Wednesday, March 29, 2017



You Gets What You Pays For

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s salary survey is out, and once again the College’s faculty is having its nose rubbed in the mud. How can the administration be so short-sighted as to leave Dartmouth’s professors angry over what amounts to a small difference in salary. As you will recall, at a meeting of the faculty on May 23, 2016, the assembled professors voiced in no uncertain terms their upset at being paid less than their peers — and yet at the same time the Committee on the Faculty (COF) noted that the compensation gap could be filled with a collective annual raise of only $5.4 million (peanuts in the context of the administration’s billion-dollar budget). Here’s how we rank:

CHE Salaries by Institution.jpg

The above figures bear closer review. Note that while we trail Harvard in salaries for full professors by 30% and for associate professors by 23%, the gap for incoming, tenure-track profs is a whopping 78%. In fact, among all top undergraduate institutions, and indubitably among the Ivies, we pay our assistant professors less than anyone.

Talk about mortgaging the College’s future to fund an inefficient present. We are less competitive among the people whom we hope will one day be Dartmouth’s stars. With this kind of salary differential, top performers will almost always go to competing institutions.

It is worth noting again (and again) that there is absolutely no justification for such parsimony. We charge more in tuition, room and board and fees than anyone in the Ivies except Columbia, we give financial aid to fewer students than any other Ivy, and more importantly, our endowment/student figure is almost double that of every Ivy school outside of HYP. Wow. How is it that our endowment/student is far higher than Penn’s, yet Penn can charge less for tuition and pay its professors far more than Dartmouth? How? I expect that Penn has leaders who understand that paying money to professors is more important to the health of a school than funding armies of useless deans. That’s how.

Addendum: To put into correct perspective the ungenerous wage of $78,390 that Dartmouth pays on average to assistant professors (which means that Humanities professors earn even less than this amount in order to balance the higher earnings of Econ profs), note that this salary is exactly twice, and only twice, the wage earned by a 20-year-old union custodian at the College — a person who has been on the job for eighteen months and is not required as a condition of employment to have completed high school. 100% is not much of premium for an assistant professor in exchange for about nine years of the finest post-secondary education in the land. Does it not feel like we are back in the USSR?

Addendum: For the record, President Hanlon’s salary in 2014 was $1,124,289.

Addendum: Cornell is #28 in the salary ranking. However, it pays assistant professors on average $108,774/year — $30,384 (38.8%) more per year than Dartmouth.


Posted on March 29, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, March 28, 2017



BREAKING: Duthu ‘80 Is Faculty Dean; Authored Anti-Israel BDS Petition

Duthu.jpgThe French have a saying, Jamais deux sans trois (“never twice without a third”), and after Phil Hanlon’s disastrous selection of Provost Carolyn Dever and VP for Advancement Bob Lasher, it was not hard to predict that Phil would make a bad mistake in his choice for Dean of the Faculty — especially when he told the May 9, 2016 Meeting of the Faculty that he would be choosing his candidate from a limited pool:

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]

Bruce Duthu ‘80 is by all accounts a nice guy. Here is the College’s description of his background:

A member of the United Houma Nation and an expert on federal Indian law and tribal sovereignty, Duthu is the author of numerous book chapters and articles, and of two books: American Indians and the Law (Viking/Penguin Press), and Shadow Nations: Tribal Sovereignty and the Limits of Legal Pluralism (Oxford University Press), which was the basis for an international symposium hosted in 2013 by the University of Trento, in Trento, Italy: “Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty and the Limits of Judicial and Legal Pluralism.” Duthu’s book was the topic of several panel discussions in which he participated…

After graduating from Dartmouth with a major in religion and a certificate in Native American Studies, Duthu earned his law degree from Loyola University School of Law. He returned to Dartmouth in 1986 to direct the Native American Studies Program. He later became associate dean of first-year students and director of the academic support program.

In 1991, Duthu joined the faculty of Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt., and was founding director of the law school’s Partnership in Environmental Law and Energy Policy with Sun Yat-sen University Law School in Guangzhou, China. As a visiting professor, he has taught at universities in Italy and Australia, and at Harvard Law School.

In 2008, he returned to Dartmouth as a professor of Native American Studies, chairing that program from 2009 to 2015. Duthu helped develop an interdisciplinary program in Santa Fe, N.M., where Dartmouth students get to know members of Native American tribal communities.

Two of Duthu’s publications have received 81 citations each; the remainder have been cited 17 times or less.

Of greater concern is the fact that Duthu seems to lack any significant administrative experience. He has been Frank J. Guarini Associate Dean of the Faculty for International Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs since May 18, 2016 — all of ten months. One would expect the College’s Dean of the Faculty to have had an extended, successful tenure as a divisional dean or the head of a professional school.

Nor does Duthu have any relevant background in the sciences. Given that Phil Hanlon and Carolyn Dever have both declared that the upgrading of the College’s science programs is an important goal, Duthu is a curious choice.

Finally, and of greatest concern, is the man’s politics. He signed the American Studies Association petition urging the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) directed at Israeli universities:

Boycott Map.jpg

Additionally he is listed as an author of the Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions by the Council of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association:

Duthu NAISA Petition Comp.jpg

Duthu NAISA Petition Authors Comp.jpg

It seems clear that Phil Hanlon and Carolyn Dever were aware of Duthu’s BDS activiies. In the announcement to the faculty of their decision, they stated:

We would also like to thank Kathryn Cottingham, professor and chair of biological sciences, and Mona Domosh, professor of geography, who co-chaired the search committee that recommended finalists for the dean’s job. They led a process that began with extensive consultation across the faculty of Arts and Sciences and concluded with a recommendation of finalists for the position. These finalists were then interviewed by the president and provost, members of the board of trustees, and other members of the president’s senior team; extensive referencing was conducted in advance of the final decision. [Emphasis added]

It is worth noting that at the time of the ASA boycott petition, Phil wrote a note to the College community in which he disagreed with the idea of boycotts and diminished academic contacts.

Addendum: Bruce Duthu was on the search committee that chose Carolyn Dever as our Provost. That action does not say much for his judgment of people.

Addendum: A Hanover-based alumnus writes in:

The true mark of a weak leader is poor hiring, perhaps because the leader is insecure and doesn’t want to risk having subordinates who might outshine him? Is the clock ticking on the Hanlon administration yet, or will he get the full 10 years to drive Dartmouth so far into the swamp it will be impossible to get back out?

I know Bruce Duthu, happen to like him, think he is a nice guy, and maybe he will turn into a legendary Dean. But nothing in his background indicates that we have chosen a rising star or a Diamond in the Rough.

And, on the Israel boycott — could you imagine the career suicide of signing a similar statement condemning the Iranians, Syrians, Castro’s Cuba, or even Hamas? Hypocrisy is alive and thriving in the academy!

Addendum: A Dartmouth parent writes in:

Ain’t hypocrisy grand? I guess genocide in all its degrees only matters when people of European heritage are perpetrating it. I’m always dazzled how these Social Justice Warriors are delighted to collaborate with the Chinese government, its educational institutions and any and all of its entities. Or perhaps Tibetans don’t count, for some as-yet unrevealed reason, as “indigenous peoples?”

I’m a strong believer, myself, in the power of boycotts and economic leverage, and I think Israel is a de facto theocracy and holds no moral high ground, but it isn’t unique in oppressive behavior towards inhabitants of territory it would prefer to entirely control and inhabit itself.

Somehow I don’t see a mass renunciation of goods made in China to be in the future of our moral guides here.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Very disheartening about these bozos getting into critical positions. All they think about is diversity and to hell with everything else. Agree with you on Israel and his stance.

Addendum: And another:

I rarely reply but felt compelled. Would the academic world not be equally justified in supporting BDS of American universities given the criminal behavior of our current administration?


Posted on March 28, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, March 27, 2017



Athletics: The Real Numbers

Following posts last week that described statistics on the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics website regarding the College’s relative spending on the recruiting of athletes and the overall budget for the Athletics Department’s varsity teams, AD Harry Sheehy has written in to detail the intricacies of federal reporting and the true — and very modest — cost of Dartmouth athletics:

Sheehy on Athletics.jpg

Harry Sheehy’s precise number — that only $11.6 million (1.2%) of Dartmouth’s total budget goes directly to Athletics — should give everyone pause. Athletics is an area where the College’s students reap enormous benefits for a very modest net outlay. (How often do I get to write that?)

Addendum: The $11.6 million figures covers not only the College’s varsity teams, but also the Zimmerman Fitness Center, club teams, intramural leagues, and all other fitness-related activities at Dartmouth.

Addendum: An alumnus who is a close observer of the College writes in:

Hi Joe. I know you have been a big Sheehy fan for a long time. His email to you made a big impression on me… the content, the tone, the thoughtful analysis, and that he took the time to write. Thx for posting it.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I appreciated your post on Dartblog and Harry’s response and detail. Let’s say for argument’s sake that the $11.6 million is allocated mostly (or at least more) to the women’s teams since they are less able to fund with ticket sales and alumni donations (although this is changing with time). In recent years, Dartmouth has had success or near-success with Xc, Softball and new sport Women’s rugby for winning Ivy Championships in women’s sports (so contenders in 3 for 17). I am impressed with Harry’s moves with the volleyball program, and I am hopeful in the near future we will be competing for a Ivy Championship year there too. I don’t have insight into the other teams but my sense is it is improving.

It looks like the high water mark for Dartmouth wins is 4 for 17 women’s Ivy Championships in 1994 to 1995.

I think by 2020 let’s hope and forecast that we are 5+ Ivy League Champions in women’s sports. The potential is there and the culture fits.

I’m one voice but that is a great return on $11.6 million. And I while generally am loathe to delve into women/men allocation and Title Ix useless debates, I think this is something that all men and women of Dartmouth should celebrate.

Remember Abbey D’Agostino. What’s the value of that character?


Posted on March 27, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, March 26, 2017



It’s All About Execution

The Upstarts.jpgIn a class that I audited many years ago at Yale’s School of Organization and Management, entrepreneur/professor Bill Lyons opined: “There are a lot of great ideas out there. The idea gets 5%. It’s execution that’s hard. Execution gets 95%.” So it goes with the businesses — Uber and Airbnb — described in Brad Stone’s The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World. Attentive readers will recall my brief comment on Stone’s book about Amazon, The Everything Store, in which I noted the involvement of many Dartmouth alumni in the creation and growth of Amazon.com.

Stone’s new book seems less comprehensively researched, but the critical takeaway is how multiple other companies tried to do the same things as Uber and Airbnb, but were out-hustled, out-financed and out-chutzpahed by the latest generation of internet phenoms — innovative, energetic and ferociously competitive creators. The term robber baron is archaic, but Uber’s Travis Kalanick would give Jay Gould a run for his money.

Who today remembers Airbnb’s predecessors and early competitors: Couchsurfing, VRBO, HomeAway and the home rental section of Craigslist? And Uber’s rivals: Zimride, Lyft, Taxi Magic, Cabulous and Seamless Wheel? Some of them still exist; all have been eclipsed by the two powerhouse companies that are now used by hundreds of millions of people every week all over the globe. Only Lyft is still trying to play in the big leagues, having had its day when it pioneered what we now know as UberX, leaving Uber to play catch-up for once (in fact, Uber uncharacteristically encouraged regulators to shut down Lyft’s ridesharing-by-anyone-with-a-car service).

What a remarkable company-creation ecosystem we have in this country. Angels and venture capitalist will invest billions of dollars in nascent firms that are a long way from profitability. The end result is companies wildly successful like Airbnb and Uber — and a host of also-rans where investors lost all their money. Nobody on the globe comes close

Addendum: In auditing about 45 Dartmouth courses over the past three decades, I have heard every few years in class from pessimistic students that the great opportunities have already been taken. First it was Microsoft and Apple; then Google and Amazon; followed by Facebook and Instagram; and now Uber and Airbnb. Kids, the future is not yet over.

Addendum: One has to wonder at the lack of diversity among the founders of these now-massively powerful companies. Virtually all are educated-in-America men.


Posted on March 26, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, March 25, 2017



Other Sides of Seuss

My alternative title for this post was, “Is Geisel the Next Calhoun?” — for even as former Dartmouth History Professor Craig Steven Wilder writes about the slavery-tainted origins of Ivy League schools, and Yale banishes to the dustbin the memory of John C. Calhoun, it is possible that a new front in the endless war against white supremacy will soon open up much closer to home.

As we have written, our own Ted Geisel ‘25, dba Dr. Seuss, contributed cartoons caricaturing our WWII enemy in the Pacific; however, the Japanese were not the only target of his mockery. It seems that African-Americans, too, were depicted unfavorably. A March 4 article in The Real African, The Racist History of Dr. Seuss & What it Means in Today’s Social, Political & Educational Context, lashes out at Geisel for a series of racist cartoons, and asks whether American blacks can fairly read Dr. Seuss’ stories to their children:

Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka “Dr. Seuss,” has sold over 600 million copies of his books and is a widely celebrated and beloved children’s book author. Most people in America, and even globally (Dr. Seuss books are translated into 20 languages), know of his classic titles. What it not as well known (or acknowledged), is his work publishing racist and xenophobic political cartoons.

From 1941-43, Seuss was the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper, PM, and used this highly-influential platform to create propaganda dehumanizing, stereotyping and even vilifying people of color.

Dr. Seuss repeatedly depicted Africans and African-Americans as monkeys. In fact, his cartoons only depict Black people as monkeys. This cartoon he made for “Judge” Magazine in 1929 was up for auction in 2015 for $20,000 and has African American men up for sale with a sign reading: “Take Home A High Grade N*gger For Your Wood Pile.”

Seuss Woodpile.jpg

The piece concludes with a call to action by the National Endowment for the Arts:

If the NEA is truly committed to building respect for our youth — all of our youth — then shift the focus of Read Across America Day away from Dr. Seuss. Reading is infinitely powerful and full of possibilities. Let’s unlock its full potential by associating it with diverse authors and illustrators whose lives and work are dedicated to honoring, reflecting, and empowering the rich diversity of our children, communities, nation and world.

For now, this critique of Seuss is confined to a marginal publication (albeit one that garnered 380 comments to this story). Will the issue have legs in Hanover?

Addendum: A January 31 piece in The Atlantic, The Complicated Relevance of Dr. Seuss’s Political Cartoons, reviews at some length Seuss’ anti-Fascist cartoons directed at the Axis powers, and his overtly racist depictions of the WWII Japanese — but the piece entirely omits any comment on Ted Geisel’s disparaging caricatures of African Americans.

Addendum: All of Ted Geisel’s political cartoons are available at a website run by UC San Diego called Dr. Seuss Goes to War.


Posted on March 25, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, March 24, 2017



Michael Beechert’s Guide to the Stars: Psychology Professor Jeffrey Taube

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

Jeffrey TaubeA.jpgJeffrey S. Taube is Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences. His work, rooted in neuroscience, explores the biological basis of spatial cognition in animals. If you’ve ever found yourself lost in the middle of the woods or a mall parking lot, Professor Taube’s scholarship would help explain what’s going on — or not going on — inside your brain as you turn around scratching your head.

A 1970 graduate of Evanston Township High School in Illinois, Taube completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1974. From there, Taube spent several years seeing the world: a year and a half in Europe and two years traveling throughout Asia. Earning money along the way by washing pots and pans in Switzerland and teaching English in Korea and Japan, he returned penniless to the US in 1978 and settled in Seattle working as a carpenter.

Yearning to return to academic interests and investigate how the brain works, in 1980 he began Ph.D. studies at the University of Washington in Seattle as part of a joint program in physiology, biophysics, and psychology. After finishing his doctorate in 1986, Taube moved east for a postdoctoral position at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, which lasted until 1988. He then spent the following two years at UC Irvine, also as a postdoc, before joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1990. Taube received tenure at the College in 1996 and the rank of full professor in 2002. One of the courses he has regularly taught since joining the faculty is Systems Neuroscience (PSYC 65), which will be offered this coming spring. Another, entitled Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (PSYC 50), took place in the fall.

Taube’s body of work as an academic is extensive and highly cited, not to mention well-funded by sources ranging from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation to the Rockefeller Foundation. His h-index of 44 and citation count of 8303 are impressive by any standard; one pair of papers titled “Head-direction cells recorded from the postsubiculum in freely moving rats” has received over 1600 individual citations alone. For an idea of what on earth the title means, read on.

As self-evident as it may sound, it is critically important that we know where we are located within our surrounding environment. While the invention of maps, compasses, and handheld GPS technology would likely prevent getting lost in the woods or in a parking lot from morphing into a full-blown catastrophe for most people, our animal brothers and sisters further down on the evolutionary scale have no such luxury. For them, being able to identify their own location may mean the difference between, say, making their way to a reliable food source and starving. But even with or without available GPS devices, humans still need to perceive their spatial location and orientation within their environment. How else could you get from your bedroom to your kitchen without awareness of your spatial whereabouts? Using rats and microelectrode technology, Taube investigates how the animal brain keeps track of location and spatial orientation.

Taube’s research has shown that, in rats, there exists a set of cells in the brain whose activity is linked to the direction in which the rat’s head is pointing. These are the “head-direction cells” referenced previously. By implanting microelectrodes in a rat’s brain and hooking them up to an automated video/computer system, Taube found that particular neurons would discharge only when the rat was facing a certain direction. Within specified brain areas, different neurons would be tuned to different directions. For example, Neuron A might become activated when the rat’s head pointed east, whereas Neuron B would fire if the rat’s head pointed towards the southwest. These firings would occur no matter where the rat was located in its surrounding environment. Currently, Taube’s lab is looking into how primary sensory inputs generate these neurological head direction signals.

A second type of cell, located in the hippocampus, relies on both self-motion information and recognizable landmarks to determine the rat’s location within a given environment. As Taube has demonstrated, these “place cells” work independently of head direction cells, and here again, different place cells are tuned to different locations in the environment. Collectively, these cells map out the entire environment and form a spatial representation, often referred to as a cognitive map, of the rat’s surroundings. At the moment, the question occupying Taube’s research team is how the vestibular system — the series of tiny organs in the inner ear that provides balance — is related to the functioning of both head direction and place cells. In any case, it turns out that head direction cells and place cells communicate with each other to create a more comprehensive picture of your perceived spatial orientation, a sense that is critical for knowing where your car is in the parking lot and getting you there successfully at day’s end.

To see Professor Taube in action, watch his March 5, 2014 lecture on Leaning and Memory in the Head-Direction Cell Circuit, which took place at UC Santa Barbara.


Posted on March 24, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, March 23, 2017



Spending on Varsity Teams

Last week when we noted the Brown Daily Herald’s ranking of recruiting expenditures in the Ivy League — the College was in the bottom half of the class — we figured that the same parsimony would characterize Dartmouth’s overall spending on varsity athletics. So back we went to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics website to see who is spending how much on men’s and women’s varsity teams. Surprise, surprise:

Ivy Varsity Expenses 2016 Chart.jpg

Thumbnail image for Ivy Varsity Expenses 2016 Table.jpgNow keep in mind that these figures are provided by the schools themselves to the Department of Education, and one would expect that they all follow the same accounting conventions. What to make of figures that vary hugely between schools? (Note: Columbia and Penn don’t have hockey teams — their loss, as I see it.)

The College has not done all that well over the past decades in athletics, so we are not getting bang for the buck. And Princeton’s spending is in the middle of the pack, yet the Tigers have amassed more championships than anyone in the Ivies.

Are we top-heavy with too many non-productive, but highly paid senior managers? Or are we bloated all through the staff ranks, and is AD Harry Sheehey unwilling to buck the College’s “nobody gets fired” administrative culture?

It’s a mystery.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

The numbers do not make sense. I would suspect that our number includes an overly large allocation from bloated Parkhurst.

Addendum: And another:

Good to see spending for the 90% of students who don’t participate in varsity sports. That has long-term benefits. In general, students seem fatter than in our day.

Addendum: I’ll have more on this issue next week.


Posted on March 23, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, March 22, 2017



Athletics’ Bang for the Buck

Yale is having something of a contretemps regarding the value of its athletics programs and particularity the presence of athletes on campus. The first volley was fired on February 27 by Yale junior Cole Aronson with a snide piece in the Yale Daily News that derided athletes themselves and also the absolute value of participating in sports; on the same day a Yale freshman baseball player, Tyler Sapsford, responded in The Politic blog; and the next day Yale baseball head coach John Stuper joined the debate with a Letter to the Editor to defending the merits of varsity sports in New Haven.

Absent from the discussion was any detail regarding Yale’s financial commitment to varsity sports and student recreation.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the money that all the Ivies spend on sports; today let’s just look at Dartmouth’s budget for athletics. The source for all of the below figures is the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics website:

Dartmouth Athletics Expenses 2016.jpg

A grand total of 903 students participated on at least one of Dartmouth’s thirteen men’s varsity teams, sixteen women’s teams, and one co-ed team (sailing, if you must know). And virtually every undergraduate student at one time or another uses the College’s extensive recreational fitness facilities (anyone who hasn’t should head down to Zimmerman now).

And all that for a grand total expense (not including ticket income) of $27,496,614 in fiscal 2016 — a figure that amounts almost exactly to a miserly 3% of the College’s total expenses of $918,111,000 in the same year.

I don’t know about you, but I’m with former Government Professor Alan Stam in supporting athletics on their merits, but especially so given their huge impact on students for a risible amount of investment by the administration.

Addendum: Yale is entirely consistent with the College in conducting debates with virtually no financial information. Budgets in higher education are deep, dark secrets. Phil Hanlon may talk about transparency, but he certainly does not want you to know where Dartmouth spends its money — and for good reason, as this space endeavors to point out on a regular basis.


Posted on March 22, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, March 21, 2017



Like Father, Like Son?

Last year we reported that then-doctor Lloyd Kaspar — a professor of medicine, a professor of microbiology and immunology, and the director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Multiple Sclerosis Clinic — had “voluntarily and permanently” surrendered his licence to practice medicine to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine. He did so in the face of the following allegations, as detailed at the time by the Union Leader:

—Failed to ensure that communication protocols and systems in connection with certain drug trials were sufficient and were being followed to fully address clinical care and patient oversight;

—Engaged in improper and disruptive behavior in the presence of staff in the workplace by exhibiting a loss of temper;

—Did not take appropriate remedial action to resolve conflicts between the nursing director and other clinical trial staff, after it was reported the nursing director had engaged in improper, disruptive behavior towards her subordinates, in part because of his personal relationship with the nursing director;

—Was absent from campus during the course of certain drug trials without sufficient prior notification or approval, resulting at times in an unavailability to respond to concerns and an inability to timely carry out required duties; and

—Failed to completely and accurately answer two questions in his 2012 license renewal application filed with the board.

Kasper is still listed as being employed by DHMC — geez, what does it take to get fired up there? — and it seems that a foul temper runs in the family. His son, Norwich resident Eli Kasper, a cellular microbiology researcher also at Geisel, was recently arrested for pulling a gun in a bar, as the DailyUV website reports:

Eli Kasper Headshot.jpeg

A Norwich resident was jailed this weekend after he allegedly pulled a gun on bouncers while they were trying to remove him from a ski bar Saturday evening.

Eli J. Kasper, 33, was ordered held for lack of bail late Saturday night pending his arraignment on a felony charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon which is scheduled to take place first thing Monday morning in Rutland’s criminal court…

Killington Police Chief Robert Montgomery said his officers and Vermont State Police troopers responded to The Wobbly Barn around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night after receiving a report that a gun had been flashed during a confrontation inside the popular nightspot.

The chief said the subsequent investigation determined that Kasper had been “acting intoxicated” and was asked by the staff to leave the bar. “It was reported that Kasper then returned to the bar and Wobbly Barn staff were escorting him out of the bar when Kasper pulled out a firearm that he had concealed in his jacket. In the brief physical altercation, the firearm was dropped and secured by staff while police were called to the scene,” according to a press release issued Sunday.

Kasper was lodged at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility for lack of $50,000 bail. He will be arraigned in Rutland Superior Court on Monday March 13, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.

Eli Kasper is still described on the Dartmouth DND Lookup as an employee of the College:

Eli Kasper DND.jpg

As I said, what does it take to get fired around here?

Addendum: A reader writes in:

FYI — if employees leave the College or have been terminated — they show up in the DND for 30 days. He has most likely been fired…


Posted on March 21, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, March 20, 2017



The Sick Man of the Ivies

The federal Education Department has come up with a Financial-Responsibility Test to evaluate the fiscal health of the nation’s schools. How did Dartmouth come out? Well, given the College’s wealth — we have about double the endowment/student of all of the Ivy schools except for HYP — you’d think that we’d get top marks. But no. After years of profligacy and waste, it turns out that the feds think that we are at the bottom of the pack:

Education Department Financial Responsibility Test.jpg

What a sad result for a school that charges more tuition than anyone in the Ancient Eight except Columbia, that pays its faculty under the odds, and is letting its buildings molder. That a skinflint can end up poor is but a reflection of the fact that we cut spending to save money everywhere — except on the staff.

I know that this line of argument is beginning to sound like a broken record (note to undergrads: a broken record is like a scratched CD that repeats a scene over and over), but to see a fine college laid low by bad strategy choices and weak management practices is hard to take. Dartmouth could be great again if the administration approached the College as an educational institution first and foremost, and not as a welfare agency providing lifetime tenure to bureaucrats and laborers.

Addendum: The methodology behind the Financial-Responsibility Test has been criticized over the years. However this is not the place to pass judgment on the feds. The point to take away is that under the consistent application of a methodology, we come out looking bad yet again.


Posted on March 20, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, March 19, 2017



The Airport on the Hill

The charm of Saint Barth’s is preserved in part because landing here is far from charming. No mass-tourism 747’s on this runway, that’s for sure. The local guidebooks note that pilots must have special training before they may take a plane into Gustavia. Watch why:

The stronger the wind on a given day, the steeper and faster a pilot’s approach must be. I am grateful for the professionalism of the young woman flying our Winair plane.

Addendum: The 60 frames/second speed of my iPhone 7’s video capture makes the plane’s props look at times as if they are barely turning. Not so.

Addendum: For readers interested in my whale-related adventures (here, here and here), there were no whales visible in Saint Barth’s this week, but each time I went freediving below a depth of 40 feet (where sound is not disrupted by surface turbulence — think of calling to someone on a windy day) at the mouth of the Plage de Gouverneur and the Plage de Grande Saline this past Tuesday and Wednesday, I could clearly hear male humpback whales singing to females in their usual courting ritual (though some scientists dispute that this is what is occurring). Saint Barth’s is on a migration route for humpbacks.

Addendum: There is no truth to the rumor that Phil Hanlon wants to take the wonderful, intimate jewel that is Saint Barth’s today and transform it into a resort for mass tourism by building huge, international hotels and even opening an energy institute. Nobody could be so foolish as to alter something that is small and much loved in order to chase after prestige in emulation of huge vacation destinations.


Posted on March 19, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, March 18, 2017



Top Ten Tuck in U.S. News

Tuck seems to have cemented its position among the Top Ten business schools in the 2017 U.S. News ranking:

Top Ten Tuck Core 2017A.jpg

Its classification, based on the above objective metrics, is also reflected in the opinions of peers and recruiters:

Top Ten Tuck 2017.jpg

Addendum: Poets & Quants summarizes U.S. News’ ranking methodology:

The methodology takes into account a wealth of proprietary and school-supplied data to crank out its annual ranking of the best full-time MBA programs. The magazine does its own peer assessment survey of B-school deans and MBA directors (25% of the score). It also does its own survey of corporate recruiters (accounting for 15% of the overall ranking). U.S. News said it averaged the recruiter scores over the past three years for the ranking. The magazine reported a 43% response rate for the peer survey but none for the mashup of recruiter polls.

Other metrics included in the ranking are starting salaries and bonuses (14%), employment rates at and three months after graduation (7% to 14%, respectively), student GMATs and GREs scores (about 16%), undergrad GPAs (about 8%), and the percentage of applicants who are accepted to a school (a little over 1%). This is the fifth year U.S. News included GRE scores in its ranking methodology.

Addendum: Business Insider ranked Tuck #8, too, in its feature on The 20 Best Business Schools in America.


Posted on March 18, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, March 17, 2017



The World of Fundraising

The stock market sets new records more often than not these days, income inequality reaches unprecedented heights (and with it some people have even more guilt to expiate), and heaven knows that many wealthy alumni families have kids coming up to college age — so fundraising must be a snap now for colleges and universities, right? Well, for some schools it is:

USC Capital Campaign Comp.jpg

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that USC was original in its campaign strategy:

When the University of Southern California announced its current capital campaign back in 2011, the fundraising world gasped. The private research institution’s goal of $6 billion was unprecedented and audacious. Furthermore, the Campaign for USC broke the rules of big drives: It went public after a short quiet phase, with less than 20 percent of its goal raised, about half as much as in most campaigns.

The risks, however, are paying off. It’s on track to raise $6 billion 18 months ahead of schedule, says Albert Checcio, USC’s senior vice president for university advancement. More than 322,000 donors have contributed, and only a third are alumni. [Emphasis added]

And how is Phil Hanlon, our fundraiser-in-chief, doing? Word around campus is that the next capital campaign (“All in for Dartmouth” — ugh) will seek to raise $2.5 billion (the last campaign netted $1.3 billion). To be fair, that’s a pretty good goal: the College has 4,310 undergraduate students (6,381 including post-grads), whereas USC has 18,740 undergrads (42,469 including post-grads): USC raised 2.4 times what we are going to try to raise, even though their undergraduate student body is 4.3 times as large as ours.

That said, Phil will have been President for four years in June, and we are still in the (very) quiet phase of the long-bruited-about capital campaign. Are we looking to have $500 million in the kitty (20% of the goal) or a round $1.0 billion (40%) before the gala announcement? Either way, the kickoff has been a long time coming. Is there something wrong? Do big donors think that Phil is an uninspired and uninspiring leader? Do you?

Addendum: Calculating total giving in a campaign is an art in itself. Some schools count only giving to the campaign; others cumulate every lil’ thing, like the annual alumni fund and grants, etc. Needless to say, our Trustees have already decided to throw everything possible into the pot. Typical.


Posted on March 17, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, March 16, 2017



Athletics: As Ye Shall Sow

The Brown Daily Herald reports on the relative investment that the Ivy schools make in recruiting varsity athletes. We spend less than everyone except for Penn and Brown:

Ivy League Recruiting Expenses 2015.jpg

Is there a correlation between spending and performance? Look at how well teams from top-spenders Princeton and Harvard do year in and year out:

Ivy Finshes.jpg

The total Dartmouth College budget for the coming year will be just shy of a billion dollars. Too bad we can’t come up with a few hundred thousand smackeroos to recruit as seriously as the big guys.

Addendum: It goes without saying that spending on recruiting is probably just the tip of the iceberg of advantages the HYP have in athletics spending. But, please, don’t tell me that Dartmouth couldn’t cut waste in any number of areas in order to fund our athletics programs at the same level as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. After all, athletics is not even 3% of the College’s total annual expenses — as we shall show in a post next week.


Posted on March 16, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, March 15, 2017



The Left and Right Agree on Free Speech

Two of our finest men of letters have issued a call for free speech and the respectful toleration of others’ ideas. Cornel West, the Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy in the Divinity School and the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard; and Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, have published an on-line petition that merits your attention.

The petition’s first signatory was Allison Stanger, the Russell J. Leng ‘60 Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury, who was concussed and had her neck injured by violent students protesting Charles Murray’s visit to her school.

Let’s hope that the Middlebury incident represents a high water mark in the sad series of intolerant protests by college students opposed to the ideas advanced by visiting speakers.

Addendum: As I have noted, both Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos spoke and performed, respectively, at the College without incident within the last year.

Addendum: Inside Higher Ed reports that the petition has received “thousands” of signatures.

Addendum: A Dartmouth professor writes in:

I read the March 15 piece on the Left and Right Agree on Free Speech that points to a public statement by Professors George and West, posted on Princeton’s James Madison Program, and then went to that letter, read it and perused the list of signatories. Unless I missed the few of them, conspicuously absent from the long list are professors in program such as women studies, gender studies, and environmental studies, people we might generally associate with activism. Doesn’t this tell us something?


Posted on March 15, 2017 5:38 PM. Permalink



The Human Touch

I am not the only alumnus who can’t abide Phil’s inability to celebrate the achievements great and small of students. It is, sir, as I have said, a small College, so there is no reason to miss out on those person-to-person moments that mean a great deal to undergraduates and to the community (I’m thinking of Abbey and Kyle here).

On that theme, an alumnus has written in to comment on a brief note that he received from President John Sloan Dickey (President of the College from 1945-1970) after his last game as a senior on the football team. (I have brushed out his name in the salutation.) That my correspondent has kept the note lo these many years speaks to the impact that a President can have on students:

JSD Note Comp1.jpg

He reports:

At the end of fall term my senior year, after having played football at D for four seasons, I found the attached, hand-written personal note from President Dickey in my Hinman Box. I was both stunned and elated. What better example of why my decision to attend Dartmouth over Harvard was a wise one. Can you imagine this busy man taking the time to do something like this?

And I am sure the gesture was not singular. There were 15-odd other seniors who, no doubt, also received such a missive. And who knows what other sports team members as well? And note his comment about watching us at practice. Off and on someone would say from the practice field: Look up! There’s JSD on the hill. And sure enough, there he was taking a few moments out of his day to give us his moral support.

I have kept it all these years because of how very special this personal note is to me. And it was not dictated and typed by his staff for his signature, but hand written (with the informality of a red ballpoint no less) in Dickey’s distinctive style (as reflected on our diplomas).

Perhaps at big research universities the President is a distant and august figure, but that state of affairs should not be the case at Dartmouth.

Addendum: An alumnus from the same era writes in:

And I, as one of the student managers of the football team, can attest to Dickey’s attendance at practice on Chase Field. Frequently he would walk there with his dog, chat with those of us who could take a minute to visit, and then move on to his next stop. As I get older, it becomes a more special time on which to dwell. One of those that wets the eyes with the memory, even though as senior manager I don’t recall getting such a note, which is OK. I just enjoyed my visits with him.


Posted on March 15, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, March 14, 2017



All in the Family: CIO Alice Ruth ‘83

Alice RuthA.jpgFollowing the departure of the College’s Chief Investment Officer Pam Peedin ‘89 (T ‘98) — who let it be known on November 9 that she would leave this June — the administration put together a search committee:

The College has hired executive search firm David Barrett Partners to assist with the search. Kimball, a founding general partner of the growth equity firm Technology Crossover Ventures, will chair the search committee and work with search committee members Trustee Beth Cogan Fascitelli ‘80 and Alice Ruth ‘83, both members of the board’s investment committee. [Emphasis added]

And today Dartmouth News announced the name of our new CIO: Alice Ruth ‘83. The College’s press release describes Ruth’s background as follows:

She comes to Dartmouth from Willett [Advisors], which, since its inception in 2010, has been the investment adviser for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Family Office and the Bloomberg Family Foundation. Prior to Willett, she served in the same capacity for Bloomberg at Quadrangle Group.

Before Quadrangle, she was chief investment officer for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, where she led and shaped a $6 billion portfolio. Prior to Moore, she spent 12 years at Montgomery Securities as a senior managing director and co-director of equity research. As a consumer stock analyst for Montgomery, Ruth was recognized a number of times by The Wall Street Journal and named by Institutional Investor’s as a “Home Run Hitter.” Ruth started her career at Morgan Stanley as an economic analyst, focused primarily on Federal Reserve and monetary policy.

The information that Dartmouth News did not give us is that ex-Trustee Diana Taylor ‘77 (2008-2016) is Mike Bloomberg’s partner, and that Ruth is not the first person to migrate from Willett Advisors to the College. You’d think that the Trustees would be up front about this kind of conflict of interest.

Beyond those facts, sources indicate the Phil Hanlon is so desperate to kick the stalled capital campaign into gear that he is currying favor with Michael Bloomberg by offering bolt holes to his ex-employees. Will favors like that help elicit a large donation? Who knows? But do you think that former New York Mayor Bloomberg, a legendary, no-nonsense, tough guy (#6 on the Forbes 400 with a net worth of $49.3 billion; #8 in the world) is going to be impressed by Phil?

Addendum: There appears to be a veritable pipeline from Willett Advisors to the College’s endowment office. Kelsey Morgan ‘02, T’08 spent 26 months with Willett before making his way to the College’s employ. At least a couple of other College staffers previously worked for Willett, too.

Addendum: The CIO position is usually the most highly paid position at the College. Here are the figures for the top earners in 2014 (click on the image to enlarge it):

Peedin Compensation 2014A.jpg

Addendum: According to Bloomberg News, Pam Peedin is now leaving the CIO position in April, rather than in June.

Addendum: Institutional Investor comments, ahem, on Alice Ruth’s hiring by the College:

Alice Ruth Institutional Investor.jpg


Posted on March 14, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, March 13, 2017



Tapper Wins Cronkite

Jake Tapper.jpgThe College’s 2017 Commencement speaker, Jake Tapper ‘91, has won a Cronkite Award. From a press release from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism:

With reporters, news media and even the truth under assault, the winners of the 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism demonstrate that the legacy of the longtime CBS anchor is alive and well.

Given biennially since Cronkite first presented them in 2001, the prizes were announced today by the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which administers the award.

At the awards event in 2005, Cronkite warned that “it’s going to be, to a large degree, up to us in television and radio, in broadcasting” to equip Americans “to perform the act of intelligently selecting our leaders…. If we fail at that, our democracy, our republic is, I think, in serious danger.”

Tapper’s commendation:

Jake Tapper (CNN) wins for his fearless advocacy for the truth throughout the election cycle. Jurors said his interviewing “relentlessness” held officials to account and equipped voters with valuable information about the candidates. Forceful when necessary, refusing to let candidates slip away from important questions, he was praised for “his tenacious commitment to sorting fact from fiction, a quality essential to journalism.”

Addendum: Watch the clip that was cited by the Annenberg School judges as the basis for Tapper’s award:


Posted on March 13, 2017 7:00 PM. Permalink



Digging for a Story

Woodward and Bernstein.jpgIf The D is not to go the way of the snow sculpture, the paper will have to up its game. The folks there just don’t dig into what is going on at the College; and heaven knows, at least if this space is the judge, there is a lot to write about. Part of the problem is the editors’ attitude — why offend the administrators who will write your law school recommendations? — and part is just plain skills — how many gritty, incisive investigative journalists does the paper have on its staff?

Fortunately a solution to the latter problem has presented itself. This spring English Professor Jeff Sharlet will be offering a course, English 84, Intermediate Creative Nonfiction, that focuses on the history and techniques of investigative journalism.

Sharlet is more than accomplished. We have noted in past posts his April cover story in the New York Times Magazine (Donald Trump, American Preacher), his NYT obituary for Pete Seeger (He wanted everyone to sing along); and his Rolling Stone profile of Cornel West (The Supreme Love and Revolutionary Funk of Dr. Cornel West). Of greater consequence are his impactful investigative pieces: Straight Man’s Burden in Harper’s, which was instrumental in blocking Uganda’s so-called “Kill-the-Gays” bill, and The Invisible Man, from GQ, which is the only leak to date concerning police body cams.

In addition to several fine books (we wrote about Sweet Heaven When I Die), Sharlet’s work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, Esquire, Mother Jones, Lapham’s Quarterly, and other national publications — leading to honors that include the National Magazine Award for Reporting, the Molly Ivins National Journalism Prize, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Outspoken Award. Needless to say, his finest accomplishment was to merit an entry in Dartblog’s Official Guide to the Stars.

Here is the thumbnail course description from the syllabus of this spring’s iteration of English 84:

The Art of Investigative Journalism” is a creative writing workshop in the mutant genre known variously as creative nonfiction, literary journalism, the lyric essay, documentary prose, and simply “longform”—stories rooted in fact, told with techniques borrowed from fiction, poetry, and visual mediums. In this course, we’ll consider the genre’s investigative tradition as it intersects with the questions of storytelling that distinguish creative nonfiction from conventional journalism. How do we tell stories that may be concealed, overlooked, or misrepresented? Why do we do so? What is the role of empathy in investigative journalism? What are the relationships between fact, “information,” and story? We’ll also consider practical questions of research, sources, ethics, and the aesthetic challenges of fact checking as we seek inspiration for our own creative works of investigative journalism, drawn not from national or international events but from the everyday of our lives. Our emphasis is on narrative, not breaking news, so in our reading we’ll interpret “investigative journalism” generously, looking well beyond the term’s traditional canon. Possible texts may include The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin; Praying for Sheetrock, by Melissa Faye Green; Evicted, by Matthew Desmond; and recent writing by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Shane Bauer, Kathryn Joyce, Michelle Garcia, Jeanne Marie Laskas, Sarah Stillman, and others.

The course is by application only; space will be offered on a rolling basis. To apply, e-mail Jeffrey.Sharlet@Dartmouth.edu before the first day of the spring term. Include your major, a description of previous writing experience in the creative writing program and elsewhere, and a writing sample.

Any serious student journalist should take this course. Mother Dartmouth needs you to do so.


Posted on March 13, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, March 12, 2017



Saint Barthélemy: The Best of France

Dartblog’s world headquarters has moved to Saint Barthélemy for ten days. No whales here, but that lacuna is compensated for by the graciousness and refined French culture of the people on this island. Imagine the best of Paris in the Caribbean or la Côte d’Azur aux Caraïbes, if you will:

Eden Rock.jpg

Perhaps the clearest sign of the wealth here is the wine selection at the local Marché U. Nowhere else in the world (and I’ve looked) can one find such a range of extraordinary wines in a supermarket. We’ve written about wines from Domaine Jacques Selosse in the past. Back in France the waiting list for these unique Champagnes is closed, but in Saint Barth’s one can buy them off the rack — though the manager limits people to a few bottles each. He routinely denies requests to buy his entire stock:

Selosse Marche U1.jpg

The island has no water of its own, so it has been at best sparsely inhabited over the centuries. Today Saint Barth’s all-immigrant population is mercifully free of the simmering racial tensions that mark other Caribbean islands.

Addendum: The Euro is the currency of choice here, and the best one can say about prices is that Saint Barth’s is less expensive than Paris.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

My wife and I have visited St. Barths numerous times … but not for 20 or so years. When we first went there 40 years ago, farmers would drive their cattle down an empty Saline beach and Cheeseburger in Paradise had not yet been written. I understand that the mega-yachts are now rife in Gustavia harbor over Christmas week. I think I prefer it like it was back then when things were simpler but just as French.


Posted on March 12, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, March 11, 2017



Our Most Famous Female Runner?

The competition, if we have to have one, is close between Rio’s hero Abbey D’Agostino ‘14 and Alexi Pappas ‘12, whom we profiled when her movie TrackTown was completed (Alexi ran for Greece in the Rio Olympics). Variety now reports that Tracktown is scheduled for a wide public release:

Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films have acquired the worldwide rights to “Tracktown,” the feature film debut of Olympian Alexi Pappas, with plans for a May 12 release in theaters and VOD.

Pappas competed for Greece at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in the women’s 10,000 meters final and finished 17th. She stars in the movie as a lonely distance runner as she prepares for the Olympic Trials. When she’s temporarily sidelined by an injury, she wanders into a bakery and catches the eye of an aimless boy, played by Chase Offerle.

Tracktown Poster.jpg


Posted on March 11, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink



A Fine for Sending Postcards

We’ve already reported on a research faux pas on the part of Government Professor Kyle Dropp. He and Stanford political scientists Adam Bonica and Jonathan Rodden sent a mailing to 100,000 residents of Montana asking them to evaluate the political leanings of judges up for election to the state’s Supreme Court. It was all an experiment, but in trying to discern the impact of information in an election, they broke a few rules. The result:

Political Postcards Fine.jpg

Ooops.


Posted on March 11, 2017 3:59 AM. Permalink

Friday, March 10, 2017



Michael Beechert’s Guide to the Stars: Physics Professor Ryan Hickox

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

Ryan HickoxA.jpgRyan Hickox is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy. As an observational astrophysicist, he focuses the majority of his considerable energies on questions relating to supermassive black holes and how they affect the evolution of galaxies. The combination of Hickox’s research output, teaching prowess, and engagement in the Dartmouth community is particularly remarkable considering the fact that he has not (yet) received tenure.

After obtaining his B.S. in Physics magna cum laude from Yale in 2000, Hickox completed a two-year teaching fellowship at a boarding school in England, where he was a physics instructor, a rugby coach, and a residential advisor. With scholastic life having perhaps planted a seed in his mind, Hickox went on to Harvard for his Ph.D., which he completed in 2007. He remained in Cambridge for the next two years in order to work at the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory; in 2009, he moved back across the pond to Durham University to assume a position as a postdoctoral fellow. Hickox then joined the Dartmouth faculty in 2011, where he has been ever since.

Hickox has been an extraordinarily productive researcher during his relatively short time as a member of the professional physics community. His 108 authored or co-authored articles (generating an h-index of 38 and a citation count of 4706) would be notable for someone with decades of experience; for a scholar as young as Hickox, such statistics are particularly impressive. If the numeric trends are any indication, Hickox has an extremely bright career ahead of him — his yearly citation count rose from 726 in 2014 to 916 in 2015 and 1147 in 2016. The dollar signs are there as well. In 2016, Hickox received a highly competitive $672,000 grant from the NSF to fund his research group and support an outreach program that brings scientists into classrooms by video chat.

Hickox researches areas that stupefy the mind and leave one feeling, for lack of a better word, insignificant. At the center of virtually every large galaxy in the known universe there exists a black hole, which is a celestial object so massive and so dense that it warps space-time in such a way as to not allow anything, even light, to escape from its sphere of influence. “Smaller” black holes have a mass measuring tens of times that of our Sun, but those at the center of galaxies are incomprehensively huge. With masses that reach billions and billions of Suns, these monsters are so influential that they, in fact, as Hickox has explored, affect the behavior of entire galaxies, which themselves can stretch hundreds of thousands of light-years across.

Galaxies, which initially assume the form of a disk, are born when normal matter cools, falls into the center of “halos” of dark matter, and condenses to produce stars. As disk-shaped galaxies grow, they can collide with one another to create even larger galaxies. These mergers can produce a “bulge” at the center of a galaxy so that it begins to look less like a disk and more like an ellipse. In theory, galaxies with a bulge should continue to produce stars much like they did when they were younger and disk-shaped. In fact, star formation often stops at this point, causing a galaxy to “die.” This course of events has vexed astronomers for decades.

As Hickox’s work has helped demonstrate, the explanation for the dying-galaxy phenomenon may well rest with supermassive black holes. Black holes at the centers of galaxies accrete mass by pulling in surrounding interstellar material. When they do so, tremendous energy can be released as radiation or energetic outflows that move near the speed of light. Hickox and his colleagues have theorized that this release of energy can stop star formation by expelling the gaseous ingredients for a star from the galaxy altogether or by heating them to a point where they are not able to condense.

This is only part of the picture, though — as Hickox’s group demonstrated in 2014, black hole activity can also occur with star formation. As it turns out, black holes flicker on and off at random in the figurative blink of a galactic eye (which, for us, measures millions of years). Observational data as gathered from instruments like the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which Hickox has personally used since his days in graduate school, have provided strong evidence that these breakthroughs are on the right track.

Hickox does more than enough to keep himself occupied when he’s not churning out valuable research. By the end of this academic year, he will have taught five different courses to Dartmouth students - Habitable Planets, Galaxies and Cosmology, Stars and the Milky Way, Observational Cosmology, and Exploring the Universe, the last of which is often an undergraduate’s introduction to the College’s physics and astronomy offerings.

Advising and community are moreover extremely important to Hickox, who currently has four undergraduates in his research group. He has also received an appointment as House Professor for West House until 2019 with the possibility of serving a second term that would last until 2023. Hickox, whose experiences at Yale, Harvard, and Durham led him to value the positive impact that cohesive residential communities can have on students, is optimistic about the future of Dartmouth’s house system:

…What we’re aiming to build in West House: a community in which those spontaneous interactions between faculty, students, and staff allow everyone to learn from each other’s diverse interests, talents, and backgrounds…. I see a real opportunity for the Houses to be an important vehicle through which Dartmouth further enhances its position as a leader in offering a vibrant intellectual experience for its undergraduates.

Let’s hope Professor Hickox is right, and let’s hope that he remains in Hanover a long, long time.

Addendum: You can hear Professor Hickox speak today from 3:30-4:30 pm in Wilder 104. His lecture, titled “The Hidden Monsters: New Windows on the Cosmic Evolution of Supermassive Black Holes,” is geared towards a general audience.

Addendum: Professor Hickox also participated in the “Pulsars and Quasars” episode of the History Channel series, “The Universe,” in 2009. If you’re into astronomy, watch the whole thing, but Hickox’s appearances begin after the 26:30 mark:


Posted on March 10, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, March 9, 2017



Tillman Gerngross Speaks

In a recent post, we recommended that people attend Tillman Gerngross’ Presidential Lecture. In case you did not follow our recommendation — how could you? — here is his presentation:

What an extraordinary man. Worth an hour of your time, to be sure.


Posted on March 9, 2017 10:29 PM. Permalink



Dartmouth Daycare (Chapter n)

Daniel Webster Men Quote Comp.jpg

Even though pedagogical literature talks about the importance of students learning grit, resilience and mental toughness — and with Dartmouth varsity coaches asking the very best of their charges — some parts of the College administration believe that coddling and gentle caring are vital features of education at an institution of higher learning. No need to push the little darlings. After all, they might feel bad:

Dartmouth Wellness 2017A.jpg

Such an event is important, at least for undergraduates who will one day become overweening daycare providers, or worse still, administrators in a bloated university administration. A cute puppy? Stress balls? Candy? All that is missing is stuffed animals and a doll house.

And to think that we pay administration staffers real money to put on these events, instead of using their part of the budget to hire brilliant young professors.

As Daniel Webster might say, God help us.

Addendum: The rot is not limited to the College. It turns out that even the Yale Law School has a therapy dog. No word yet on whether such comforts are also offered by major law firms.Note: a former Dartmouth professor now at Yales writes in to say, “The law school therapy dog died in the snow storm a few weeks ago.” My source believes that the pup went to the great beyond when “he drowned, running out on a snow-covered, but not-fully-frozen lake.”


Posted on March 9, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, March 8, 2017



Middlebury’s Shame and Redemption?

As has been widely reported, a number of students at Middlebury embarrassed themselves by preventing scholar Charles Murray from speaking at their school. They later violently rocked his car, and then went so far as to injure the Middlebury professor who was to question Murray and moderate a Q&A following Murray’s remarks. The attached video is a model example of a kind of intolerance that exists on too many campuses today:

To Dartmouth’s credit, Murray spoke unimpeded at the College on April 28, 2016. For reasons of its own, The D chose not report on his talk.

Subsequently, Middlebury’s President Laurie Patton has come out forcefully against the behavior of her students (compare and contrast Phil Hanlon’s non-action after the BLM library invasion), and more significantly two professors at Middlebury, Professor of English and Creative Writing Jay Parini and Professor of Political Science Keegan Callanan, have drafted a Statement of Principle that is their take on the rules of intellectual decorum and give and take that should govern life at that school. Parini taught at Dartmouth from 1975-1982; he moved to Middlebury in the latter year:

Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.

Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.

The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.

The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.

Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.

Students have the right to challenge and even to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.

A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.

No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.

No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.

The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.

The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.

The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.

A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.

All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter.

We are steadfast in our purpose to provide all current and future students an education on this model, and we encourage our colleagues at colleges across the country to do the same.

To date, 62 Middlebury professors have endorsed the Statement of Principle. (Middlebury has 283 full-time and 58 part-time faculty members.)

The Hanlon administration would do well to support such a cogent set of ideas, and then back up that endorsement with enforcement the next time students seek to impede the free exchange of ideas at the College.

Addendum: Murray offers his own description and analysis of the events that befell him in an archly titled essay: Reflections on the Revolution in Middlebury. His conclusion:

It will take some time for me to be dispassionate. If you promise to bear that in mind, I will say what I’m thinking and rely on you to discount it appropriately: What happened last Thursday has the potential to be a disaster for American liberal education.


Posted on March 8, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, March 7, 2017



Which Way You Goin’ Billy?

Winter 2017.jpgThe thing about outgoing Board of Trustees Chair Bill Helman ‘80 is that he understands what ails the College. More than any other Trustee in recent decades, he has been out and about on campus talking to faculty, staff, students, and even the occasional alumnus blogger in order to take the temperature of the place. He knows the level of discontent with Phil Hanlon. The waste. The poor management. The weak people in highly paid positions. But he never could do anything about it — though it is not impossible to imagine that behind the scenes he averted decisions that would have hurt the College even more than the current disastrous policies. Now there’s a scary thought.

In any event, as he ends his term as Chair, Helman is offering the campus a chance to pick his brain — at a time when almost no students will be here:

Helman Town Hall.jpg

The original Town Hall meeting — part of a series of ongoing events hosted by EVP Rick Mills — was scheduled for March 8, when everyone would have been in Hanover. By March 15, almost all undergraduate students will have hit the road.

I would have hoped for better.

Addendum: In his day job, Helman was a successful venture capitalist at Greylock Partners. The old joke in the VC world is that it takes five elements to constitute a good company: a product, a market, the people, the people, the people. In other words, VC’s must be good judges of character. And yet Helman led the search committee that chose Phil Hanlon — ostensibly the fourth choice for the Dartmouth Presidency. How is that possible? Would Bill Helman have chosen Phil Hanlon to run a startup, or a division of Ford Motor company, where he is a Director?


Posted on March 7, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, March 6, 2017



College Corrects Admissions % Drop

As we noted in this morning’s post, “A drop in applicants from either 20,675 or 20,676 students to 20,021 is a drop of 3.2%, not 2.6%.” The College agrees with us:

Admissions Drop Lawrence.jpg

Dartmouth News Applicants Revised Comp.jpg


Posted on March 6, 2017 8:00 PM. Permalink



Cost of the College Up 2.9%

Last week I wrote:

My bet is that tuition, room and board, and fees will rise by 2.5%-3.0% — even though the HEPI and CPI were stable at less than 2% and 1% respectively. We’ll probably go from $66,174 to a figure in the area of $68,000.

Today the administration announced:

The trustees approved a 2.9 percent increase in undergraduate tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board for the 2017-18 academic year. Undergraduate tuition will be $51,468, an increase of $1,470 over the current year’s tuition rate. Total tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees next year will increase to $68,109. The increase is consistent with the 2014 rate, which was the lowest percentage increase in tuition since 1977 and reflects Hanlon’s strategy to slow the growth of the cost of a Dartmouth education.

The Labor Department’s most recent price calculation has the Consumer Price Index rising by 1.2%.

So Phil has the cost of a Dartmouth education rising by almost two and a half times the CPI, and the College’s press release applauds “Hanlon’s strategy to slow the growth of the cost of a Dartmouth education.” Sheesh.

Addendum: In a not-unrelated development, the Trustees made no announcement at their meeting this past weekend about the capital campaign.


Posted on March 6, 2017 1:45 PM. Permalink



Applications Fall 3.2%, Not 2.6%

The gang that can’t shoot straight also can’t count. The other day this space reported that applications for the Class of 2021 (already widely acknowledged to be the worst class ever) fell by 2.6%. We were quoting from a Dartmouth News press release, and to our everlasting shame, we did not check the administration’s math:

Applications 2017 Dartmouth News Comp.jpg

The press release noted that 20,021 students had applied for admission — and it did not specifically cite how many people had applied the previous year. However in its prior-year release, Dartmouth News had the figure at 20,675:

Dartmouth News Applicants Comp1.jpg

The Dartmouth FactBook comes close to confirming this figure; at the present time it notes that 20,676 students applied for admission to the Class of 2020:

OIR Applicants.jpg

A drop in applicants from either 20,675 or 20,676 students to 20,021 is a drop of 3.2%, not 2.6%.

But hey, if all of the other Ivies are up, as I expect that they will be when they announce their numbers (right now applications are up at Yale by 4.6%, at Penn by 3.8% and Harvard by 1.2%), who really cares if our applications fell by 3.2% or 2.6%. The figure is an embarrassment any way you calculate it.

Addendum: Are the Trustees listening? We are heading fast to the Ivy basement. It’s time to make a change.

Addendum: Note in the screenshots above that the College announced the total number of applicants last year on March 31; it did so this year on March 2. I wonder why? One hypothesis: given that most of the Ivies have not released their figures, it is harder to make unflattering comparisons. (Have no fear. We will do so when the numbers are released.)

Addendum: A alumnus/parent writes in:

A drop in applications is what promoting “diversity” and “special institutes” over excellence and a focus on undergraduate teaching does — alienates those who may not see themselves as “diverse” or “diverse enough,” while trying to attract those, particularly international students, who may desire more urban environments over Hanover.

As someone with high school and college age children (one of whom is a student at the College and absolutely loves it, as I did!; another one is now bound for a great southern school), I can state firsthand that numerous peers and admissions counselors view Dartmouth as changing its admissions criteria to the point where “typical” kids — those without an athletic or some other special “hook,” including those who are not deemed “diverse enough” — have a more limited chance of gaining acceptance given the small size of the school and its Ivy status than they might encounter at its competitor schools (i.e. vs. other Ivies, Williams, Amherst, now Tufts, Duke, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Georgetown, etc.)

To be more specific, as an alumnus and current parent, I routinely have been asked what the admissions rate is for non-minority, non-international, non-athlete applicants (obviously have no clue) — the implication being that Dartmouth actually may be one of the most competitive schools in the country with respect to admissions for an applicant who does not fall into one of those “special” or “unique” categories (do athletes alone take up 180-200 spots?).

Hence, it’s no surprise that some segment of the “majority” is beginning to conclude that there is little point spending time, money and effort on applying to the smallest Ivy in a relatively remote location where the focus on diversity and a stated strategy veering away from its focus on undergraduate education has overtaken that which has made Dartmouth so special for nearly 250 years. I’ll leave it to you to weigh in on whether Moving Dartmouth Forward and things like the incongruous “Energy Institute” have exacerbated rather than mitigated the challenge.

At some point the College needs to realize that the answer rests right under its proverbial nose — espouse Dartmouth as THE best college for undergraduate teaching in the world, essentially Williams but with many times the size and resources. Otherwise, we are at risk of becoming “Brand X” sold only in a remote location, destined to be crushed by superior competitors with better marketing and a better product. Of course, even commenting on the deleterious effects of over-hyping an overt effort to further change the make-up of the student body will seem politically incorrect.

How ironic is it that against this backdrop Dartmouth will soon be launching a $2.5 billion capital campaign seeking major support from the very people the College has been alienating for the past 5-10+ years?!

At what point do all colleges realize that it’s time to embrace excellence and passion first, and stop discriminating against any class of applicants or students based on ethnicity, nationality, athletic prowess (or lack thereof), etc.? We are about to see whether those who otherwise would have said “in” for a major capital campaign instead “vote with their dollars” and decline or reduce their commitments, as the College they see now is not that which appropriately continues to evolve and build off a great foundation, but rather is that which seeks to alter that foundation to the point where any semblance of Dartmouth’s inherent uniqueness could be destroyed.


Posted on March 6, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink