Paris Diary: The Eiffel Attraction

Apr 26 2015

During a visit to the Right Bank rooftop apartment of some good friends, we found ourselves drawn to the view every few minutes:

Eiffel Right Bank Comp.jpg

Addendum: The Eiffel Tower never gets old.


Nobody Likes A Shill

Apr 25 2015

The D logo1.jpgAhh, the combativeness of today's youth -- or the total absence thereof. On April 6 a Dartblog post included the following information drawn directly from the Dartmouth Factbook:

While we have hired 447 staffers since 2010, let's look at how the faculty has grown. Since 2010 we have added only 35.8 professors to the teaching ranks -- that's 11.6 new staffers for each new professor -- of whom a grand total of 7.4 faculty members came to Hanover last year.

Powerful stuff, n'est-ce pas? Direct evidence from the College's own website of an egregious mis-direction of resources to non-essential services. The bloat problem is getting worse, not better.

A week later The D, as if in response, ran the following story: College hires 24 new faculty members. It began as follows:

Based on faculty turnover and changing student enrollments by department, the College hired 24 new faculty members in the arts and sciences this academic year, associate dean of faculty for the sciences and computer science professor David Kotz said. In addition, Thayer School of Engineering hired one new professor and Tuck School of Business hired five.

Ten of the new faculty members hired joined departments in the social sciences, including economics, government, geography, anthropology and history. Nine faculty members joined departments in the arts and humanities, three teach in the sciences and two joined interdisciplinary studies.

"In any given year, there's usually a mixture of faculty replacing people who have retired or departed for some other reason and a few each year that are incremental," Kotz said. "Obviously most departments would want to grow, but there's a limited set of hires we can manage or afford."

What the heck does that bit of writing mean? Did the College increase the overall size of the faculty by 24 members? Or did 24 new faculty members arrive in Hanover to replace departing professors? And how many profs departed? More than 24? If "there's usually a mixture of faculty replacing people... and a few each year that are incremental," according to an associate dean of faculty, perhaps we could be told how few. How very few.

If the D didn't have the nerve to comment on the same figures that Dartblog had noted, at a minimum a thorough piece of journalism would have told us how many professors were employed at the College at the start of the year, and how many there were at yearend.

The D's name should be changed to The Daily Parkhurst. Our student journalists, at least in this instance, are carrying water for the administration. Their real job, in case they have forgotten, is to describe the state of the College for the paper's readers, not sow confusion. What motivation do they have for writing such a misleading story? Shame on them.

Addendum: A student who is functions as one reliable set of Dartblog's eyes and ears in Hanover opines:

On the one hand, I would agree that the D seems at times to be in the back pocket of the administration. On the other hand, the paper is so often marked by complete incompetence that often times it is difficult to differentiate when they're saving face for Parkhurst and when they simply missed the important parts of a story. It's not surprising to hear almost any faction of the student body openly laughing at an article the D published that day.

I have repeatedly heard on campus that working at The D is a resumé-stuffer: an easy way to pad a CV in preparation for grad school applications.


Niceness Is Not Competence

Apr 24 2015

My post on April 20 critical of the appointment of Inge-Lise Ameer as Vice Provost for Student Affairs (essentially the Dean of the College, though henceforth a different and less consequential position will carry that name) elicited the following response from a loyal Hanover alumnus:

Joe, with due respect, I read your dishing of Inge-Lise Ameer with great sadness. Having dealt with her personally, I know she very skillfully, quietly, intelligently and courageously maneuvered to lessen the disastrous policies of Charlotte Johnson and tip things in a better direction whenever humanly possible. And she energetically and passionately did this while her husband was dying of cancer.

What's more, the students who have dealt with her respect her enormously for the above-mentioned attributes as well as her being a straight shooter they can trust. There is nobody in the administration more highly regarded by students than her by anybody who has ever had dealings with her.

I have quietly been quite involved with a lot of campus happenings involving students for some years now and can assure you none of what I cite is hearsay, but is direct observation.

I occasionally receive similar responses to negative comments about administrators, and in a 2009 post in this space I wrote:

The most common error that I see in the evaluation of people is the confusion of niceness and competence. "He's such a wonderful doctor," opines a friend who possesses not the slightest bit of information regarding her MD's training or past clinical success. "He has been a very effective administrator," a faculty member recently said to me, "he is always great in returning my calls." Jim Wright dined out on his grandfatherly manner for decades: white hair, height, and a soft baritone that seemed to say 'I care about you', when in fact the good ship Dartmouth was dead in the water.

Ask yourself, the next time that you voice a positive opinion about someone, whether you really have done your research into that person's achievements - or lack thereof. In business, the phrase "professional interviewer" brings grimaces to the faces of everyone but the most perspicacious executives. Almost all of us have been bamboozled by the smooth-talking recruit who promises the world in such convincing tones that one can't help but offer a job. Let me tell you, the swoon does not last.

In the case of our new Vice Provost for Student Affairs, who was Senior Associate Dean of the College under the hapless Charlotte Johnson, one can potentially concur that she is "skillful, quietly intelligent, courageous, energetic, passionate, and a straight shooter" -- while at the same time questioning whether she has the necessary experience and training to run an area of the College with a budget in the tens of millions of dollars and subordinates numbering many hundreds. Beyond Dean Ameer's interpersonal warmth and sincerity, can she manage budgets, hire good people and fire weak ones, reorganize inefficient and ineffective departments, innovate in developing original programs that motivate students, and perform the many other tasks required of a manager of a large organization? We just don't know because she has never done this type of work in the past. Is that the profile of a person we are looking for to run and reorganize an area of the College that is self-evidently failing?

As I mentioned in Monday's post, Dean Ameer's experience, beyond her apprenticeship at the knee of Dean Johnson, is limited to working at Harvard as the Interim Director of Advising Programs and as the administrator for undergraduate English programs. That background is not sufficient training to manage the College's student life programs, let alone clean out the Augean stables of the Dean's office. I might be a nice guy, too, but you would not pick me to run software design at Apple or microprocessor development at Intel.

We need to get over the erroneous idea that anyone with a good heart can be an administrator at the College; that notion has led to the miasma that is current student life and the sprawling administration that does not really support it.

Addendum: And don't forget diversity and inclusion.

Addendum: Today's Verbum Ultimum editorial in The D entitled Adding Administrative Bloat questions many aspects of Dean Ameer's appointment.

Addendum: A thoughtful alumnus comments on Dean Ameer:

So, what kind of administrator could she be? I attended a small class symposium with her and a few students during my reunion. There, her single greatest achievement was stunning my classmates across very different political, sexual, racial, and agenda orientations as being someone who doesn't listen, who didn't have facts to base her conclusions upon, and who didn't take into account either the possible or what has already been tried at Dartmouth... or that Dartmouth is Dartmouth, an excellent rural college. In that sense, and only that sense, she was a great uniter of the class.

Addendum: A voice in support of Dean Ameer is heard:

Just wanted to add my vote for Ameer. I totally get the "experience needed, nice alone is not good enough" reasoning, but my knowledge of her activities on campus indicates that she brings a piece of experience that we would be hard pressed to find in someone else with a more textbook resume: proven ability to navigate Dartmouth's waters with student (vs. personal) interests first in mind and heart. You should give her a chance -- and some encouragement.

The College has given Dean Ameer a chance. Let's hope that she does better than Charlotte Johnson, Sylvia Spears, Jim Larrimore, etc., and other people similarly unqualified for their positions at Dartmouth (think Jim Kim, too).