Sunday, February 26, 2017

Félicitations et Santé

Congrats and good health to the Tuck Wine Club!

Tuck Wine Club.jpg

Addendum: Bordeaux is where most wine drinkers start. But Burgundy is where the sensitive palates end up.

Addendum: There is no truth the the rumor that as a prerequisite for graduation, all Dartmouth undergrads must identify a Keystone Light from among a selection of premium beers.

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

Skate With a Date, Etc.

The high-quality Dartmouth football videos just keep coming:

What recruits wouldn’t want to come to a winter wonderland where teammates have a great time together? And what athletes wouldn’t get a kick out of seeing themselves doing a little bit of everything other than football?

The folks in Floren should hold a marketing seminar for the people in Parkhurst and McNutt.

Addendum: Tell me that the guys and their families don’t think of themselves as heroic when they watch the team in videos like this:

Posted on February 26, 2017 3:59 AM. Permalink

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Which Product Do You Want to Sell?

Of some people it has been said, “They could sell snow to Eskimos.” Actually, they couldn’t. No matter how good a sales rep, nobody can sell a weak product for more than a short period of time (“You can fool some of the people some of the time…,” etc.). And so it is at Dartmouth. There are two high level jobs open now (not counting the Dean of the Faculty, and, ahem, the Provost position). Which one would you like to fill? And where might you stand a better chance of being successful?

Try on the Vice President, Presidential Initiatives and Principal Gifts for size. Phil will have been in Hanover for four years in June, and a capital campaign has long been in the offing, but our President is still searching for a worthy to fill this critical position — I say “still” because I did a post on June 23, 2016 about the open job. Here’s the first part of the current Help Wanted ad:

Advancement VP.jpg

My June post cited a memo dated March 8, 2016 that announced that Michael Kiefer was leaving as VP. Wow. Phil is gearing up for the capital campaign, and the staffer who is supposed to land the big ones has effectively been gone for a year now.

What does that tell you? It tells me that nobody serious in the fundraising world wants to work with either temperamental Bob Lasher ‘88 or feckless Phil Hanlon ‘77 — whose administration offers almost nothing in the way of checkbook-opening initiatives or leaders who can inspire donors to be generous. It also says that Phil is a terrible judge of character — by all reports he still loves Bob Lasher, when all about him have lost respect for the man and his inabilities. Judging character is probably the top requirement for a senior manager.

By way of contrast, let’s turn to Tuck, where an Executive Director of Admissions is needed:

Tuck Admissions Director.jpg

Of course, the College receives many more applications that it has spots, too, but Tuck can offer a unique selling proposition: the smallest of the major b-schools; a tight sense of community; by far the most loyal alumni (as measured by the percentage of graduates who give money each year); and a sense that the school understands itself and is on the move upwards from its already comfortable position in the Top 10.

I’d take that status any day over the drifting College, where good initiatives die on the vine for lack of funding, even as tens of millions of dollars are wasted on a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy each year.

Addendum: Note also the distinction between the first paragraphs in each of these two recruiting advertisements. Phil’s bunch provides an overview of the general strengths and prestige of the institution; Tuck’s ad emphasizes today’s excellent student experience. Need I say more?

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Michael Beechert’s Guide to the Stars: Biology Professor Elizabeth Smith

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:

Elizabeth Smith.jpgElizabeth Smith is the Paul M. Dauton, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences and the Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Sciences. Her research is focused in the field of cell biology, to which she has made significant contributions during a career that has spanned over two decades.

Smith was educated at Agnes Scott College in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, GA, where she received a B.A. with Honors in Biology in 1987. She then completed her Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology at Emory University in 1992. Perhaps the humidity got to her, or perhaps not, but in any case Smith departed for colder pastures at the University of Minnesota, where she served as a postdoc from 1992 to 1998. Dartmouth came a-calling thereafter, and Smith has been in Hanover ever since. She received tenure in 2004, the rank of full professor in 2010, and her endowed chair in 2014. In the past few years, Smith has been especially busy when it comes to institutional service: from 2012 to 2015 she was Chair of the Biology Department, and in 2015 she was appointed Associate Dean of the Faculty for the Sciences.

Understanding Smith’s work, even on a basic level, may pose a bit of a challenge to those of us who had a tendency to develop sudden headaches during biology lectures in high school. It’s well worth the mental effort, though, in light of the fact that Smith’s research is both interesting — even from the perspective of someone without a scientific background — and applicable to important issues in human health. She sums up the activities of her lab as follows:

We use a combination of genetic, biochemical, structural and functional approaches to dissect the molecular mechanisms which control dynein-driven microtubule sliding to produce the high beat frequency and complex waveforms characteristic of motile eukaryotic cilia/flagella.

Cilia and flagella refer to the thin, wavy organelles — sub-units or components of a cell — that protrude outwards from the surface of almost every cell in the human body. There are two types of cilia, non-motile and motile. As the names imply, non-motile cilia do not move, whereas the motile variant do; I personally imagine the latter as the microbiological version of the waving, inflatable people you can see outside many a used car dealership.

Professor Smith focuses on these motile cilia, which perform a variety of essential biological tasks ranging from the circulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain and the clearing of debris from the lungs to moving a fertilized egg to a woman’s uterus. As such, defects in the formation or behavior of cilia can manifest themselves in a host of problems like hydrocephaly, respiratory difficulties, and infertility.

Cilia perform their functions by beating in coordinated waves that are dictated by an extremely complex process dependent on dynein, a type of protein which is mainly responsible for converting chemical energy into work. To do its job, dynein moves along what are called microtubules, the tiny tubular bodies that form the internal structure of cilia, creating a force that leads to the organelles’ characteristic bending motion. The transmission of the signals that regulate dynein movement, and by extension the behavior of cilia, depends in large part on the presence and concentration of molecules such as calcium in a cell. Through research that has been consistently funded to the tune of millions of dollars by the NIH and other organizations, Smith explores the precise mechanisms and variables behind this very complicated dance.

In recent years, Smith has taught a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in the Biology Department, including Cell Structure and Function, Advanced Topics in Cell Biology, and The Molecular Mechanisms of Cellular Responses. She has sat on dozens of undergraduate and graduate thesis committees and has employed numerous students in her laboratory, many of whom have gone on to pursue related careers in academia and industry.

Among Smith’s more notable accomplishments, moreover, is the purchase of state-of-the-art microscope work stations for undergraduate biology courses, which was funded by grant money from the NSF’s Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program. Her initiative here is the reason why students of cell biology at Dartmouth can now take advantage of modern microscopy. Currently, the equipment is shared with students from local schools through outreach programs; access to such advanced technology is unusual for rural areas. And in the little spare time that she has, Smith manages to do things like organize and co-chair this recent Gordon Research Conference, which brought together scientists and clinicians dedicated to understanding mucociliary clearance. Hopefully, this sort of collaboration will lead to new therapies for diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Phil, Are You Listening?

At the meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Monday, February 13, 2017, the faculty re-ratified the following Statement of Principle:

Faculty Statement of Principles.jpg

Pretty bland stuff, right? Nope. Not at all. These ideas are the faculty’s genteel and not so gentle way of telling Phil that he is falling down on the job; the assembled professors were trying to focus our President’s attention on what ails his feckless administration and the College. Allow me to translate:

1. Don’t abandon the present faculty in favor of your little clusters and pet energy institute.

2. The notion of shared governance has meaning. Ignore the faculty at your peril.

3. Diversity bla-bla-bla. (I believe that by law a reference to diversity and inclusiveness has to appear in all College documents.)

4. We need to be paid like professors at our peer institutions. Now.

5. The place is falling apart, and we don’t want a system for allocating space imposed upon us. We need to participate in decisions about new buildings. Too many un-kept promises about renovations and investments have been made in the past.

Phil is on notice now. If he doesn’t respond, what will be the faculty’s next step?

Addendum: Members of the faculty singly and in groups have been to see Phil to criticize his poor performance as President and the lack of purpose and achievement of his administration. Phil cringes, and in response he can only ask what he can do better. Then nothing happens.

At what point will the College’s professors exhaust their patience? As anyone who hires and fires with any frequency can tell you, people don’t change. With Phil Hanlon WYSIWYG.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in with a good point:

Note that the diversity boilerplate in the statement says nothing about intellectual diversity.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

College Pulse (4/4): Making the Grade

College Pulse’s Terren Klein and his friends are not only skilled at gathering interesting data using their web-based survey software, but they are expert in the modern art of data visualization. Take a look at the Grade Point Averages of the members of the College’s various Greek houses as compared to the means of affiliated and unaffiliated students. All of the data comes from the College:

Greek Life Academics.jpg

(Sorry for the difficulty in reading some of the data on your screen. SigEps’s GPA at the top of the pyramid is 3.59, just a hair under A-.)

I find it striking how closely bunched the various cohorts are. Dartmouth students need to pass 35 courses in order to graduate; after four years of study, it seems that all students and all unaffiliated students go to Commencement with the same average GPA : 3.47.

What does that tell you about the Greeks? It’s hard to say. That they can earn the same grades as students who don’t haze/carouse/drink and play pong with the same ardor (not to mention spending time bonding with their brothers and sisters and engaging in charitable activities) speaks well of the Greeks — though they may just have better access to the best layup lists.

Even the GPA difference between Greek men (3.42) and Greek women (3.53) is less that it might seem: another way of looking at the meaning of a 0.11 gap in their GPAs is that the women achieved an A- in approximately eleven courses in which the men only earned a B+; otherwise, their grades were the same.

The two outliers in the chart are Alpha Phi Alpha and Gamma Delta Chi. Why?

Addendum: Go to College Pulse’s website and you can see the details of each Greek house’s grades over the past few year in contrast of other averages.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

“We Are Created to Love”

Abbey D’Agostino ‘14 talked about her path towards faith to a deeply attentive audience of about 200 Dartmouth students (four or five times the usual attendance) at the regular Monday night meeting at Beta of the Dartmouth Fellowship of Christian Athletes:

Abbey Beta Comp.jpg

She read from the Book of Deuteronomy and she spoke of how her character had been tested at various points in her athletic career (she is the most decorated track and field athlete in Ivy history) by injuries that made her see the things that are most important in life. As a result, she began “a raw and vulnerable” relationship with God. At the Games themselves she had two moving experiences while worshiping with other athletes — events that she feels prepared her for the instinctive and natural grace that she showed on the track.

At the end of her talk Abbey answered a number of questions, including one about the way the world reacted to her kindness toward fellow runner Nikki Hamblin:

It was almost encouraging that people saw and felt ‘there’s something about that’… it’s encouraging that people see a very simple act of kindness, and they are, like, ‘That’s what we’re like. There’s something about that, that unites us.’ And I think that it’s just cool that we know that, whether we can verbalize it or not, that inherently we’re created for that, to love.

Abbey NY Post1.jpg

Addendum: No one from the Hanlon administration attended the event, the only one in which Abbey participated during her brief visit to Hanover.

Addendum: Today’s Dartmouth News highlights the experience of Emma Reid T’17, a refugee from the conflict in Bosnia.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

The fact that Phil and his administrators ignored Abbey D’Agostino is par for the course; they appear to be detached and clueless as to the Dartmouth student body and greater community. He has been terrible at communicating all across the board.

He has not communicated a clear vision to alumni, and many supporters of the College feel ignored. He is concentrating on big donors, while essentially ignoring the rest. This is dangerous, since historically Dartmouth campaigns have been supported by many gifts in the $500,000 to $1,000,000 range.

He has been tone deaf to most students, choosing only to listen to a minority of activists. He ignored the student leader petition last spring, and there has been no response to several thoughtful pieces in The D. Students are clearly expressing their dissatisfaction with Phil’s administration by their lack of participation in the Class Gift.

One senses, as well, that he is not communicating effectively with the faculty, as he seemed surprised by their reaction to the Irving gift. He should have been out front on the matter of faculty salaries, which were below peer institutions, but he did not make it a priority.

From a distance, it strikes me that Phil and his team do not really appreciate that what makes Dartmouth unique is its focus on undergraduate education.

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tuck’s Tough Love Breeds Love

Curiously, Tuck does not want to attract people who are concerned about having safe spaces on campus; its advertising highlights that every aspect of its business education will be a stretch. My word, how striking to see a school treat students like confident adults:

Tuck Be Challenged Ad 2017.jpg

The above on-line ad was sent to subscribers of Poets & Quants, the leading paper targeted at prospective and current b-school students. One can imagine that Tuck prepared it for presentation in various different venues.

Tuck’s efforts seem to be paying off on every level, not only among its students (who as alumni contribute money more frequently than the students of any other b-school), but also including its reputation in the business world. The Economist ranked the school as having the #4 campus culture among the world’s business schools:

2017-02-16 23_00_27-Economist MBA cuture ranking 2017A.jpg

Both Tuck and Thayer appear to be well managed and moving up in the rankings of their respective fields. As for Geisel and the College, we need say no more.

Addendum: A current, lengthy P&Q profile compares Tuck and Stanford. The intro:

Of the prestige, brandname business schools in the world, you’re not likely to find two business schools that are more like each other than Dartmouth and Stanford. They’re similar in size and spirit. They’re both smaller MBA programs, with a similar mix of exceptionally smart students who play nicely together in a highly collaborative culture, with superb faculty. Because both schools get the majority of their budgets from fundraising and endowments, rather than tuition which accounts for about 40% or less of spending, they can better afford the luxury of smaller classes and higher faculty-to-student ratios. Both schools offer a true premium MBA experience. There’s no mixing of day and night students, or outsourcing big chunks of the core curriculum to poorly paid adjuncts, or spreading limited resources across part-time and executive MBA programs. Tuck has stronger East Coast connections, while Stanford is completely dominant in Silicon Valley.


Addendum: The Tuckies finished their Winter Carnival yesterday. Supposedly b-school students from twenty schools were in attendance. A wild time was had by all, as one might expect from the invitation video:

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

An Oldtime Winter

Lots of snow in Hanover this year with temperatures in the low single digits on occasion. Fortunately no -20° weather like my freshman winter in 1976; I remember two endless weeks of trudging from North Fayer down to the Murdough Center at Thayer for my History of the Atomic Bomb freshman seminar (it was both interesting and a science distrib). Occasionally I’d stop in Silsby to warm up:

That said, whatever temperature it is in Hanover, it’s colder back home in Montreal.

Addendum: Recently I’ve been using the ProCam 4 photography app on my iPhone 7, instead of Apple’s own Camera application. Beyond the technical control that ProCam 4 provides, its photos just seem to have more emotion. Click on the image for a full view.

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

All in the Dartmouth Family

The MVP rolls onwards. In this TV clip out of Arizona, Nick Lowery ‘78, who for many years held the record as the NFL’s most accurate field goal kicker, talks about the benefits of the Mobile Virtual Player:

When I was a freshman, Lowery, a future Kansas City Chief, kicked a 49-yard field goal against Harvard on a clear fall day in Cambridge. The ball hung in the air forever and barely carried over the crossbar. What a thrill for us! We had gone to Soldier’s Field to support Nick, who lived in the single across the hall from our triple in North Fayer. Harvard turned out a large crowd that day, but all we saw was our new friend way down on the field. He looked so small. In such moments, a student can fall in love with a school.

Addendum: The football program puts out videos that can only be described as romantic. How to counter in the minds of recruits that New Hampshire’s winter is long and cold? Not by being defensive. Describe the chilly months as beautiful, even poetic:

You know, the folks in Alumni Gym could really give the people in Parkhurst an education, if Phil and his minions would only listen.

Posted on February 19, 2017 3:59 AM. Permalink

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Hamburg Diary: The Elbphilharmonie


A concert by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson at the recently completed Elbphilharmonie gave me an excuse to take the train up to Hamburg, one of my favorite places on the planet. The Hansestadt is like the Goldilocks’ porridge of German cities — not too stuffy (Munich), not too dirty and disjointed (Berlin), but just right. Hamburg is clean, beautiful, and well-organized, but one can nonetheless feel a certain freedom in the air when walking along the riverfront and gazing out into one of the world’s great harbors. It also provides something for every taste, from the salacious options along the Reeperbahn to the more highbrow entertainment offered by the State Opera and the NDR Symphony Orchestra, whose quality equals (and I would argue often exceeds) that of their musical counterparts in better-known destinations like Paris and Rome.

The Elbphilharmonie, now viewed as the unquestioned crown jewel of the city, is perched on the skeleton of one of the many brick warehouses to be found in Hamburg’s harbor district. It is a spectacular glass structure dominated by undulating lines that are meant to evoke the currents of the Elbe, which flows past the hall on two sides. During the day, the building adopts the color of the surrounding sky and water, and at night, it shimmers brilliantly with light from within. The impression is powerful:


IMG-20170212-WA0003.jpgThe contemporary spirit that went into designing the exterior of the Elbphilharmonie is to be felt inside as well. Concert-goers are transported up to the core of the structure by a slow-moving, gently sloped escalator that travels through a modernistic white tunnel (see right). I felt like I was in some sort of spaceship, and this impression did not die once we reached top and stepped into the main atrium. The walls and ceilings were all white, which lent the place a pure look, and the floor, along with the numerous staircases that connect to the upper levels, were of richly colored wood. One had to search long and hard to find straight lines, as the structures tend to move in unexpected directions, preventing the eye from settling in on any particular spot. Unlike many contemporary buildings, however, the design is neither haphazard nor careless. The views out into the harbor provided by the floor-to-ceiling windows, moreover, were breathtaking. The concert hall itself is also a sight to behold. I’ll let this picture do the talking:


I was curious to hear how the hall would perform acoustically in light of the unconventional design, especially after being subjected to the horrific (lack of) sound in the unfortunate Gasteig in Munich. As it turned out, my apprehension was unfounded. The Elbphilharmonie is certainly one of the sharpest-sounding spaces I’ve ever been to; a museum employee that I met the following day told me he felt the acoustics were in fact so clear as to be intimidating to anyone attempting to hold back a cough in the back row. The music itself, meanwhile, was ethereal and thought-provoking. Instead of relying on the usual structures of melody and harmony to spark emotion, Jóhannsson composes in waves and pulses of energy that subtly move up and down and back and forth. It was the perfect example of how the content of art should complement the identity of the space in which it is presented. Of course, you can always just close your eyes, relax, and listen.

Addendum: The story of the Elbphilharmonie isn’t all roses and honey. Approved in 2007 at a cost of 77 million euros, the structure was supposed to be completed in 2010. It’s now 2017, and the final price tag has reached €789 million (about $840 million). Did whoever was in charge of planning learn how to do their job from Dartmouth administrators? In contrast to the atrocious building projects plaguing Hanover, though, Hamburg’s ridiculous cost overruns did end up producing something extraordinary.

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Michael Beechert’s Guide to the Stars: Economics Professor William Fischel

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:

Bill Fischel1.jpgWilliam Fischel is Professor of Economics as well as the Robert C. 1925 and Hilda Hardy Professor of Legal Studies. His primary field of expertise is local government, which while usually lacking the fireworks and drama of national politics, oftentimes plays a much more significant role in how ordinary citizens lead their day-to-day lives. Land use regulation, or zoning, is of particular interest to Fischel. You’ve been affected by zoning laws and practices, whether you are aware of it or not, and Fischel’s pioneering work in the field explains much of why this is the case.

Fischel grew up near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he attended Hellertown High School before moving north to complete his undergraduate studies at Amherst. He finished there magna cum laude in 1967 and went on to Princeton for a Ph.D., which he received in 1973. That same year, Fischel joined the ranks of the Dartmouth Economics faculty, where he has been ever since with the exceptions of several year-long stints at institutions on the West Coast, such as UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and Berkeley Law School. Fischel credits his experience on the other side of the country with influencing his scholarship, and his time studying and teaching at Vermont Law School in South Royalton has also had an impact on the scope and depth of Fischel’s contributions (an h-index of 39 and 6816 citations) to what is often an intimidatingly legalistic subject.

Let’s say that you want to put a fence on your property. You do a little research to find out what type of fence you can install, how high it can be, and where it can sit in your yard. Eventually, you come across the zoning regulations for your town. After reading through them for the third time, you get the impression that the almost-impenetrable text must have been handed down from somewhere high above, much like God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. As Fischel explains in his most recent book, Zoning Rules!, the reality of zoning development is much more bottom-up than it may seem. Fischel argues that the spread of low-cost trucks and buses in the 1910s made it too easy for industry and apartments to invade residential neighborhoods and threaten single-family home values. Politicians responded to pressure from their homeowner constituents, and modern zoning was born.

American homeowners in the 1970s, according to Fischel, began to see their houses as investments rather than just simple consumer goods due to the inflation of property values that occurred during this time. Wishing to protect these investments from devaluation by further development, homeowners pushed for regulations that limited growth in and around their neighborhoods. The cumulative impact of such regulation accounts for the spiraling housing costs in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

The theme of local governments as important and influential actors was developed in Fischel’s 2001 book The Homevoter Hypothesis, which explains how and why property owners have an incentive to keep a tight handle on their local governments. Because municipal governments are able to enact policy that affects property values (through zoning laws, for example) more tangibly than state or national governments can, “homevoters” do whatever they can to ensure that local representatives are acting in the best interest of what is often their largest, non-diversifiable asset. This includes moving to nearby towns that may offer greater benefits to residents, such as better school districts. Fischel argues that municipal governments, who are therefore forced to be more responsive to voters’ concerns, are often more efficient creators of fiscal and regulatory policies than political bodies higher up the food chain. For many government services, political decentralization works better than uniform state or national policies.

Fischel’s duties in the classroom revolve around two courses: “Econ 38: Urban and Land Use Economics” and “Econ 2: Introduction to Economic Policy Issues.” The former is targeted at students further along in the Economics major who have a particular interest in Fischel’s general research interests, whereas the latter is a survey course directed at those who are perhaps just testing out the waters. Fischel is proud to be what he calls a “talk and chalk” professor; in other words, he does things the old-fashioned way — no laptops allowed, so students have to rely on pen, paper, and their eyes and ears in order to make the grade. One gets the impression that this method is effective, considering that Fischel has incorporated many Econ 38 term papers into his own work; Zoning Rules!, in fact, was dedicated to his students for this reason.

Addendum #1: An undergraduate whose path has been greatly shaped by Professor Fischel’s teaching and research has the following to say:

Prof. Fischel is a professor in the truest sense of the word. That is, he professes his own scholarship in the classroom, bringing together his unparalleled knowledge of land use regulation with the enthusiasm that has motivated his life’s work.

Addendum #2: Watch Professor Fischel discuss zoning practices at the Cato Institute, with examples drawn from a certain small town in New Hampshire:

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

AD v. Hanover Mano a Mano

Attorneys for the Town and for Alpha Delta argued before the NH Supreme Court today concerning the right of the brothers under the Town’s zoning law to remain in their house despite the fact that AD has been derecognized by the College. Associate Justice James P. Bassett ‘78 recused himself from the case — he had been an AD as a student — and the four other Justices questioned counsel pointedly:

AD v Hanover.jpg

At issue is whether the brothers’ use of their house (the fraternity owns the house and its underlying land) can be grandfathered in: the frat has been in the same physical plant since 1928, and the Hanover zoning ordinance dates back only to 1976.

Justices Hicks and Lynn seemed convinced that the case was a simple one: did the fraternity’s use ante-date the enactment of the zoning ordinance? Justice Conboy repeatedly asked how the law would deal with a change of use (AD’s counsel repeatedly asserted that there had been no change in the use of the premises), such as the transformation of the house into a CVS or a small Walmart; and Chief Justice Dalianis was reserved but direct in her questioning, as is her wont. The Town argued that derecognition by the College deprived AD of its institutional cover, as mandated by the zoning ordinance, which cover had been in place when the ordinance was enacted.

The post-hearing betting line was that AD would win the case, given the Court’s traditional penchant for deciding cases unanimously, and because the brothers had the better of the argument in the minds of at least two of the Justices. A decision should be handed down in a couple of months.

Addendum: AD’s counsel announced during oral argument that the house was in talks with the College about being re-recognized (de-derecognized?). Perhaps the College is softening around the edges, what with the capital campaign in the offing and those bad, bad frat boys being very, very loyal alumni.

Addendum: The Union Leader summarizes the story.

Posted on February 16, 2017 4:00 PM. Permalink

College Pulse and Sex (3/4)

Stories of bunny-like behavior on the nation’s campuses abound, but just how hot is the hook-up culture? Campus Pulse provided the goods in a recent survey that joined wit to data. A surprisingly significant number of students live a (sex) life that is more sedate than the papers would have you believe (42% of students have had one or no sexual partners) — and given that 1,327 Dartmouth students answered the poll, one has the sense that the information provided by CP is accurate:

Here is the poll’s outline:

Pulse ran a survey about student’s sex lives and 1,327 of you godless sybarites responded in an almost painful amount of detail. The data revealed some interesting trends: unaffiliated upperclassmen males are 4X as likely to have never had sex compared to their affiliated counterparts, and it’s 2X as likely for unaffiliated upperclassmen females (Figure A). Apparently 10% of students’ parents know “everything” about their sex lives-why anyone would ever want that, no amount of data will ever reveal. Lastly, a full one fifth of Dartmouth has tried anal, but only 8% have had sex with multiple partners at once (Figure B).

Pulse Sex Survey Graph 1.jpg

Pulse Sex Survey Graphs 2 and 3.jpg

Good for CP. The marginal cost of such a survey is negligible, yet one can assume that students tapping away anonymously on their smartphones are providing honest answers to interesting questions.

Addendum: Wednesday’s D had a piece, Investigating the Dartmouth Seven, by Marie-Capucine Pineau-Valencienne (what a great French name!) that supports anecdotally what CP’s data confirms :

Out of all the time-honored campus traditions, the “Dartmouth Seven” holds the prize as one of the most controversial and talked about amongst students and alums alike. In case you’re not familiar with the infamous tradition, the “Dartmouth Seven” is a list of seven places on campus to engage in sexual activity: the Green, the top of the Hopkins Center, the library stacks, the steps in front of Dartmouth Hall, the President’s lawn, the BEMA and the 50-yard line of the football field. A small number of students actually complete the list, but the possibility of being caught doesn’t deter many couples from making an attempt. The challenge is one of those Dartmouth-isms that make our student body seem much more risqué and wild than most of us actually are.

In 2010 this space reported on the Dartmouth Seven (and the Dartmouth Decade, too — we are more thorough than The D!) in a post entitled Girls Just Wanna Have Some:

The College’s ever-competitive students have even set milestones for themselves: the Dartmouth Decade is achieved after having sexual relations with students and alumni from ten consecutive graduating classes; the Dartmouth Seven pertains to gracing seven different venues on campus (the 50-yard line on Memorial Field, the steps of Dartmouth Hall, the lawn of the President’s mansion, the stacks, the Bema, the center of the Green, and the Top of the Hop).

Addendum: It turns out that Pulse has specific data on the Dartmouth Seven:

Pulse Dartmouth Seven.jpg

Not a whole lot of shakin’ going on.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Abbey Is Back on Monday

Abbey D'Agostino Rio.jpgThis past Saturday we noted that the Hanlon administration had been inexcusably remiss in not having Kyle Hendricks ‘12 back to Hanover. Perhaps in Phil’s cosmology, starting Game 7 of the Series and having the lowest ERA in baseball does not rank up there with algebraic combinatorics — but some of us think that it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

Equally unfortunate is the fact that Olympic hero Abbey D’Agostino ‘14 has not been invited to grace the Hanover Plain since her display of sportsmanship for the ages at this past summer’s Rio Olympics. Perhaps Provost Dever thinks that the Games and Abbey’s transcendent moment are less important than gender studies and 19th-century British literature. Who knows? We can’t ask Dever; she’s hardly around any more. (How’s the job search going, Carolyn?)

In any event, not everyone on campus is without an appreciation for heroism, and I was happy to learn that Abbey will be in town this coming Monday for the first time since the Olympics. She will be sharing her Christian testimony and her experience at the Games with the Dartmouth Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The Fellowship gets together Monday evenings at 8pm in Beta. The meeting is open to the campus and general public related to the College.

Welcome back, Abbey! You done the College proud.

Posted on February 15, 2017 7:00 PM. Permalink

College Pulse (2/4): Politics, Speakers

College Pulse produces a wealth of data, and pretty good data at that, given the large number of students who respond to CP’s easy-to-answer surveys. Once a student’s profile has been entered initially into Pulse’s database, the student need only answer specific questions in future surveys. Then the CP software can analyze the data along any number of lines. Here is CP’s survey of students’ political affiliation. I’ve reproduced the data about the College’s athletes:

Pulse Political Affiliation.jpg

Two and a half times as many varsity athletes lean right as non-athletes. I wonder why that is?

On CP’s display page, you can also click on such categories as Race, Class Year, Financial Aid, Gender, Greek Affiliation, Income, Region and Sexual Orientation to find out how various groups of Dartmouth students define themselves politically.

A few more tidbits of political information: Dartmouth men were three times as likely to vote for Trump (15%) as women (5%). And athletes were twice as likely to vote for Trump (12%) and three times as likely to support building a wall along the Mexico-US border (14%) as non-athletes (6% and 4% respectively).

CP can also ask qualitative and informational question. Here are the choices of a representative sample of Dartmouth students (mostly seniors) for this June’s Commencement speaker:

Graduation Speakers.jpg

I’m glad that a few people thought of Jake Tapper, this year’s speaker. Certainly CP is better at eliciting proposals than the College’s Council on Honorary Degrees. The D reports:

In total, the council typically receives between 100 and 150 nominations before the October deadline, of which it selects between four and six honorees in addition to the speaker.

In addition to simple suggestions, CP let’s you slice and dice the data to see the speaker preferences of different cohorts of students by race, gender, sex, major, affiliation etc. Not bad.

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

College Pulse Week (1/4)

When someone asks me, “What do students think of that?”, the best that I could do until recently is hazard a guess. However a new web-based app, College Pulse (see an overview), which has been created by Terren Klein ‘17 and lead programmers Ben Packer ‘17 and Robin Jayaswal ‘18, seeks to systematically and efficiently survey Dartmouth students about their experiences and opinions:

Users logs in with their college netID and select the poll that they wish to take. Upon completing a poll, community members may visualize and filter the data by various demographics directly on the platform. Unlike existing survey platforms, students receive points for every survey they complete. These points may be cashed in for rewards of the students’ choice, anything from free pizzas to a donation to a charity of their choice. Every poll is recorded on students’ profile, leading to increasingly comprehensive data and cross-referencing between polls. Poll administrators are able to target their sample based off of demographic information or answers to previous polls.

The genesis of the app was the November 12 BLM library invasion. Did students support the demonstrators’ in their protest, or were people opposed to such aggressive behavior? Who knew? Students sought to make sense of what had taken place, what they believed, and whether or not their beliefs aligned with those of the larger community. No reliable, student-centered opinion platform existed to provide clarity, leaving both administrators and students without insight. Needless to say, Yik Yak was not up to the task.

Campus Pulse.jpgJust as the founders of Uber saw an opportunity when they could not find a cab, so did Terren and his mates sense a hole in the market. And they felt that new technology could give them a way to question large numbers of students at a low cost/query. They got to thinking, and they got to coding.

This week we’ll look at the result of several College Pulse surveys to achieve a better understanding of the state of the College. Let’s start with Admissions information. Pulse’s survey asked students a variety of questions, including at what other schools they had been accepted and rejected. The poll was sent to a randomized group of 2150 Dartmouth undergraduates on October 28th, 2016; 974 students responded.

At a recent faculty meeting, Phil noted that when given a choice with other Ivies, we very rarely come out the winner. He was right. Pulse’s repondents’ experience showed that only as against Cornell do students consistently choose to come to Dartmouth; 15.5% of respondents admitted in the regular decision pool could also have gone to Ithaca. And only a very loyal few picked the College over HYP:

Pulse Acceptances at Other Schools.jpg

Of the Dartmouth students who took the survey, Yale admitted 2.3%; as did Princeton (the same people?); and Harvard accepted 1.7% (click on the image to enlarge it).

‘Twas not always so. I chose Dartmouth over Yale. As did plenty of other people in the day: we wanted a smaller institution with plenty of contact with members of the faculty (not that Phil cares in the slightest about that).

Conversely, around a third of Dartmouth students were rejected at HYP, and a goodly number were dinged at the other Ivies:

Pulse Rejections at Other Schools.jpg

Conclusion: Wright/Kim/Folt/Hanlon have done a lot to turn the College into a safety school.

Addendum: As Terren works the kinks out of the app, he is happy to do surveys if they seeming interesting. Pulse’s website invites anyone to suggest ideas for future polls.

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Like Paid Mourners at a Funeral?

The next time you see a glossy College press release or brochure about Phil’s supposedly much-loved house system, keep in mind the below:

$20 Tea.jpg

Maybe the last few Teas have not been fascinating enough? Maybe none of them have been? Maybe that’s why the administration needs to pay students to show up for a photo-op?

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

Why Nobody Rages Anymore

As we previously reported, the Winter Carnival committee announced that there would be no snow sculpture on the Green again this year. Fortunately, for a second year in a row, a number of students rallied to the call and put up a creditable effort:

Carnival Sculpture 2017.jpg

At first The D reported that the Town of Hanover restricted the sculpture’s height to four feet:

This year’s snow sculpture was built on the Green by a group of students, alumni and faculty on a volunteer basis. The project was spearheaded by a group of students, led and organized by Mercedes de Guardiola ‘17, and alumni passionate about the College’s Winter Carnival traditions. The Winter Carnival Council announced on Jan. 13 it would not be focusing efforts or funding on the snow sculpture.

Due to town permit restrictions and limited time, the dragon-shaped sculpture had to be under four feet in height. Additionally, the limited snow was another obstacle the team had to work around, the organizers said. [Emphasis added]

Four feet! But I did a little digging, and Town Zoning Administrator Judy Brotman informed me no such limitation came from Hanover.

Then I heard from Maria Mercedes de Guardiola ‘17, who filled me in on the source of the four-foot height restriction:

The concern came from Risk Management - honest mistake by the D. There was a concern that it might collapse and fall on someone because usually the sculpture has to have a diagram and have an engineer look it over, or something along those lines. We didn’t have the time to get all of that done. We also didn’t have any permits. There were a lot of time restrictions for the sculpture this year, but the alumni and community support was terrific.

Four feet! This time for real. Just which beancounter in the bureaucracy came up with that number? Are we supposed to believe that there is some insurance restriction on the height of snowmen? Don’t make me laugh. Any group of seven-year-olds can build a snowman higher than four feet. And there is no risk, except a theoretical one, that some snow will fall on people and injure them. Gimme a break.

What you are seeing is a textbook example of the bureaucracy in action. Some faceless nobody doesn’t want to make a mistake, so the word goes out that a ridiculous limitation will be the rule of the day. Gosh. And how pathetic. And typical of modern-day Dartmouth.

Addendum: During winter carnivals of yore, students engaged in more stimulating activities (courtesy of Michael Hinsley’s explorations in Rauner):

Football Stadiup tobaggan run1.jpg


Granite in their brains, indeed.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Snowballs to the Wall

But will the College allow such wantonly Dionysian behavior?

Carnival Snowball Fight 2017.jpg

Posted on February 12, 2017 5:52 PM. Permalink

Sometimes in Winter

I can see why Monet liked to do series: different light, weather, and seasons all show varied aspects of a scene. My beloved swimming hole in Norwich is deeply asleep now:

Norwich in Winter1.jpg

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Reminded me of some of Asher Durand’s cathedral like woodland scenes:

Asher Durand.jpg

Regarding your post about Francesco Hayez, I’d take issue with your comment: “Hayez (1791-1882) doesn’t seem to make it into the canon as taught at the College,…” I think most Neoclassical, Academy-trained artists from the 19th century are largely ignored by art historians everywhere, not just at Dartmouth. Those same academics seem to think good art didn’t start until the 1870s.

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

Lady Gaga and QB Brian Mann ‘02

When Lady Gaga jumped from the stage at the end of her Super Bowl halftime performance, she caught a bejeweled football that was passed to her by Brian Mann ‘02:

The Boston Globe has the whole story:

mann gaga.jpg

Posted on February 12, 2017 3:59 AM. Permalink

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What About His Real Alma Mater?

The months go by, and I still can’t figure out why Phil hasn’t invited Kyle Hendricks ‘12 back to the College. At least, his high school did him the honor:

Kyle Hendricks HS Comp.jpg

Kyle would be a big hit on campus. But Phil just doesn’t have that human touch. He goes to Dartmouth sporting events and sits alone with Gail and nobody else. How about working the crowd, drumming up support, recognizing friends and acquaintances, and making people feel like they are at a small college and that he loves it, too.

Addendum: Not everyone can have a full range of talents, but Phil’s main weakness is that he does not recognize his many weaknesses. If he did, he’d have people around him who would advise him to bring people like Kyle back to Hanover. But then Phil feels no need to listen to others. He is an immodest man, even though he has a great deal to be modest about.

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

Tapper to Speak at Commencement

Jake Tapper will be giving the Commencement address in June. He announced his invitation on Stephen Colbert’s show:

Steven Colbert Jake Tapper.jpg

Here is the College’s release.

Addendum: A few other schools have announced their Commencement speakers: Penn: Senator Cory Booker; Wellesley: Hillary Clinton; Barnard: Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders and associate professor of medicine at the University of Montreal; Brooklyn College of City University of New York: Senator Bernie Sanders.

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

Michael Beechert’s Guide to the Stars: Computer Science Professor Sean Smith

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:

Sean Smith.jpgSean Smith is Professor of Computer Science and an expert in information security. As yet another example of a faculty member whose work has applications outside the university setting, Professor Smith approaches his subject from a holistic perspective — by examining both the hardware and the human components of security. Doing so has allowed him to make important contributions to real-world developments in the field of computer science throughout an impressive career that spans the public and private sectors, as well as academia.

Smith’s childhood in Pennsylvania, much of which he spent playing with ham radios and other fun electronic doodads, set the stage for a lifelong interest in technology. After four rugby and hash-filled years (“hash” here equals trail running for the worried D.A.R.E. graduates among us) at Princeton, from which he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Mathematics in 1987, Smith made his way back to his home state for his doctorate, which he earned from Carnegie Mellon in 1994. Although Smith reflects on his years in Pittsburgh and advises doctoral students to spend less time on a trail or a bike than he did and more in the office, his performance was impressive enough to secure a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he performed security-related work from 1994 to 1996.

In 1996, Smith moved back east to IBM’s Watson Research Center, located in Yorktown Heights, New York. There, he designed the security architecture for the IBM 4758 secure coprocessor, which under his leadership was the first coprocessor to earn an FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-1 Level 4 security validation; essentially, if anyone tried to tamper with or compromise the hardware, the hardware would find out. Smith, who believed that the academic environment held unique promise for research that could change the world, began teaching at Dartmouth in 2000. He received tenure in 2006 and a promotion to the rank of full Professor in 2011.

Information security is of paramount importance in today’s computer-reliant world for an obvious reason — people, governments, and other organizations may have incentives to gain access to systems which seek to remain uncompromised. Potential targets range from your email account to power grids. In order to ensure that data remains private or that the lights don’t go out, it is necessary to understand how computer security systems may be undermined from a technical standpoint, as well as how human behavior relating to the design, maintenance, and usage of such technologies affects the ability of systems to defend themselves. By examining these two factors, Smith has produced an expansive body of research (an h-index of 43 and 6138 citations).

We can look at two articles written by Smith to get a sense of what this dual approach looks like in the scholarship. The first, titled “Circumvention of Security: Good Users Do Bad Things,” highlights the fact that computer users’ level of cooperation with security tools that have been put in place for their own benefit often limits how useful those tools really are. Smith and his coauthors, Jim Blythe of USC and Ross Koppel of Penn, explain how people often attempt to work around even simple security measures like passwords and time limits on usage sessions. This may be done in the interest of convenience, but it compromises information security in the process. One lesson to be learned: We should be designing security systems so that people can get their jobs done without having to write down and share passwords. The second article, “Magic Boxes and Boots: Security in Hardware,” emphasizes the role that well-designed physical computer architecture can play in forming a secure system. Smith goes on to describe in some detail the story behind the development of the aforementioned IBM 4758 coprocessor, and although things get a bit technical after the second page, it’s well worth a read.

Smith stays busy in the classroom as well, where in recent terms he has taught Operating Systems, Computer Architecture, Theory of Computation, and Compilers, the last of which he redesigned in order to better meet student needs. A one-time course called “Risks of the Internet of Things to Society,” offered in Summer 2015, led to a recently-published book. Additionally, he directs Dartmouth’s Institute for Security, Technology, and Society (ISTS), which pursues and facilitates research into information security.

Addendum: Here’s a video of Professor Smith down in Concord discussing self-driving cars alongside Andrew Kun of UNH and Joe Cunningham of the NHTI. The whole presentation is interesting and worth a look, but Professor Smith introduces himself around the 4:50 mark:

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

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hard Dartmouth Soft Dartmouth

Here’s a chart that gives one pause. It was prepared for this space a while back by a thoughtful undergrad with a taste for figures. The College’s most popular departments are the ones giving out the lowest grades (and I’ve been told that Econ has recently tightened things up even more):

Course Popularity and Difficulty.png.jpg

From the looks of things, the departments that students feel are relevant (pre-med/law/b-school track?) are tough graders, and the Humanities (who have no greater supporter than your humble servant, despite the fact that too many faculty members have lost their way) feel the need to entice students with easy A’s.

Perhaps the administration could work on this problem, rather than building silly community houses.

Addendum: The College leads the Ivies in inflating grades over recent decades:

Grade Inflation over time national.jpg

However, as a report from Grade observes:

It’s worth noting that Dartmouth and Duke are in the upper right corner of this chart not because their grades are high relative to similar institutions today, but because their grades were low in 1960.

The College was once a tough place, too.

Erratum: Government Professor John Carey (a subject of Dartblog’s Guide to the Stars) writes in with a correction:

I agree that the chart plotting enrollments against average median grades by departments/programs is interesting. However, it was not “prepared for this space a while back by a thoughtful undergrad with a taste for figures.” It was produced by a thoughtful undergrad, Zachary Markovich ‘15, enrolled in the course Data Visualization (GOV16/QSS17) in Spring 2015. The course is taught by GOV Professor Yusaku Horiuchi. As one of the requirements for the course, students find primary source data and produce original analyses centered around graphical representations. Professor Horiuchi enlists colleagues to assess the best representations and select those that warrant special recognition - which is why I recognize this graph. Note that the version of the graph you have printed has part of a laurel wreath in the upper right-hand corner. The graphs from GOV16/QSS17 are on display in Silsby and the ones that earned special recognition have the little laurels on them, which suggests that Dartblog’s reporter probably photographed a graph from the display. That is fine — it’s a nice graph on an important topic — but the original source should be accurately reported.

Duly noted.

Addendum: Zach Markovich ‘15, who prepared the graph at the start of this post, writes in with a comment:

Although it’s definitely possible that “soft” departments give higher grades to attract students away from more lucrative majors, I think there other explanations of the trend as well. It’s equally plausible that students without an aptitude or passion for the subject matter quickly abandon less career relevant majors when they get low grades in their first classes but stick it out in the “hard” majors because they think they’ll ultimately be rewarded for it even though they received poor grades. The ultimate result is that the distribution of grades across majors looks the same, but for a very different reason. A good example of this effect might be classics, which had a reputation for giving very harsh grades, even though it’s grade distribution is middle of the pack. My best guess is that the trend in the graph is a combination of both these factors. For readers interested in the confounding effect of student sorting between majors on observed grade inflation, I’ve written a paper on this subject with Dartmouth Goverment professor Michael Herron that they can find here.

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The College, Hanover, Private Property

As we noted last week, yesterday evening the Hanover Planning Board heard comments from the public concerning a proposed change to the Town’s Zoning ordinance:

Hanover Zoning Change Para.jpg

The object of the change is fraternities, those owning their own land, who might lose College recognition. If the new rule is enacted, these Greek houses would be placed in a stranglehold, unable to rent their premises to students, and therefore obliged to sell to Dartmouth.

However, the Planning Board did not expect to run into the buzzsaw of Jeremy Katz ‘95, whose oration on the topic, if not quite one for the ages, certainly gave the members of the Planning Board pause:

My name is Jeremy Katz and I am a Trustee of NH Alpha of SAE Trust. Our Institution owns the real property and improvements at 38 College Street in Hanover. I am providing testimony on the proposed changes to the Student Residence definition.

First of all, regardless of any position on the actual proposal, the stated goal to achieve clarity in the zoning ordinance is appropriate, correct and deserves commendation. We all benefit from having rules that are clearly understandable and impartially enforced.

Second, I want to correct the record that was put forward in the zoning proposal where it has been stated and additionally implied that “Dartmouth College” was always the institution that was referenced in the student residence definition. There is no factual record that this is true, and in fact there is much to the opposite, as follows:

First, many institutions presently exist and have always existed in the Institutional zone. My institution is one of them. The adoption of the 1976 zoning ordinance specifically mentions that the zone is home to many institutions and the Town wanted to make it more institutional over time. People have the ability to be specific when they want to be, and had the voters in 1976 wanted to convey to Dartmouth a monopoly on student housing extending to third party property in 1976 they would have specifically used the words “Dartmouth College” instead of “many institutions.”

Second, the present ordinance is very, very vague. Just to be clear, those are not my words. Those are the words of attorney Bernie Waugh, Hanover Zoning Board member who stated them in open deliberations at the ZBA regarding the definition of student residence. In fact, the actual quote is “It is very, very vague as to what ‘in conjunction with’ may or may not mean.”

Attorney Waugh is a pre-eminent attorney specializing in municipal law. If he does not know what the present definition of the student residence means, we can’t expect many other people to.

But he is not the only person. The Ordinance is trusted to a Zoning Administrator for enforcement and supervision. Hanover Zoning Administrator Judy Brotman reportedly stated during her deposition in the Alpha Delta case that she did not know what the words “in conjunction with” meant in the zoning ordinance definition of student residence either.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Phil Does Something Right

I once heard the argument made that the North should have simply purchased all of the slaves in the South in 1860 to end the nation’s peculiar institution. Importation of new slaves had been illegal for many decades, so slavery could have been ended by expropriation — at a far lesser cost that the lives and treasure consumed by the Civil War.

To its credit, the Hanlon administration seems to be motivated by a similar pragmatism, as the Valley News reports:

Rennie Farm Fund.jpg

Dartmouth College has created a program to compensate neighbors of Rennie Farm for potential losses in the housing market caused by pollution from the former medical dump site near Hanover Center.

The “Value Assurance Program,” as school administrators are calling it, will allow people living near the former hillside farm where Dartmouth’s medical school dumped contaminated lab animal carcasses decades ago to apply for reimbursement from the college if they are unable to sell their homes, or if they have to mark them down significantly.

College officials said the program was an effort to stabilize the market and calm concern in the neighborhood over property values, given that some residents have had their land listed for months with barely a nibble.

We’ve referred to the Rennie Farm pollution problem in the past: over the years dead lab animals contaminated with dioxin-bearing chemicals were buried by Dartmouth researchers on the farm. The dioxin has leached into the groundwater contaminating the wells of some neighbors.

Rather than engaging in an endless and expensive legal battle, the College has fessed up to its liability, and is taking financial responsibility for it. Good move. The administration will save time and money in the long run, and keep the goodwill of the community.

Addendum: Here is the Dartmouth News release.

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

How Professors Now Get a Raise

Brilliance Stupidity.jpgThere’s plenty of dumb stuff going on in the Hanlon administration, but this one could be the topper. It seems, or so many professors believe, that the only way to receive a substantial raise at the College today is to let the administration know that you have an offer from a competing school.

One of management’s jobs, at least in any rational organization, is to keep tabs on the achievements of employees. When certain people excel at their positions, a good manager sua sponte rewards them with a raise, a bonus or some other form of compensation. Doing so obviates the need for the kind of give-and-take negotiation that generates bad blood. In my own business, in the case of top performance, I like to offer a raise before someone’s annual review date. People respond well to such attention.

The Hanlon crew abdicates this responsibility, putting the onus on a prof to scare up an offer from another institution. Such laziness. Deans should be closely following the achievements of professors: a book, an award, a much-cited article, and even great teaching. A reward should be quickly forthcoming. Faculty members not only appreciate a raise, but they are more than gratified that their hard work has been recognized.

In not doing so, and in waiting for a professor to elicit a competitive offer before taking action, the Hanlon administration’s policy results in several untoward knock-on effects:

1. Professors need to spend/waste time interviewing at other schools;

2. In doing so, they might actually like what they see elsewhere and choose to leave the College;

3. At the least, ill-will is generated as profs lose valuable time in an empty interview process;

4. Over time, other schools will learn that Dartmouth professors often aren’t interviewing seriously, but are doing so only to generate a competing offer.

Is there any upside to this policy — other than freeing administrators from doing their jobs. If so, please let me know.

And so, in another little step, is a great institution laid low.

Addendum: A Dartblog reader writes in:

Your four points about the flaws inherent in forcing professors to get an outside offer before offering a merit raise are spot-on, in my experience, particularly point #2. This is not, however, a problem unique to Dartmouth or the Hanlon administration: this is how it works everywhere I have been, and everywhere I have spoken to friends and colleagues. Short of winning a major national prize, there is simply no way for mid-career faculty to get a significant merit raise aside from demonstrating value on the open market by securing a competing offer.

It is immensely frustrating to outsource our professional evaluations in this fashion: my ability to gain a merit raise is determined by a search committee at another school deciding that my work is a good fit for them, rather than my home department accurately and honestly assessing its own needs. It is not a very positive comment on the faculty’s confidence in assessing their colleagues’ work.

On the hiring side, this practice also makes it very difficult to run senior searches at the associate and full level, since a good segment of the pool has applied primarily in hopes of getting a better offer from the home department, and it is near impossible to tell who is who. Top choices drop out very frequently at various points in the process without explanation.

Of course, the process of awarding merit raises in-house generates all sorts of other ill-will, which can be equally corrosive to the department and morale. This post hits a number of themes very accurately—but it is extremely inaccurate to suggest that this is a problem particular to Dartmouth or to the current administration.

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

MVP Keeps Making Waves

NFL 1st and Future.jpg

The Mobile Virtual Player has won its category (Training the Athlete: “Educational and training innovations designed to reduce injury during practice or competition. Innovations may include training techniques or equipment”) in the NFL First and Future Pitch Competition. If you are not up to speed on the MVP, here is a summary of a true innovation in football training:

Prizes include $50,000 from the NFL to further develop the MVP, acceptance into Texas Medical Center’s renowned startup program TMCx, and two tickets to Super Bowl LI.

Keep an eye out for Buddy Teevens ‘79 and Mrs. T in the crowd today. Or will John Currier ‘79 be there with Buddy? (What a great class!)

Addendum: The panel choosing the winners was made of the following members:

- Ed Egan, Ph.D., Director of the McNair Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Rice University’s Baker Institute

- Rich Ellenbogen, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and Co-Chairman of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee

- Bernard Harris, M.D., M.B.A, CEO and Managing Partner of Vesalius Ventures

- Mae Jemison, M.D., Principal, 100 Year Starship

- Chad Pennington, former NFL quarterback, NFL Legend

- Sue Siegel, CEO of GE Ventures and healthymagination

- John Urschel, Baltimore Ravens guard and center

Posted on February 5, 2017 4:00 AM. Permalink