A student describes the true cost of “dining” at DDS:
My perspective of the meal swipes is they are expensive and designed to incentivize people to go to foco [‘53 Commons or Thayer Dining Hall to the older set]. If you don’t like foco, you lose money. On the 5-meal plan, which is the least number of meal swipes you can have on campus, each swipe costs $14.90. The only place it is worth more than $14.90 is at foco from 4:00-8:30, where it is worth $14.95. So if you use all 50 of them at foco for dinner, you will save $2.50 the entire term. It’s laughable.
Anyways, by eating at either the Hop or Collis, you lose money. The meal swipe is worth the most at dinner, only $10.00. A burger with bacon and fries is $13.41. So the meal swipe for which we paid $14.90 only covers $10.00, and the remaining $3.41 gets added on top for a total of $18.31. For a burger!
It is even worse if you go at lunch or late night. The meal swipe is worth less than $6.00 after 8:30, so the total for the burger using the meal swipe is over $22.00.
One last point. at the meeting Plodzik pitched the unlimited plan as a great value. The example he used was that he could tell parents they don’t have to worry about their kids being able to eat, so the implication is it is really valuable, especially for families that aren’t high income.
First of all, no one has ever been turned away from getting food, even if they are out of DBA and meal swipes because it just gets charged to their account (not to mention all the free food offered at daily campus events). Second, the unlimited plan would be the same as the 20-meal plan, which is the most expensive plan at $2,005.00/term — or over $28.00/day. I can promise you that I can feed myself for less than $28.00/day.
I could give you a hundred different examples like this, things that any rational person would think makes no sense. I think it is clear from talking with both Plodzik and the associate director that they are not going to make the meal plans optional, which is what I want (I asked them in the fall, and they said no).
So what do you think it would take for someone above DDS to force them to do that. Is it possible, and if so, who would it have to come from? So who would I have to talk to?
At the Student Assembly event, this student asked Jon Plodzik why he should have to wait an hour in line at the Hop, when he could get a burger for the same money at a restaurant in Hanover. Plodzik responded — if you can believe this — that at a restaurant in town, the student would probably have to wait an equivalent amount of time to be served. “So,” he asked, “what’s the difference?”
Dartmouth Dining Services director Jon Plodzik spoke to members of the Student Assembly and the College community last week concerning discontent with DDS. As we have reported, lines at Dartmouth dining facilities and other food service venues are endless, the food is mediocre, prices are through the roof compared to local eateries, and students are nickled and dimed endlessly (meal plans are mandatory for students whether they live on campus or not; dollar balances only partially roll over to subsequent terms, etc.). Needless to say the natives are restless.
Plodzik is an engaging guy, and if he is as strong a dining hall manager as he is a politician, we are in good hands. He endlessly diverted discussions from DDS’ real problems to talk about the larger community, shared commitment, the overall cost of a Dartmouth education, the importance of the capital campaign (if you can believe it) and the justice of paying a “living wage” to the DDS staff. Sheesh.
That said, in response to several specific questions from your humble servant, he did make good on his self-call for transparency.
— The DDS budget includes the State of New Hampshire taxes levied on the College’s dining facilities. Most states do not tax institutions of higher learning; NH does in an indirect way. Rather than levying taxes on an entire institution, the State uses a proxy: charging property tax on dining halls and dormitories. Plodzik confirmed that this levy is an integral part of the DDS budget. To my mind, this tax should fairly be budgeted to the College as a whole. The total amount of the tax paid to Hanover in 2017 was $7,347,278, of which a significant portion covered dining facilities. Students should not have these charges included in the cost of meal plans.
— As we reported several years ago, DDS makes a profit. That is, the amount of money that DDS takes in exceeds the cost of providing food to students. In the 2010/2011 year, that surplus was $1.3 million, a record profit about which then-DDS Director Dave Newlove boasted on his LinkedIn page. Plodzik confirmed that DDS still makes a profit, and he expects the amount to increase in the near term so that DDS can “contribute to the College” as part of the ongoing expense reallocation initiative. In other words, a DDS meal plan contains an element of undergraduate tuition, probably several million dollars.
— Plodzik previously worked for seventeen years at UNH, where he said students “loved” the dining service. He also noted that on average workers at DDS earned “$4-$5/hour more” than UNH workers — a premium of at least 30%, or many millions of dollars in the DDS budget. He went on and on about the “living wage” — which is a sympathetic argument, except for the fact that DDS workers earn far in excess of the living wage as indicated for Grafton County by the MIT Living Wage Calculator. As we have noted in the past, too, DDS wages and benefits are over double what comparable workers earn in the Upper Valley. As we calculated, a young couple with no more than high school diplomas who mop floors at DDS would earn more money than 72.5% of American households.
— The presence of the SEIU labor union ties Plodzik’s hands as regards managing people, he said. He has strong workers and others who, uh, give less than a full effort. But the union work rules prevent him from putting together a uniformly strong team and saving plenty of money in the process. Given the College’s wage and benefit levels, one would think that workers would be lining up to work for DDS, and therefore Plodzik could put together an ace squad. Not the case. Students pay a lot, and they don’t even get a crack group of employees for all that spending.
In short, a back-of-the-envelope calculation would have a good third of the DDS budget going to other goals than providing Dartmouth students with nutritious and delicious food at a reasonable price. My humble opinion is that the College dining services should be run to benefit students. Do you disagree? The administration sure does.
Addendum: Here is the Town of Hanover’s list of its top taxpayers. It’s not clear what percentage of the below amount comes from the College’s dining facilities and what comes from an assessment on dorms, but the amount is significant.
Addendum: Curiously enough, the D’s report contains almost none of the above information.
Addendum: The Student Assembly report on Jon Plodzik’s comments ignored all of the interesting bits, too. As Mark Felt told Woodward and Bernstein about the Watergate scandal: “Follow the money.” Here is the SA report:
Long after Phil Hanlon leaves the Hanover Plain, his legacy of poor administration could linger on in the form of a contentious campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Management gospel has it that leaders get the union that they deserve, and just as faux-avuncular Jim Wright found himself with a SEIU union among unhappy Hanover Inn employees, so now has Phil sown the seeds of a faculty rebellion (though not the kind that I had hoped for). Here is the AAUP announcement. It was distributed in papers placed on the chairs of faculty members at Monday’s faculty meeting:
Good for the group for roping in two members of the Economics Department. Bipartisanship lives in Hanover.
The AAUP’s first order of business was the closing of UPNE:
Can we expect a union of adjunct professors next? And then post-docs and grad students? Way to go Phil.
We noted the other day that VP for Advancement Bob Lasher’s salary went from $545,105 in 2015 to $646,678 in 2016. Who knows what happened in 2017 and in 2018? What we do know is that Bob is making a multiple of what he earned as the Deputy Museum Director of External Relations at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) before he came to Dartmouth in the middle of 2013.
In 2011 he earned $310,458 at SFMOMA:
And in 2012 he made the big leap to $315,944 — a raise of 1.77%:
What is Phil thinking in over-paying such a poor performer — especially when the same money could go to underpaid faculty members.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
The only logical explanation is that in the modern age of burgeoning bureaucracy where the incompetents are in charge of the treasury, especially when it is stocked with other people’s money, they will not only hire like minded colleagues but invariably over pay themselves and their underlings to the detriment of those who have earned and deserve better pay.
Machiavelli was right! What he did not factor into his equation was that those (read Trustees here) who were supposed to provide financial oversight too often remain passive in fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility. Perhaps it is out of fear they will have to admit they made a mistake in appointing a CEO (President). Oh how ego gets in the way of doing the right thing.
Hopefully with the arrival of Joe Helble on the scene some experience and common sense will now begin to change things for the better. Does the Provost have the authority to hire and fire? I certainly hope so.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
Due to cost of living difference between the Bay Area and Hanover, the raise Bob got was of a much bigger magnitude than raw numbers show. Bob’s salary in SF was barely enough to afford a decent home.
Email has been running entirely in favor of new Provost Joe Helble. An example:
I was very pleased to see your post announcing that Dean Helble has been appointed the next Provost! My first and only interaction with Joe Helble came soon after he started as dean at Thayer, during an engineering information session to prospective students. It was the middle of the summer, and I was visiting campus with my family during the summer before my senior year of high school. Due to some scheduling SNAFU, the person who typically did these sessions was away, and Joe Helble stepped in to give the session.
In addition to leading a very informative session, he stuck around for about 30 minutes after the session to answer prospective applicants’ questions. His excitement for what differentiated Thayer was palpable, and his interest in undergrads — prospective ones, at that! — was genuine. That was the moment that sealed for me that Dartmouth was serious about educating its undergraduates.
How exciting that someone who drives growth by focusing on strengths and who holds paramount the focus on undergraduate education will be in the Provost role. Sign of happier times ahead? I hope so.
My only concern about Joe’s appointment is that Dartmouth’s gain is the Thayer School of Engineering’s loss. Joe was driving Thayer forward in a determined way: better programs, higher quality faculty, improved facilities, the highest percentage of women in any engineering school, etc.
Let’s hope that as Provost Joe is able to choose his successor with a free hand (without tone-deaf-to-talent Phil Hanlon being involved), and that he keeps a close watch on Thayer from his new offices in Parkhurst.
Addendum: Everything I know about Phil Hanlon and governance at the College says that Joe Helble was not Phil’s pick. Wiser minds intervened here. Whoever you are (on the Board of Trustees), many thanks.
Addendum: A clued-in alumnus writes in:
Great news on new Provost. You are 100% correct. Yes, there are several Trustees who are finally taking an effective leadership role in the best short- and long-term interests of the College. It is clear that Phil is not making the decisions these days. It is about time.
Perhaps Joe Helble is now in line to be Interim President if not already our ‘shadow’ President… I doubt he would have taken the position without some understanding that he would have clear and unfettered authority to get the College back on track. That should inspire some much needed confidence among faculty, students and alumni.
My best guess is that Phil knows the handwriting is on the wall and he will fill out his position as the figurehead President through the conclusion of the Campaign, and then quietly head off into the sunset. N’est-ce pas?
The College’s highest paid employee in 2016? Not Phil. Or Pam Peedin, who managed the endowment. It was now-former Geisel Professor Elizabeth Teisberg, who received a $1,500,000 bonus in that year on top of her standard salary:
Teisberg is now a Full Professor at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.
Obviously there is a story here. Does anybody know it?
Addendum: Teisberg is the co-author with longtime Harvard strategy guru Michael Porter of Redefining Health Care and five other jointly written articles. In this video, she talks about the notion of value in health care delivery:
She refers to the health problems faced by her two children.
Monday’s meeting of the general faculty could hold some fireworks. A good number of professors are upset about the closure of UPNE, as well they should be. A college press is central to the academic mission of an institution:
The names on the list could be called the usual suspects — Dartmouth’s left wing, activist professors, but I say good for them, even if much of their politics seems unrealistic to me. Standing up for what is right is always to be applauded.
Now if only someone in the group could sponsor a no-confidence motion.
Addendum: Professor of Art History Mary Coffey’s name originally appeared in the document above that was distributed to the entire faculty along with other materials in preparation for Monday’s faculty meeting. She informs me, and the author of the petition has confirmed to me, that her name appeared there in error. I have removed it from the list.
Thayer Dean Joe Helble has been named by Phil to the Provost’s position. The College press release lists his achievements — and they are real, for a change — as the very active dean of Dartmouth’s School of Engineering:
During Helble’s tenure, the engineering school has seen a sharp increase in the percentage of engineering graduates who are women. In 2016, Dartmouth granted 52 percent of its undergraduate engineering degrees to women, making it the first national research university to award more bachelor’s degrees in engineering to women than to men. The national average is 20 percent.
At the same time, overall popularity of engineering at Dartmouth has also grown, with currently more than 70 percent of undergraduates enrolling in at least one engineering or computer science course. Unlike any other engineering school in the U.S., candidates for a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Dartmouth must also earn an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts, a requirement that has been in place for more than 50 years.
Says Helble, “a grounding in the liberal arts creates the context for understanding engineering problems and helps students learn to ask broader questions and develop deeper critical thinking skills.”
Under Helble’s leadership, engineering enrollment in Thayer’s undergraduate and PhD programs has doubled, and the school created the nation’s first doctoral-level engineering innovation program to address the growing need for people with high-level technical and entrepreneurial expertise.
Also new are exchange programs in Asia and Denmark; a modified major with public policy for those interested in careers in public service; summer design programs for middle and high school students interested in exploring engineering; short courses taught over winter break for Dartmouth and Thayer students interested in exploring a technology-focused topic; and a biomedical engineering sciences major for engineering students interested in attending medical school. Thayer has also seen research funding grow to record levels, and the number of tenure-track faculty has grown as well.
As provost, Helble will be positioned to ensure continuity in the west end development, where Dartmouth will integrate engineering, the computer science department, and the new Magnuson Family Center for Entrepreneurship, a new 160,000-square-foot facility.
When Joe was appointed to his fourth term as head of Thayer last summer, we suggested that he’d make a pretty good President of the College. I wonder if the audience was listening. It does not seem like Phil to have hired a gray-haired, heterosexual white man, but then maybe Phil did not make the decision.
Addendum: My mailbox has been full of positive comments on Joe Helble’s appointment from members of the faculty. In addition, a witty alumnus writes in:
If Phil wants to decrease the number of older, heterosexual white men in the College’s administration, I know exactly where he can start…
Expressions of support are a dime a dozen, but when senior people get big raises/bonuses, you have to think that the folks doling them out are sending the most positive message possible. So who merited hefty raises between calendar 2015 and 2016 at the College? If you guessed under-performers Phil Hanlon ‘77 and Bob Lasher ‘88, I think that you were peeking (or you are truly cynical).
Here’s what Dartmouth’s top administrators earned in 2015 (this table comes from IRS Form 990 that all non-profits must file each year):
President Hanlon took in a total of $1,251,216. And VP for Advancement Bob Lasher was paid $545,105.
And in 2016 Phil received $1,348,735. Lasher earned $646,678:
Phil’s increase of $97,519 (7.8%) contrasts favorably for Phil in comparison to the slim raise pool allocated to Dartmouth’s underpaid faculty. And Lasher’s jump of $101,573 (18.6%) came in the form of a bonus, as the Form 990 notes:
But the question we have to ask about both of these increases is: for what?
After close to five years in Hanover now, Phil’s campus is falling apart, the faculty is underpaid, the house system is the object of disdain by students (who happily drink hard alcohol in the dorms and elsewhere), and the capital campaign is only now getting off the ground. Bob Lasher is as responsible for the latter point as much as Phil. To take the measure of Bob, you but need to read this secret shopper report.
The satire involving Professor Ned LeBow and his encounter with humorless Merrimack Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies Simona Sharoni recalled for me the role of humor in the hiring process of Dartmouth’s excellent Economics department.
As I have heard from several Econ professors, the first set of interviews with outstanding candidates — the threshold test, if you will — has a single goal: to determine if the potential faculty member has a sense of humor. Why? Because professors who have the ability to laugh and not take themselves too seriously will be good colleagues, and they will also, in all likelihood, be good teachers.
And so it has come to pass in Silsby Hall that the faculty is to a man and woman engaging and menschlich. In fact, if Frans Hals were in Hanover for a visit, he might do a Baroque portrait called the Laughing Economist.
Once the humor hurdle has been passed, the members of the department look only at the quality of scholars’ research. An amusing academic who can think original thoughts and present them with the support of serious data will make a fine addition — as the College’s most popular department has shown time and again.
You see, the existence of a sense of humor on the part of an individual bespeaks self-confidence. Italy may have many faults, but how delightful it is that a women can freely say “Ciao, bello” to a man (“Hey, good lookin’”), just as a man may greet a woman with “Ciao, bella,” if he feels so moved. (My recommendation to Professor Sharoni is that she not go to Italy.) In fact, this salutation can either go across gender lines or remain between persons of the same gender. Nobody seems to feel the need to complain to the authorities.
Such self-confidence is a kind of buffer against misunderstanding and confusion. If one looks for humor in a remark, or simply asks for an explanation about a comment that was otherwise unintelligible, a whole lot of confusion can be avoided.
So, Professor Sharoni. Learn to laugh a little. But until you do, when Ned Lebow is hired for a job and you are passed over, you’ll know why.
Addendum: At the Yale Law School in my day, the faculty dining room, which was regularly used by students, had two large tables: at one, liberal Professor Paul Gewirtz often sat with his acolytes; at the other, you would find most of the students who founded the Federalist Society in their third year in New Haven. One table consistently showed evidence of an uproarious good time; the other was so somber that I once offered my condolences in the thought that the people there had lost someone very dear to them. I’ll leave you to guess which table was which.
Addendum: In the Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes a dispassionate look at l’Affaire LeBow: Is ‘Ladies Lingerie’ a Harmless Joke or Harassment? A dispute among international-relations scholars puts the spotlight on a system that serves everyone poorly.” One of his conclusions:
Each of the shortcomings that I flagged would require different reforms to address, but perhaps fall short of fully capturing the bigger problems that loom over disputes like this.
Foremost among them is the purpose of a professional community’s code of conduct: It ought to be language that clarifies shared, non-negotiable community standards. The ISA’s code of conduct is much more effective at evading the necessity of having to weigh, debate, or commit to any particular standards.
Should all jokes with any sexual innuendo be banned from ISA conferences? Sharoni thinks they already are. If a vote were taken, what would the results be? Do a majority of ISA members agree? What about a majority of women who belong to the ISA?
But at present you have a complainant who earnestly thinks such jokes are obviously verboten, a respondent who thinks that his joke was obviously acceptable, and standards that not only offer no help in adjudicating the matter, but that give no hint as to what the organization’s membership would want.
Little wonder that the case is roiling the community.
Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:
About Prof. LeBow. My son, a first year university student, rolling his eyes said, “Lebow should know that he’s at a ‘Triggerfest Conference’ and should adjust his comments accordingly.” My mom, on the other hand, who well remembers Ogilvy’s and Eaton’s department stores in Montreal (yes, with an apostrophe) and their elevator attendants, didn’t see what the fuss was all about and thought LeBow’s comment was funny. It was.
Erratum: Although I heard about hiring in Econ directly from professors there, the faculty members currently in charge of recruiting have written in with a correction:
Your description of the Economics Department’s hiring practices is incorrect: sense of humor is not a hiring criterion. In the first set of interviews, we evaluate candidates on their ability to describe and discuss their research agenda and their existing research. During the campus visit, we continue to evaluate the candidate’s research and potential as a teacher/scholar.
Erzo Luttmer, Chair of the Department of Economics Junior Recruitment Committee
Eric Edmonds, Chair of the Department of Economics Senior Recruitment Committee
I know I’m repeating myself here, but every time that I see evidence of the College’s extraordinary wealth — especially compared to Penn, Columbia, Brown and Cornell, I want to jump up and down and wave a red flag.
Unlike HYP and the College, of the four remaining poor sisters of the Ivies — Penn ($541,389/student), Columbia ($357,762/student), Brown ($346,005/student) and Cornell ($293,616/student) — only Penn makes it onto the Congressional Research Service’s endowment/student table.
Now let’s think about these figures in practical terms. Each year, the Ivy institutions draw out about 5% of the value of their endowments to help fund their operations. Let’s see how many endowment dollars/student each school is drawing in the current year:
Look at the relative position of the College. We can’t compete with HYP, but, for example, we have about $22,000/student more to spend this year than Brown ($39,120 vs.$17,300), yet we pay our faculty poorly, the entire College infrastructure is in bad shape, and dining services are over-priced and cause students to wait in line for ages (we will refrain from commenting on the food).
Will nobody do something about this state of affairs?
Last Monday’s faculty meeting barely achieved a quorum, and when Phil Hanlon began his remarks about ten minutes late (meetings, extraordinarily enough, usually start on time), he could have not been more wan. Our President realizes that he has long since outworn his welcome among the College’s professors; they know mediocrity when they see it. As Phil droned through his capital campaign talking points in a speech that anyone in the audience could have cut and pasted together for him from the College’s fundraising press releases (“Dartmouth’s profound sense of place”; “being a basecamp to the world”, “adventuresome spirit,” ad nauseum), you could see that he was just going through the motions.
Phil just doesn’t realize that among intellectuals you have to say something original to catch people’s attention — or perhaps he is not capable of doing so. At least, Jim Kim gave a good first speech, though once he had shot his bolt, it was hard to watch repeated evidence of his shallowness. But Phil doesn’t even try to make it interesting: he hoped to gin up enthusiasm by listing supposed fundraising successes, but try as he might to, for example, cite new construction in Hanover, everyone is fully aware that the recent report on enrollment growth condemned the poor state of the entire campus.
No applause at all were offered at the end of Phil’s presentation (in contrast to the almost-15-seconds of sustained clapping that Economics Professor Andrew Samwick, Chair of the Committee on Priorities, received) and no one rose to ask Phil a question:
Phil did let us know that admissions results would be strong again this year. Lee Coffin is working his magic, though between you and me, I think that Lee has turned us into a reach school, rather than a first choice place for people seeking a closer student/faculty relationship, or an institution that enrolls students who just didn’t quite make it to HYP.
Addendum: Phil commented that the Provost’s search is ongoing. Three finalists have been identified, and Phil will make his choice soon. What he did not say, but needs to be said, is that once again, as in the search for the Dean of the Faculty, straight white men need not apply. Even if they do, no matter the quality of their background, they won’t be accorded an interview.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
Sad commentary, indeed. If a picture is worth a thousand words than the view of so many empty chairs at the recent faculty meeting tells a very troubling story. What college or university can thrive in an environment so devoid of enthusiasm and fervor for the educational mission of their chosen place of employment? The short answer is it cannot due to a lack of committed and qualified leadership, little vision and the inability to motivate the remarkable teachers in their care. Clearly there is a need to find a leader who can and will lead, especially in light of the recent announcement that teaching leadership skills and producing the leaders of tomorrow is a major cornerstone of the now launched capital campaign.
Let’s follow that path to its logical conclusion and find a leader for today who will lead Dartmouth to a brighter future and fulfill that important mission. The true purpose of an education is to stimulate learning not to effect social change or pursue politically correct ideologies at the expense of true learning. Both the students and the faculty deserve no less.
It would be interesting to know what the motivation for attending this meeting was and was the audience an ever shrinking group of current policy supporters, unrepresentative of the faculty as a whole, or just curiosity seekers. Why did so many fail to attend? If widespread apathy has set in among the many dedicated and brilliant minds among Dartmouth’s faculty, where will the much needed energy to lead come from, and when?
Addendum: And another:
Maybe I’m missing something here, but those faculty meeting seats sure could be Phil’d (but wait: does that mean emptied?) if he announced ahead of time that he was going to present the report on those suspended profs that was almost-almost-almost ready how many months ago? [on February 21]
OK. I am not blameless here. Everyone who writes leaves in a typo or two (I am grateful to Dartblog’s Typo Team for keeping me on the straight and narrow), but for the College’s 22-person Communications staff and the various offices that put out announcements to make spelling mistakes that even an old-school spellchecker would catch (let alone a modern AI-driven one), well, that’s inexcusable:
Addendum: An alum who will soon be attending a clossy institution in Cambridge writes in:
I hope you feel a little better about Dartmouth’s spelling problem, when Harvard sent me a mea culpa email with, but of course, a spelling mistake (Sept. 4 below — looks like someone needs to go to English closs…).
The saga of Ned LeBow and his unfortunate interaction with Professor Simona Sharoni put me in mind of the contrasting agreeableness of good-hearted strangers sharing an amusing moment.
About a decade ago I was in Charleston, South Carolina for a trade show. I entered a hotel elevator with my wife, and on the following floor a young couple joined us. Several floors later, before we had reached the lobby level, the elevator door opened, and the young woman stepped forward. Her husband gently touched her arm, and said, “We’re not there yet.” She laughed, stepped back, and replied, “I always think it’s my floor.”
With studied tentativeness, I stage-whispered to her (and him), “You know, it’s not always about you.”
The husband looked over at me with a big smile and observed, “Uh, actually it is.”
All four of us laughed happily.
A few floors later we reached the ground floor and went out again into the world.
What a lovely, shared interlude between people who had never seen each other before and would never do so again. My spoken line was a bit of a trope, like Ned LeBow’s. Nothing serious. Nothing aggressive. Just an effort at a bit of fun that succeeded wonderfully.
How nice it is to live in a world where certain strangers always look on the bright side of life. Precisely the opposite of the pinched, bitter attitude that seemed to animate Merrimack University Professor Simona Sharoni at the ISA conference.
As I noted the other day, Simona Sharoni has a PhD in conflict resolution. In her interaction with Ned LeBow, was she thinking to resolve a potential conflict?
Or was she too slow-witted to respond to LeBow’s “ladies lingerie” witticism with a rival comment of her own? What if she had said in reply, “Next floor, men’s bikini briefs.” I expect that the occupants of the elevator would all have laughed out loud, too.
But no. Professor Sharoni seems animated by a different set of values and attitudes. She behaved as if she were a person who sees grievances and slights wherever she can find them. Perhaps she’s had a hard life as a tenured professor at a Massachusetts university.
Whatever her background, Sharoni missed an opportunity to help a group of strangers share a moment of common humanity. Everyone could have enjoyed a joke and then gone their separate ways, rather than beginning an ugly conflict. I guess that certain people are burdened by the weight of past oppressions at all times.
My own experience in life is that folks in New England seem to carry with them such an attitude more often than elsewhere in the United States. In fact, when I read about the Lebow vignette, I immediately looked to see the background of the complainant. I was not wrong. In other parts of the country, particularly in the South, there’s a greater sense of camaraderie, one that often carries across age and race and gender.
When the rhetorical question is royally asked, ‘Why can’t we all just get along?’, the answer is that some people really have no interest in getting along. At all. What a shame.
Addendum: As another old joke goes:
A man turns to two female college professors and says “Did you hear the joke about the two feminists.”
And they answer simultaneously, “That’s not funny!!!”
Addendum: Jokes making light of men and women abound in the culture. We can laugh at them — and at ourselves — or choose not to do so. Would you have laughed at Paul Lynde on the Hollywood Squares?:
The wink here is that Lynde’s feigned misogyny is part of his scarcely concealed homosexuality — a theme pursued by entertainers like Liberace in the 1970’s, too.
Addendum: My sister once joked:
Q: What’s the difference between a man and a sexual aid?
A: A man can also mow the lawn.
As you can imagine, I was in tears for hours thereafter.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
BRAVO! What a great way to start a lovely spring day. It sure is a breath of fresh air to hear that common sense can overcome personal insecurity on the part of those who see themselves as victims or entitled to respect when it is not earned. A good laugh at ourselves can go a long way to making life worth living. The age old expression ‘Get a Life’ takes on new meaning thanks to your insight.
Not Sig Ep, you say? The goody two shoes frat. The fraternity with the highest GPA — grade inflation notwithstanding, 3.6 doesn’t come easy. The brothers who supposedly don’t haze. Even the Review likes the house:
Sig Ep is the cheese pizza of fraternities. They’re not known for one thing in particular, but they still manage to appeal to everyone. They probably have the easiest new member term of any house, which, along with their large pledge classes, probably explains why their brotherhood isn’t particularly close. The antithesis of pompous, the brothers of Sig Ep want to have a good time without spending the night trying to dance with freshmen girls or engaging in excessive alcohol consumption. The house itself is probably one of the most sanitary on campus and is home to an absurdly large jack-of-all-trades sisterhood.
It’s hard to understand what’s going on at Sig Ep these days, given the curious dynamic between the brotherhood’s national organization and its Dartmouth chapter. And who knows what the Hanlon administration is doing in the background?
The facts are these: the national organization went dry, at least officially, due to soaring insurance costs. When the Dartmouth chapter was put on alcohol probation by the College, the national came down on it like a ton of bricks. All the brothers were suspended, and of the 102 active members, 63 applied for reinstatement (many juniors and seniors did not want to go through the entire process). The brothers were interviewed by a committee composed primarily of non-Dartmouth adults. And in the end, only 19 were invited to continue participating in the organization.
The process seemed entirely opaque, and as a result, a number of alumni brothers have written a document criticizing the whole affair and the current management structure of the house. It’s worth a read, if only to understand that manipulative processes are not the sole province of the Dartmouth administration. Here is the first page:
The national does not seems to understand the College’s unique Greek dynamic. For example, they have asked that parties be limited to invited guests — an arrangement that goes against the Dartmouth Greek system’s admirable rule that almost any party is open to anyone. And to have a process that seems skewed against minority students harkens back to the bad old days of restrictive brotherhood covenants.
Where this will all end for Sig Ep is unclear. The administration’s death by a thousand cuts strategy has already claimed two victims (AD and SAE). Will Sig Ep be next?
My recommendation does not stem from the fact that Gina Barreca is a ‘79 (though that helps), rather because she is thoughtful and funny at the same time:
Wikipedia seems to want to delete her profile. I wonder why.
Addendum: What’s with the “Dr.” in the College’s headline? Almost everybody around here has a Ph.D., yet Dartmouth professors don’t bandy this title about. I hope that Gina did not request this silly term.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
I wonder what Dr Barreca would think about the ladies lingerie controversy….
There was a time a great many years ago when the very thought of women’s undergarments was a source of titillation. Petticoats and pantaloons were considered risqué, and as the attached poster from a bawdy Paris nightclub shows, men would pay real money to see some ruffle and frill.
This Victorian sensibility even extended to forbidding references to the stomach, for example, because the stomach leads to the intestines, and — trigger warning — we all know where the intestines lead.
Similarly, at that time spoken references to women’s undergarments elicited a frisson or worse. Hence the amusement when an elevator operator in a department store would announce that the lift had reached the floor where certain almost-unmentionable goods could be purchased: “Ladies lingerie” he wouldn’t intone to general merriment.
In a certain way (like mother-in-law jokes or references to pollution off the New Jersey Turnpike) the trope entered the language and it endured long after elevator operators had been replaced by automatic buttons (I have made the joke myself in elevators on several occasions — without an untoward reaction by listeners), and it continued even when the time came that actress Jayne Mansfield could pitch a Playtex 18-hour, long line bra on television as being particularly appropriate for “us full figure girls.” Personally I recall the time in the 70s when the word “bra” could first be spoken in polite company.
That’s a long run up to a current controversy which has members of the International Studies Association all atwitter because former Dartmouth Professor of Government Ned LeBow, a 76-year-old man, had the poor grace to invoke the “ladies lingerie” joke in the elevator at an ISA conference. An attendee, Simona Sharoni, age 56 and a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, announced herself to be grievously offended, and she filed a formal complaint with the ISA.
No, I am not kidding.
What kind of person, let alone a college professor, is so bereft of common sense as to take offence at a somewhat tired joke? Humorist P.J. O’Rourke wrote about the perennially indignant, but at least such folks protested about things of greater moment than a flip remark. And if I told you that Sharoni had a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University? Unreal. You’d think she would have ceased being upset by such things when a boy first called her a poo poo head. In the sandbox at nursery school.
But not only did the ISA conference organizers take Sharoni’s complaints seriously, they ordered LeBow to apologize “unequivocally.”
In other words, he couldn’t apologize in a manner that sought to explain or justify his lighthearted comment or that cast doubt upon the reaction of the faint-hearted feminist academic who heard his joke. He had to issue a mea culpa in no uncertain terms.
Again, no, I am not kidding.
In mandating a specific type of apology, the ISA has moved from the support of an ever-so-precious Victorian morality to a kind of Communist re-education that I thought had ended up on the ash heap history, at least in Eastern Europe in 1989. I understand that such things still take place in North Korea and China.
LeBow, to his credit, is fighting back against the scolds and the commissars.
I guess that there are no other more important topics to discuss at our colleges and universities.
Addendum: The next time you wonder why a significant percentage of Americans feel disdain for higher education, the above might be Exhibit 1 in your argument.
Addendum: Several alumni wrote in:
Professor LeBow: This is what you get when you hang around with “gender studies” people.
I think it was Mel Brooks who said, “Everyone laughs at a fart joke.” I guess that this may be one of the basic problems with academia.
Great post on the Ned LeBow tempest in a teapot. And your conclusion is on the money!
I read with interest your post of May 9th regarding the Ned LeBow and Simona Sharoni “incident” and just wanted to Thank You for showing what is a rare display of common sense from a Dartmouth source. Having endured 4-years of close minded idiocy from virtually every encounter while my child was there, I am startled whenever something bordering on normal is referenced within 6-feet of the word Dartmouth. Standing in the crenels isn’t easy for either side and it was a pleasure to read your article today.
As part of the College’s capital campaign, Tuck is running its own effort. The school’s endowment today is $353 million, and its campaign is for $250 million in cash and commitments, and another $25 million in bequest pledges. Tuck knows its business:
After leading by as much as 16-7 in the first half, the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club was unable to hold on for a victory in the national championship, losing to the University of Mary Washington in Fullerton, California by a score of 38-30:
Should the College shut down all money-losing parts of its operation? After the Hanover Country Club and UPNE, will the Skiway be next? What about the football team? After all, the administration tried to axe the swimming and diving team for budget reasons in 2002.
The big question comes down to what we see as the College’s core functions. The English department certainly loses dough, though not as much as the hard sciences like, say, Biology. Nobody is suggesting that we cancel those departments — though other schools have chopped their German departments among others, and a ways back, the College tried to end the teacher training program in the Education department.
Where to draw the line? And on what side of it does scholarly publishing fall? The Chronicle of Higher Education offers some background:
Local author Yvonne Daley writes in:
I read your piece on the closing of UPNE. I am the author of six books, two of them published by UPNE, one by Simon & Schuster, and the others by small independent presses and a dying newspaper. Your addendum:
The University Press of New England has published about 60 books a year on the subjects of the humanities, liberal arts, literature, New England culture, interdisciplinary studies and fine, decorative and performing arts. The press has also published a number of books about higher education.
speaks to my concern.
I found the people I worked with at UPNE to be hard-working, thorough, and smart but I am only seeing the press from the outside. Of course, I don’t know the employees’ salaries or the press’s budget, but it seems to me that there should be a way to save UPNE by doing just what you observe they didn’t do: having the Tuck folks or someone else restructure a valuable asset to the region and to knowledge itself. I heard that alum had found $10 million to save or repair the golf course. What would it take to save UPNE?
To my mind, an academic press is a core part of the scholarly ecosystem. Not only does a publisher print books (or put them up online), but its key function is working closely with authors to prepare a book for publication. After that, a press can publicize a work far and wide. And a small entity like UPNE can steer authors in the direction of larger presses if a book merits more ample resources.
Needless to say, UPNE focused on Dartmouth authors, along with faculty members from its ever-declining pool of participating schools. For the College to be without a press makes it a weaker institution. Asking our faculty members to throw their best work up online will condemn it to a lesser audience than those books that merit publication and marketing support.
What to conclude? As I have written many times now, each year the administration does less with more. Or to put things another way, once again Parkhurst has cut bone and saved fat.
Will all buildings look like this one day? Not leaning over, I mean. This is Milan, after all, not Pisa, and you are only seeing camera distortion. But will buildings be covered with real trees that are, in the present case, ten to twenty feet high, equal to a three-acre forest:
Milan’s Bosco Verticale complex — the Vertical Forest — had me smiling, but then I laughed out loud when I walked by the singular apartment complex that resembles stacked luxury yachts in the City Life (not a translation) complex that is going up on the site of Milan’s old commercial fairgrounds:
Designed by Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), an Iraqi-British architect, the apartments are a great favorite in this northern Italian city.
Addendum: Creative architecture is the sign of a healthy and ambitious city. Prosperous Milan meets that test in spades.
Addendum: An alumnus writes in:
“Creative architecture is the sign of a healthy and ambitious city.” Well then; just back from a D alumni trip to China and Shanghai meets this standard as well. Holy Moley! What audacity! Buildings that actually curve and tilt for example.
(And thanks to Art 57 Prof. Hugh Morrison for giving me the eye to see.)
However, if you want to see real pain, check out the price of different grades of gas in Paris this week:
Regular (SP95): €1.75/liter; $7.98/gallon
Super (SP98): €1.87/liter; $8.53/gallon
Diesel (Ultimate): €1.76/liter; $8.02/gallon
Red Diesel (Gasoil): €1.68/liter; $7.66/gallon
Add the tax on gas to the high levels of French income and capital gains tax, and then factor in the 20% Value Added Tax on most of your other purchases, and you can see why it is hard to do business here.
When I was a student, we had to take English 5, a Freshman Seminar, four courses each in the Humanities, the Sciences and the Social Sciences, and satisfy the language requirement. Since my day, the pendulum has swing back and forth, with current requirements being a hodgepodge of priorities.
On Monday, without any public debate involving students, the faculty will vote on the newest iteration of undergraduate distributive requirements: