Look, there have always been warnings — trigger and other kinds. Even a conservative commentator like George Will alerted his readers to the harshness of his upcoming words in a column in Newsweek in 1990 (America’s Slide Into The Sewer):

I regret the offensiveness of what follows. However, it is high time adult readers sample the words that millions of young Americans are hearing.

He was comparing the aggressively misogynistic and sexual-violence-threatening words of an early rap group, 2 Live Crew, with the testimony of the supposed rapists (since acquitted) of the Central Park jogger (the sister of a Dartmouth student).

Will issued his warning because his quotations contravened the established expectations of the people who read his column. My own children would similarly warn me if they played a currently popular song like No Heart by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin (click on the link for some truly chilling lyrics) or if they used the family TV to watch a run-of-the-mill (for them) teenage slasher movie.

In that light, the recent University Chicago admonition against trigger warnings and the various other manifestations of the modern sensitivity lacked nuance. There is a place for warnings at a modern university, but that place should be limited to instances where the harshness of an item being studied is grossly out of synch with the legitimate expectations of students.

For 18-22-year-olds who are sufficiently old to vote and go to war, and who believe they have a God-given right to drink to excess and have random sex, most of the current nonsense about trigger warnings and safe spaces has no place at an élite college. It’s time to tell the small minority of supposed sufferers that they need to toughen up. Now.

Trigger Warning Warning.jpgThe great majority of students comprehend that college is about growing and dealing with challenges both external and internal. You work to learn new ways of thinking, and you try hard to build self-confidence while drifting in a sea of doubt. Some professors teach this strength via ordeal (undergraduates who have had a class with Meir Kohn know what I mean), and varsity athletes understand that Dartmouth coaches won’t keep their jobs if they don’t win: athletes don’t receive trigger warnings; they get very clear, almost confrontational, communication about their strengths and weaknesses.

Overall an Ivy League education is demanding on so many levels. That’s the point. Students are not at Dartmouth to boohoo because an image or an allusion disturbs their delicate psyches — unless it goes beyond a hard-to-define-in-words standard of what is truly troubling.

Absurd stories abound. This past summer term a student complained that she had not been warned about upcoming material concerning the Holocaust that was presented in the History course History and Culture of the Jews II (Modern Period). Come again? Our special snowflake has no grounds to stand on here. What was she expecting would be studied in the course?

And I was present in an introductory engineering class at Thayer in 2015 when the professor warned that an upcoming film clip would feature several uses of “the F-bomb” — that awful, awful word that starts and ends with the same letters as “firetruck.” To a class of Dartmouth sophomores? Are you kidding me? Or better yet: WTF?

But let’s go further. Who can have existed in the real world far from our fairyland campus and not have already been affronted by images of sexuality, violence and terror in our no-holds-barred culture of movies, music, TV, the internet, and magazines. High school students live with such material on a regular basis. How is it that when they come to Hanover some students expect an idyll wherein nothing remotely untoward might agitate their timid souls?

A trigger warning was originally meant as a prophylactic alert for the very limited number of students who carry the emotional baggage of a serious past trauma, the goal being to protect people from the opening of old wounds. Sure we can be sensitive, but at the same time, how many supposed trauma-inducing events are there out there? My wife has a thing about fire from a household blaze when she was a girl, but we still roast marshmallows, and she would not think of asking that she be warned about any upcoming references to flames. The list of events that might have scared/scarred people is endless. Shall we have a go: sexual assault, physical assault, fire, murder, Nazis, natural disasters (a whole list in and of itself), disease and death, racism, anger, and on and on.

Of course, what began as solicitousness to a very small number of psychologically traumatized students has morphed into a concern for anything that might make people cringe, even slightly. That’s silly. Dealing with unpleasantness is part of growing up, and more importantly, it is often part of understanding. Should students ask to see only an expurgated version of Seven Years A Slave in a course about the history of race in America because the violent scenes of lashing and rape are hard to watch? Of course, they are hard to watch. That’s the point of the movie.

Such matters are approached more maturely in other cultures. Prior to a trip to the Normandy invasion beaches, ninth-grade students at my children’s school in France watched the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan in class. To visit the beaches in the peaceful present without a visceral (literally and metaphorically) sense of the heroism and carnage that took place there 72 summers ago is to not really understand them at all. I asked my daughter’s history teacher if any students or parents had complained about the gore and violence in Spielberg’s film. “No,” he replied nonchalantly, “All the kids had seen the movie at home anyways.”

So let’s re-think trigger warnings. We need to tell students that it can be an ugly, violent world out there, and part of the goal of a Dartmouth education is to face up to that fact and prepare for it. Professors will warn you of material that lies well outside the realm of mature expectations, but students who are not ready to come to grips with reality as it is commonly understood should perhaps take a gap year, and only come to Hanover when they are grown up enough to begin their studies.

Addendum: This past summer in his History 94 course Jews and Arabs in Israel-Palestine: Past and Present, visiting professor Hillel Cohen of the Hebrew University included the following blanket trigger warning in his syllabus:

Trigger Warning1.jpg

Do I detect the slightest note of sarcasm, even derision, in this paragraph. In any event, a blanket trigger warning is about as far as a professor should go in the absence of material that is far outside of a course’s expected subject matter.

Addendum: 150 faculty members at the University of Chicago have issued a letter supporting the idea that trigger warnings and safe spaces as legitimate subjects for campus discussion. The subject is a lively one. Look at this overview in the Brown Daily Herald: National trigger warning discussion comes to campus. And this critical column by Gordon Crovitz in the WSJ: A Safe Space for Unsafe Spaces.

Even a sunny winter’s day cannot redeem the cheap ugliness of one of the Moving Dartmouth forward clubhouses — this one next the College’s elegant, though down-in-the-mouth Gold Coast dorms. For three million dollars, you’d think that the administration could come up with something that looked better than a roadside convenience store:

Convenience Store1.jpg

Architecture as metaphor, anyone?

Kiplinger Magazine has come out with a ranking of The Best College Values. Click on the link for a description of the editors’ methodology. At #5 among the Ivies, the College does not do too badly:

Kiplinger Best College Values 2017 Comp.jpg

Kiplinger has quoted an “all-in” cost (including books, travel, etc.) in its calculation of the cost of attendance. Funny numbers. How is it possible that beyond tuition, room and board and fees, one can spend only $960/year at Cornell (the lowest in the Ivies), but a year in Hanover will run a student $1,665 (the highest).

Here are the figures for the tuition, room and board, and fees cost for the Ivies for the 2016-2017 academic year: Columbia $68,405; Dartmouth: $66,174; Penn: $66,000; Cornell: $64,853; Yale: $64,650; Brown: $64,556; Harvard: $63,025; and Princeton: $60,090.

The College could do much better in this kind of ranking if we could get our costs under control.

Addendum: And to think that Dartmouth had long had the reputation as “a poor man’s college”; “it was possible for a young man to get an education there at less expense than at almost any other college in the country.”

Dartmouth Undying

Who can forget her sharp and misty mornings,
The clanging bells, the crunch of feet on snow,
Her sparkling noons, the crowding into Commons,
The long white afternoons, the twilight glow?
See! By the light of many thousand sunsets,
Dartmouth Undying, like a vision starts.
Dartmouth, the gleaming, dreaming walls of Dartmouth,
Miraculously builded in our hearts.

—Franklin McDuffee ‘21

Dartmouth Undying.jpg

The campus is so still at 6:08am.

Henri Fantin-Latour.jpgMaking a point about art by reproducing on your screen a photo of a painting taken with my iPhone 7 is, well, several steps removed from reality — but the joyousness of Henri Fantin-Latour’s Chrysanthèmes Annuels (1889) compels me to try. Fantin’s still life paintings, of which there are about 500, leap out at me in museums; their vivid faithfulness to nature is only the beginning of the pleasures that they impart. At times you have to ask yourself if the flowers, even if slightly wilted, could ever have been so beautiful — or if the reproduction is more lovely than the reality ever was.

Fantin uses a heavy transparent glaze over thickly applied paint in a seemingly original way; light glints and dances through and off of it. You find yourself smiling as you gaze upon the pictures, and you are not alone:

Fantin Latour2.jpg

The Fantin-Latour retrospective at the Musée de Luxembourg runs until February 12. The exhibition includes still lifes (formal, Dutch-inspired ones and his later, more natural depictions); self-portraits (Fantin did many); domestic and group portraits; and fantasy images (the weakest works in the show to my mind). The group portraits, depicting leading cultral figures of the day, have an unforced quality to them that bears a comparison:

Fantin Group Portrait.jpg

Addendum: Museums either have given up trying to stop photography or they have finally understood that flashless picture-taking does no harm to anyone. A good development.

I’m not saying that the College is doing this, but I’m not saying it’s not: one more way to manage our yield, at a time when Dartmouth seems to be a less-than-top choice for applicants, is to have a second crack at Early Decision applicants. Director of Admissions Paul Sunde graciously shared with me the fact that of the 1,999 ED applicants this year, 27.8% (555 people) were accepted and, “Our defer figure is 32% and our deny figure is 39%. Both are rounded.”

Put another way, about 640 ED applicants to the College have been thrown into the regular pool. That’s more people than were accepted ED. Why do this? The standard explanation is that a deferral indicates to applicants that their application was close to meeting the standard for admission. But really, is that what motivates Admissions? Suspicious minds might imagine that Admissions wants to keep such folks on ice, pending a complete review of regular decision applicants. After all, if we were to admit any of these folks in the RD round, the odds of them matriculating would be far higher than people who have applied to the College among a dozen or two other schools. Yield, yield, yield.

We are not the only school to defer a large number of applicants, as the Brown Daily Herald reported last week:

The University accepted 22 percent of its early decision applicants to the class of 2021, offering spots to 695 students — the largest number of students ever admitted early decision.

The accepted applicants were chosen from the University’s largest early decision applicant pool of 3,170 students. Sixty percent of the applicants were deferred and 18 percent were rejected, said Dean of Admission Logan Powell. [Emphasis added]

Brown defers many more students than it accepts. The College is in the middle rank in accepting approximately the same number of students Early Decision as it defers:

ED EA Defers.jpg

It doesn’t take much to imagine a scenario where no students at all are accepted in the Regular Decision round, save for two categories of people: recruited athletes, who for one reason or another did not come in ED; and deferred ED applicants. If need be, Admissions can fill out the class with people taken off the waitlist.

Which means that the huge majority of the class comes from the ED pool. Does that explain how we have come to have classes made up primarily of people whose families can afford to spend $300,000 in after-tax dollars to receive a four-year college education?

Oh, my.

Addendum: Don’t ask if people who applied ED and were then deferred can then be waitlisted in the RD round.

Addendum: Last week in the Times, Frank Bruni wrote about the downsides of ED/EA from the perspective of students. He laid out in detail how early programs favor students who have the resources to be better advised.

The College is doing all it can to congratulate itself for its achievement in attracting a whopping increase (3.7% to be precise) in early decision applicants compared to last year (and increasing the number of early admits by 12.4%). As a member of the so-called Admissions Ambassador Program (I’m an alumni interviewer), I had the privilege of receiving a celebratory email from the “AAP Team,” along with a small badge intended to be attached to a lapel or some other piece of clothing. The latter was generously mailed to me all the way in Germany. Although the adhesive on the badge was sadly defective, the following part of the e-mail attachment was interesting:

ED Stats.jpg

That all seems pretty unremarkable until you realize that the two statistics usually touted incessantly by the College as evidence of its successful crusade for more diversity and inclusion — racial background and first-generation enrollment in college — are missing. Why?

An answer begins to reveal itself in the Office of Communication’s December 14th news release, which actually contains the figures missing in the flyer displayed above:

Overall, the accepted students are a highly diverse group, Coffin says. Thirty-one percent are students of color; 8.3 percent are foreign citizens. More than 10 percent are first-generation college-bound in their families. Students whose parents attended Dartmouth make up 16 percent of the class. [Emphasis added]

Now let’s take a look at the profile of the Class of 2020, as found on the website of the Admissions Office:

BASIC CLASS PROFILE

Total Number of Students: 1,121
Male Students: 48%
Female Students: 52%
Financial Aid Recipients: 45%
First Generation in College: 15%

Public Schools: 57%
Private Schools: 30%
Religious Schools: 13%
Total Number of Schools Represented: 821

New England: 18%
Mid-Atlantic: 25%
Mid-West: 10%
South: 15%
West: 24%
International: 8%

African American: 8%
Asian American: 17%

Caucasian: 50%
Latino: 8%
Native American: 4%
Multi-Racial: 3%

Foreign Citizen: 9%
Figures do not total 100% due to “No Response”

% in the Top Decile: 93% of students with rank
(407 students provided class rank)
[Emphasis added]

Assuming that the Class of 2021 will closely resemble the Class of 2020 with respect to the above numbers, we can begin to see why Admissions may not have been so keen to trumpet certain information. Namely, if the prediction comes true that the Early Decision “group will represent approximately 47% of the entering class”, the remaining 53% of the class will have to come from some combination of the regular decision round and the waitlist. This allows us to do some quick extrapolation.

If the College has an unofficial quota of 40% for students of color (here, calculated as African American+Asian American+Latino+Native American+Multiracial), approximately 50% of students who choose to attend Dartmouth after receiving offers of admission in the spring will be non-white, seeing as only about 31% of early admits are. If the target number for first-generation students is 15%, then approximately 20% of those matriculating from the regular pool/wait list will fall into that category.

Why could there be such an imbalance between the early and regular rounds in terms of the demographic breakdown? Without more detailed information about the applicant pool itself, no one explanation stands out. But as has been reported on previously in this space, the administration has increasingly relied on the early decision process in order to fill its incoming class, thus maintaining a respectable yield rate of around 50%, even in light of the poor publicity and incompetent management that has made the College less attractive to prospective students. The Admissions office is afraid to give its best admits a choice of where to go, because it knows that it will probably lose.

In light of its ostensible concern with issues of diversity, moreover, it’s deliciously ironic that Dartmouth has to rely on white students from presumably more accomplished parental backgrounds in order to prevent itself from falling even further down the US News rankings. I guess the mind-numbing institutional focus on “inclusion” at the expense of, you know, the quest for truth hasn’t translated into being a more enticing option for minority students or applicants whose families are not well-acquainted with the university system.

Maybe Hanlon and Dever could try something radical and talk about renewing our focus on good old-fashioned classroom education?

Phil has appointed a search committee to replace Bob Donin, the outgoing General Counsel (Dartmouth’s top lawyer — a job that paid $509,904 in 2014). The position is a critical one (therefore the big money), but the composition of Phil’s search committee is a more interesting topic for review:

Working with [seach committee chair Vice President for Communications Justin] Anderson on the committee are Sonu Bedi, an associate professor of government; Carolyn Dever, provost; Evelynn Ellis, vice president for Institutional Diversity and Equity; Leslie Henderson, dean of faculty affairs and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the Geisel School of Medicine; Punam Keller, associate dean for innovation and growth at the Tuck School of Business; Richard Mills, executive vice president; and Ben Wilson ‘73, a Dartmouth trustee and attorney.

College Counsel Search.jpg

Don’t downplay the importance of the General Counsel’s role; Dartmouth pays its top lawyer big money because the eight-members of the Office of the General Counsel have their collective nose in a great many campus decisions, and, bureaucratic incentives oblige, you can be sure that they doesn’t allow any risk anywhere, if they can help it. In addition, the College outsources almost all of its litigation work to outside firms (McLane Middleton in Manchester for environmental issues and some real estate work; Sheehan Phinney in Lebanon and Bernstein Shur in Manchester for employment disputes; and big, bad, and very expensive Sullivan & Cromwell for major questions like Trustee governance). In short, we are talking an annual budget in at least the high seven figures here.

Most importantly, the General Counsel position is a technical one. There are good lawyers and bad ones (trust me on this issue); there are attorneys with good judgement and poor judgement; and critically, there are deal-breaking, cautious lawyers who never take any risk (seen a rope swing at the river lately?). Picking the right person will have a real impact on Dartmouth life.

So, who has Phil Hanlon chosen to be on the search committee for this senior position? It’s downright bizarre that Anderson, a likable guy with a journalistic background, is heading up the group. Then you have two diversity staffers, both with no experience in the law or in supervising lawyers: Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity Evelynn Ellis and Dean of Faculty Affairs and Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion at Geisel Leslie Henderson (she’s also a Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology, and of Biochemistry and Cell Biology). What are they doing there, beyond providing the usual window dressing? Virtually the same point can be made of Tuck’s Punam Keller, a no-nonsense expert in marketing and consumer behavior. How important are her Indian origins to her presence on the committee? As for Provost Carolyn Dever, well, given her background as “a scholar of gender studies and 19th-century British literature and culture,” and the fact the she is interviewing madly to find a position at another school, I expect that she won’t be attending the committee’s meetings very often, and when she does, if past behavior indicates future performance, she’ll have little to add to the discussions.

Professor of Government Sonu Bedi counts for a couple of diversity checkmarks, and he did go to Harvard Law and work for a year (from 2001-2002) at Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, but that is the end of his in-the-trenches legal background. Full disclosure: I audited and enjoyed Bedi’s Con Law course about a decade ago.

What’s left? The two guys who will make the decision after the other folks spend immense amounts of time chatting in meetings, reading resumés and interviewing candidates: EVP Rick Mills and Trustee Emeritus Ben Wilson ‘73. Mills has a legal background (three years as a law firm associate and four years in a corporate counsel’s office), but more importantly, he has worked closely with General Counsels as the EVP at the College and in his analogous previous role at Harvard Medical School. Wilson is the Managing Principal at Beveridge & Diamond, a 100+-attorney Washington-based law firm with seven offices. The firm has been repeatedly honored for its efforts at diversity and inclusion, but more importantly, it wins cases (you don’t support 100+ lawyers without doing so). At the end of the search process, when Mills and Wilson take a position on a candidate, it’s hard to imagine the other members of the search committee pushing back.

Let’s hope we get a good lawyer out of the process — but think of the time wasted in having all of these people, most of whom have nothing at all to add to the committee’s work, in the room. In theory, they could be doing more important things for the College.

Addendum: The committee will be assisted by headhunters, Academic Search, whose website notes the following:

— Since 1976, Academic Search has completed more than 780 presidential searches.


— Over the past five years, Academic Search has completed more than 385 presidential, provost and dean searches.

— In the past five years, at least 51% of all searches conducted by Academic Search have resulted in a female or minority appointee.

Emphasis added.

Addendum: Phil is most serious about altering the complexion of his administration (even though he and Dever are possibly the whitest people in existence). At a recent General Faculty meeting regarding the search for the next Dean of Faculty, he said:

My history in dean searches is probably relevant here. In my day I have conducted nine dean searches, all of them national searches. In every case I insisted that the search process generate a deep, talented, diverse pool of internal and external candidates from which to choose. In five of those cases I hired an internal candidate; in four of them I hired an external candidate. Of the nine, only two of the deans I hired were white males; four of them were people of color. So, that sort of tells you what I am looking for in the search… [Emphasis added]

No better example of signaling is to be found in the land.

When an institution begins to rot, the decay sets in pretty much everywhere. To wit, a letter to the editor in the January/February edition of the Alumni Magazine::

DAM Admissions letter1.jpg

Here you have an alumnus, David Shedd ‘84, a man of varied interests and talents, who offers time and treasure (he’s given money every year since graduation) to the College on a regular basis. The measured tone of his letter reflects both real thought and care in drafting. But, as with so many other alumni, Shedd’s loyalty is on the wane.

We’ve reported in the past how alumni interviewers can speak with numerous talented candidates, only to see none admitted — or worse, to see candidates, who they believe are markedly inferior, admitted under the College’s system of quotas. David is not complaining about a relative here; he’s not even plumping for some Olde Maine applicant. But year after year, he is seeing wealthy high school seniors being accepted over high-achieving immigrants who have overcome on-the-ground adversity.

If the administration could cut the waste from the budget, it could take ramp up the College’s admissions effort. How about a first-class, on-line presentation of Dartmouth — in contrast to the present poor effort (here and here)? And how about extra staffers to signal our presence at high schools all over the country, admissions officers who would, in a real innovation, go out and interview thousands of applicants in conjunction with alumni. In this way they could measure first hand the students behind the professionally polished resumés. Nobody conducts this costly exercise today; a rich school like ours, if it watched its pennies, could be the first.

Addendum: My classmate Tim Prager ‘79 has put forward good ideas for revamping the College’s admissions effort.

A reader writes in:

As a concerned citizen of my local community I am a frequent reader of your blog. Thank you for bringing important community news to light as it pertains to Dartmouth College.

I have several friends in the Lyme/Hanover area who are appalled at Dartmouth’s handling (or lack thereof) of the Rennie Farm site. As you may know, the farm was a dumping ground for animal carcasses and laboratory equipment in the 1970’s. Dartmouth exhumed the waste in the burial site in 2011 and discovered 1,4 dioxane in 2012. It was recently (August of this year) found in an adjacent stream that flows to the Connecticut River and in the drinking water wells of two residences (one south and one north of the site) nearby.

There is also the possibility of naphthalene and radioactive lead in the water, but they are not testing for these toxins. Not only are our neighbor’s property values diminishing but their health and the health of their young children is at risk.

It would be a service to your neighbors and perhaps a motivator for Dartmouth to do the “right thing” if you were to cover this story.

The Valley News’ Rob Wolfe ‘12 wrote a complete report on July 31, 2016 on the contamination of ground water at the Rennie Farm due to the burial of radioactive medical waste there by Dartmouth researchers in the 1960’s and ’70s. Overall the Valley News has now done eighteen stories on the pollution and the College’s efforts to clean it up.

The residents who believe themselves at risk from the buried waste appear to be taking their efforts to a new level:

Dear Neighbors,

Come engage the #1 US News & World Report-ranked National Law Firm of the Year (2017) in the category of Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions — Plaintiffs with your questions re. environmental water contamination in general, and the Rennie Farm toxic waste burial site in particular, this Sunday, Dec 11th from 2-4 pm in the Hitchcock Meeting Room of the Courtyard Marriott, Centerra Mall, Lebanon.

The North Hanover/Lyme Residents’ Coalition Ad-Hoc Steering Committee has invited Robin Greenwald, Practice Chair of Weitz & Luxenberg’s Environmental, Toxic Tort and Consumer Protection Unit in New York City, and two of her team members to present an informational session to all community members on environmental pollution and property devaluation associated with toxic burial sites and groundwater contamination.

Their formidable litigation experience includes the BP oil spill in New Orleans LA; Halliburton’s contamination of a local aquifer with perchlorate resulting in property damage and personal injury; and ongoing litigation addressing PFOA groundwater contamination in New York, Vermont and NH in collaboration with Erin Brockovich.

We would like this environmental law firm to represent North Hanover/Lyme Residents in restoring our environmental health and property values that have been compromised by the Rennie Farm toxic waste contamination. Come meet this expert legal team to have your questions and concerns addressed regarding restoring the safety of our drinking water and our property values.

We encourage you to join with us on Sunday, Dec 11th, from 2-4 pm in the Hitchcock Meeting room of the Courtyard Marriott, Centerra Mall, Lebanon. The room is on the ground floor to the left of the reception desk.

Respectfully,

North Hanover/Lyme Residents’ Coalition Ad-Hoc Steering Committee

Addendum: An Associated Press story out today notes that the College has already spent $8.4 million over the last five years cleaning up the site.

For a lighter alternative:

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