Tuesday, September 23, 2014



Assault Fight Spinning Out of Control

There is nothing that the government can’t fix — at least according to some people. In the New York Times on September 4, Michael Kimmel and Gloria Steinem voiced support for California’s Senate Bill 967, the “yes means yes” law:

“it alters the standard regarding consent to sexual activity on college campuses…

Until this bill, the prevailing standard has been “no means no.” If she says no (or, more liberally, indicates any resistance with her body), then the sex is seen as nonconsensual. That is, it’s rape. Under such a standard, the enormous gray area between “yes” and “no” is defined residually as “yes”: Unless one hears an explicit “no,” consent is implied. “Yes means yes” completely redefines that gray area. Silence is not consent; it is the absence of consent. Only an explicit “yes” can be considered consent.

Curiously enough, the bill only applies to sexual relations on college campuses, not sexual acts between adults, which presumably will still be governed by the “no means no” standard.

Of course, as any practicing lawyer will tell you, the problems of definition and enforcement are still insurmountable here. Short of a signed document, aren’t we still in a situation of her word against his?

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe is reporting that the Department of Education has added Brandeis to the list of the schools that it is investigating for possible violations of Title IX (the College has been under investigation for some time now), but there is a twist in this latest investigation:

The US Education Department has opened an investigation into Brandeis University’s handling of a sexual assault complaint, the college said Thursday, making it the 10th school in the state and one of more than 75 nationwide facing such an inquiry.

The Education Department, in a document obtained by the Globe, said it is investigating a student’s allegation that the school wrongly and unfairly found him responsible for sexual misconduct this past spring and subsequently disciplined him. [Emphasis added]

Complaints of arbitrary enforcement in these cases come across my desk every day. There are currently many suits against colleges across that land for prosecutions that have become persecution. Dartmouth students well know how out of control some our own zealous bureaucrats can get.

One can imagine the day when the Feds oblige colleges to hire a full-time monitor to ensure compliance with the evolving definition of Federal statutes in this area. Ooops. Too late. The College and almost all other institutions of higher learning have already hired Title IX coordinators. Dartmouth’s overseer is Heather Lindkvist, formerly of Bates College.

Of course, Dartblog has been all over this story for a long time now. We announced in the summer of 2010, only somewhat facetiously, that a Dean had issued rules limiting sexual relations to students who had been a priori vetted by the Dean’s office: sex could only occur “in the presence of a Dean or a trained student monitor.”

More seriously, I would be the first person to agree that sexual assault has long been a serious problem on campus. However the solution is not to be found in the federal Department of Education and its heavy-handed, from-afar regulations.

Addendum: Perhaps the 1987 movie Cherry 2000 offers us a sense of how relations between men and women could evolve in the future:

Note 25-year-old Laurence Fishburne in a small role as the lawyer.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

One additional thought: I have heard the Federal government will fine an institution that fails to investigate allegations of sexual assault and impose punishments huge amounts of money - 1% of the operating budget. In such circumstances, college bureaucrats will launch what is in effect a prosecution whenever an allegation is made, no matter how dubious or even false it might appear. That may be the intention of Dept. of Education Civil Rights people.

The effect is to abolish any “prosecutorial” discretion such as exists in the normal criminal justice system. There prosecutors all the time decide that a case is too weak to pursue, or pursue some sort of reduced charge, perhaps seeking a plea bargain. In this strange world of forcing college administrators to function as ersatz criminal prosecutors, but with no sufficient investigative powers properly defined and circumscribed as in the courts, things are unlikely to ever get beyond a he-said, she-said state.

In such circumstances, determinations will be inherently arbitrary. The bureaucratic tendency will be to normally “convict” on accusation, because if a number of complaints have been received, but there have been no “convictions,” the bureaucracy will face not only angry outbursts from campus activists, but fear imposition of the sanctions from the government. It will be a case of guilty until proven innocent, with no effective means of proving innocence. The many anecdotal stories of male students being sanctioned on flimsy allegations, or even where local police have determined the charges to be baseless and have gone after the complainant for filing false reports, suggest these concerns are well founded.

At the College’s conference on harassment this summer, the Department of Justice administrator in charge of the effort against assault stated that in the past year she had threatened four institutions with the entire withdrawal of their federal funding (research grants, aid, etc.), if they did not comply with the DOJ’s understanding of Title IX.

Addendum: The NYT has summarized California’s new bill on consent. And Gary Pavela, a fellow of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, has written a fine piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the weaknesses of current reforms regarding the prosecution of sexual assault.


Posted on September 23, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, September 22, 2014



Wesleyan Frats Ordered to Go Coed

Will this move embolden the College’s administration? The NYT reports: Wesleyan has only two all-male fraternities on a campus of 2,900 students; about 50 students live in them. Over the next three years, the two frats must become co-educational in their membership and residential living. The school’s only sorority does not have a house and is therefore not subject to the new rules.


Posted on September 22, 2014 10:18 PM. Permalink



Will The Scolds Hold Sway?

Valley News Greek Life Comp.jpgIn a Valley News story that included an interview with English Professor Barbara Will, head of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” committee, the outlines of some of the College’s upcoming social reforms became clear. However, to this observer, it looks like the series of ideas that will be put forward in January doesn’t meet students’ needs even a quarter way. I fear that an increasingly stringent set of rules will be promulgated, and we are in for no more than cat-and-mouse games between students and the College and its varied enforcers. Some excerpts from the VN piece, and some comments:

Hanover — Reform is brewing at Dartmouth College, where senior administrators met with Greek leaders earlier this week to weigh possible measures to curb high-risk behavior at the college, such as a campus-wide ban on hard alcohol and the elimination of pledge terms…

Speaking over the phone on Thursday, Will said that while the intent on Tuesday had been to gauge student support, not to take immediate action, the progress made in the meeting had been heartening, especially considering that Greek leaders had brought up the idea of eliminating pledge term on their own.

“We think that’s an excellent idea … and if they didn’t do that on their own, that’d be one of our main recommendations in January,” Will said. “The risks of pledging, which often involve hazing, are not worth the rewards that come out of that period.”

If the College’s social-life engineers think that ending pledge term will end hazing, well, they haven’t spent any time thinking the issue through. Banning pledge term will have as much effect on hazing as banning hazing itself has had. The problem is that bonding rites are central to the creation of group culture. The College would be wiser if it helped to define just what those rites might be.

To date, GLOS has said that pretty much anything that pledges must do is hazing, and as a result of that oppressive formulation, the administration has banned de minimis activities from dyed green hair to red siren hats to lunch boxes and work boots. Given that NH law and College regulations define hazing as obligatory group initiation rituals that “would be perceived by a reasonable person as likely to cause physical or psychological injury to any person,” the verbot on hazing has been carried too far.

How about defining initiation rituals appropriately, encouraging productive group activities in support of worthy causes, and laying out real penalties if people transgress a reasonable set of rules?

Many sororities on campus retain ties to national organizations that have rules preventing them from throwing parties open to all students, leaving it to the fraternities to dominate the social scene at the college. If national sororities went local to avoid these rules, some of them would have to forgo financial support from their parent organizations.

When she and others brought up these concerns on Tuesday, Hanlon and Helman, a 1980 Dartmouth graduate and partner in a venture capital firm, told them that the college could provide financial support to those who wished to break away from their national organizations, Funk said.

This is a good idea; Dartblog has advocated the localization of Dartmouth’s national sororities for years. The College has held the opposite policy for a much longer time: throughout the Wright and Kim administrations, there was a stated ban on new locals; only new sororities with national affiliations would be considered. Alumni donations to create local sororities were repeatedly turned down.

Choosing to have sororities go local so that they they can hold parties open to the entire campus has an echo in Dartmouth’s history: in 1954 a majority of the College’s students voted that then-all-male-Dartmouth’s fraternities go local in order to circumvent national organization’s restrictions on the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities. If the College can financially assist sororities in breaking free of restrictions that serve to guarantee a frat monopoly on social life, Dartmouth will be better for it.

Will said on Thursday that college officials are also considering a ban on hard liquor, which she said would be effective in protecting freshmen, who are barred from fraternity parties serving alcohol during their first six weeks on campus. There are strong data suggesting that banning hard alcohol can cut down on the worst forms of binge drinking, she said…

Were the college to prohibit hard alcohol on campus, Will floated the idea that the ban accompany an “open-door” drinking policy where, if students threw a party in their dorm, they would be required to keep it open to specially trained monitors who would assess the risks and make sure they weren’t drinking hard liquor. The monitors would interfere if underage students were found drinking any alcohol.

Barbara Will’s committee is missing an opportunity here. In a post entitled A Grand Bargain on Alcohol, I proposed a balanced booze-for-beer tradeoff. Students would give up hard alcohol in exchange for the right to freely drink beer in frats and dorms. If the College tempers that deal by having snoopy alcohol monitors trying to nab under-21 students indulging in Keystone, the whole point of a tradeoff is lost. As we have said ad infinitum, there is no way to completely stop student drinking. The point is to channel this impulse in safe ways. Banning hard liquuor, with harsh penalties for contravening this rule, but tacitly allowing students of any age to hold beer-fueled parties in dorms and Greek houses is one way to do so.

[Panhell President Rachel] Funk said that sororities hadn’t yet come to a consensus on the potential ban. Though she acknowledged that it could slow down the intake of alcohol on campus, she said she had also heard arguments that the rule would impinge on the rights of students over 21 to drink what they please. Plus, some people simply prefer liquor over wine or beer, she added.

Nobody has the absolute right to drink anywhere. I can assure Ms. Funk that in the workplace of my Lebanon business, employees cannot drink alcohol, no matter what their age. The College is fully within its rights to ban the hard stuff (just as some varsity coaches ban all forms of alcohol in season — they have kicked athletes off of teams for violating the rule). As to students’ preferences, a trade of booze for beer would probably make some people unhappy. Tough. Policy is made for the greater good, and a choice like this would improve the College.

For his part, [AD President Mike ] Haughey suggested a number of other reforms, such as bringing back permanent taps for kegs in fraternity basements, which he said would encourage students to socialize instead of playing endless games of beer pong — “a glorified drinking game that becomes a pseudo-athletic event,” he said…

The only way to get students to buy into the new set of policies is to make a deal with them. If the College gives in and offers some of the things that students want (limited, harmless initiation rites; beer in the dorms; taps in Greek houses; subsidies to help sororities go local) then perhaps the Greeks will respect their side of the bargain (no pernicious hazing, no more hard stuff anywhere, open parties in all houses). But if the College only lays down another set of harsh rules, students will no more honor them than they acquiesced to the previous set of rules, and the ones before that, and the ones before that.

Addendum: A regular Dartblog correspondent writes in:

You shouldn’t trivialize pledging as a mere initiation rite. The fatal flaw of pledging is that it creates a two-tier membership, charges the new members with “earning” their membership, and worst of all, empowers undergraduates to design and execute the “tests of worthiness.” The result is a bully’s paradise. These insecure sociopaths are now licensed to have their way with the new members under the guise of forcing them to earn their membership. Even worse, the new members are sold on the idea that they can prove their manhood by submitting uncritically to the bully’s whims.

I hope you can see how morally wrong this is as well as creating an unfortunately favorable climate for psychological and physical danger to the new members (while feeding the psychological illness of the perpetrating bullies). People should not treat people this way.

Sure, imposing misery on the new members may cause them to get closer to each other in self-defense. But what real fraternity wants to be fractured into tightknit class cliques? With pledging and the pledge term abolished, fraternities should take a page from Kant’s book and universalize new member experiences. To build a united brotherhood, existing members should do everything new members are asked to do. If new members were responsible for cleanups, all fraternity members should now do cleanups. If new members were responsible for collecting signatures (almost always for a price, unfortunately), then all members should be responsible for collecting signatures. And so on.

No fraternity was founded with pledging. No fraternity founders went through a pledge period. The idea of pledging came decades after fraternities were formed. That’s because fraternity founders wanted to build a true brotherhood, one grounded on mutual respect and equal status. They chose Greek letters to associate themselves with Greek ideals of democracy. They wanted their fraternity to represent humanity at its best.

How sad that pledging creates a social model that contradicts all of these lofting ideals and brings out the worst in human nature. And how especially sad that it attracts the pathetically insecure — existing members and new members — who are so afraid to be themselves. It’s hard to imagine anything so out of keeping with the ideals of the Dartmouth Experience.

Getting rid of pledges and pledging isn’t social engineering. It’s social hygiene. The moral and practical foulness of pledging shouldn’t be allowed to stink up Dartmouth anymore.


Posted on September 22, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, September 21, 2014



BREAKING: Pledge Period Ends

Et ça commence.

Pledge Period Ends.jpg


Posted on September 21, 2014 10:44 PM. Permalink



Colleville-sur-Mer Diary: Sacred Ground

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.
(It is sweet and right to die for your country.)
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)

The Colleville-sur-Mer Cemetery in Normandy, located on the bluff just above Omaha Beach, doesn’t exalt the glory of dying in war; the green grass, the white marble headstones and the infinite seascape serve only to gently honor Americans who gave their lives in the first step toward freeing Western Europe in the springtime of 1944. Some 9,387 men are buried here, and a memorial wall lists the names of 1,557 Americans missing in action. The grounds are movingly immaculate, though I might be particularly sensitive to green and white. These colors of life and purity sanctify men who fought with discipline and resourcefulness, and without complaint.

Collieville Cemetery.JPG

A new visitors center at Colleville notes the trinity of Competence, Courage and Sacrifice that sustained the troops in combat there and on the neighboring beaches. America expected every man to do his duty, and it seems that no less than that occurred. The exhibits celebrate the quiet resolve and seriousness of purpose of the D-Day soldiers.

Addendum: World’s most beautiful cemetery?

Addendum: Normandy has not forgotten the invasion. Even the windows of gas stations have signs saying “Welcome to our Liberators.”


Posted on September 21, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, September 20, 2014



The Real Work of the College

As loyal readers know, we are big fans of the Political Economy Project. A note to ‘18’s: Enjoy PEP’s honest-to-goodness intellectual experience. It’s the kind of thing for which you came to Hanover.

Pep Talks 2014.jpg

Addendum: In case you missed it — I did — PEP has a video that lays out the goals of the most interesting initiative to come along in Hanover in quite a while:

Addendum: PEP will also hold three weekly reading groups this fall each Monday evening from 7-8pm in Silsby or Rockefeller Hall. PEP’s director Doug Irwin promises high level discussion regarding “thought-provoking books that often do not make it into the curriculum”:

Free Market Fairness, by John Tomasi. In this recent book, a leading political philosopher attempts to reconcile “free markets” with traditional notions of “fairness.” This group will be led by Professor Henry Clark.

The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey, by Michael Huemer. The title tells it all - it will explore whether the government has the “right” to coerce citizens in various contexts. This group will be led by Professor Jason Sorens.

Law’s Order, by David Friedman. This book asks what economics has to do with law, how the law shapes economic behavior, and why it matters. This group will be led by Professor Douglas Irwin

Note: Each group is limited to no more than 15 students. To ensure a place and to get more information, please respond as soon as possible directly to the professor whose book interests you most. Applications will be considered in the order they are received. You may only participate in one reading group per term.

Pizza, drinks and significant amounts of challenging commentary will be served.


Posted on September 20, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Friday, September 19, 2014



New Athletics Department Magazine

The Athletics Department has a new digital magazine — new to me, perhaps. Looks professional and informative. Have a peek.

Peak Performance.jpg

Athletics Director Harry Sheehy has been in town for four years now. He is making progress on all fronts. An Ivy League championship in football this year would signal that the College is back to its old standard as an Ivy power punching far above its weight.


Posted on September 19, 2014 6:00 PM. Permalink



A Star Shines Brighter

Rick Mills2.jpgThe D ran a piece today headlined New structure brings Wagner into CFO role, but that’s not the real story here. Wagner is a solid and dutiful worker, and he has labored under a string of Presidents, fitting in as needed. However, with this promotion, he is not so much rising up to new responsibilities as freeing EVP Rick Mills (photo right) to play a greater role in the management of the College.

We pointed out last week that Mills is beginning a series of lectures on the high cost of the College’s benefits policies. This kind of education has long been needed at Dartmouth. When he was hired, we also observed that Mills had a background that was not what one would expect from a senior financial leader in higher education. Let’s hope that he is showing that originality now.

In fact, we were lucky to lure Mills away from Harvard Medical School, where he had risen quickly in the hierarchy. The candidates reviewed by Dartmouth’s search committee fell into two groups: plain vanilla bureaucrats who had uneventfully spent their professional lives in higher education, and business executives of the type that have historically proven to be a poor fit when transferring to college administration. Mills stood out from the crowd as having both private sector rigor and the diplomatic savvy to succeed in a political environment. When Mills was hired last summer, we wrote:

Phil’s first big decision will tell us something about him. A year from now, the word will be out on Rick Mills. We’ll know if he is the EVP/CFO that the College needs, or not. And we’ll know if Phil Hanlon has a nose for talent, and if his instincts for departing from the beaten path are any good, or not.

Fingers crossed.

Phil passes this test with flying colors. Mills has earned nothing by praise around campus for directness, honesty, intelligence and imagination. With any luck, another year from now, he’ll have set Dartmouth on the road to fiscal and academic health by reducing the rampant waste that still characterizes so much of the bureaucracy. Once again, fingers crossed, but what a pleasure it is to feel hopeful about the direction of one area of the College.

Addendum: If Mike Wagner (below left) does not find the CFO position to his liking, I see a future for him as a stand-in for English actor Rowan Atkinson:

Wagner Atkinson Comp.jpg


Posted on September 19, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, September 18, 2014



A Critique of Theme Houses

The Valley News has printed an editorial that is critical of the College’s potpourri of housing options: the mix of theme houses about everything from entrepreneurship to Harry Potter. We haven’t looked at this subject for a while, but the Valley News’ objections are spot on:

… [the] new housing arrangements at Dartmouth College give pause. While well meaning and seemingly liberal-minded, some innovative “living learning communities” might actually promote insularity and social stratification. That would be an unintended but not entirely unexpected consequence of allowing students to live together according to shared interests.

“Living learning” communities and affinity groups are common on U.S. campuses, so Dartmouth isn’t breaking new ground. And there are good arguments for allowing some students — minorities and gays, in particular — to congregate in campus housing where they feel safe, secure and understood by peers.

But there are better arguments for mixing up students of different races, religions, sexual orientations and cultural perspectives. Colleges, particularly prestigious ones such as Dartmouth, like to tout their diversity. Why, then, would they want to encourage students to cluster together according to narrow interests such as veganism or Harry Potterism? College residential life ought to introduce the vegan to the carnivore, the Harry Potter fan to the Plato enthusiast, the gay to the straight, and the black to the white. Simple, easy, painless? Not necessarily. But self-segregation won’t broaden the mind or help prepare young people for real life, where one doesn’t necessarily encounter affinity groups down the street, in the gym, or on the job.

There’s evidence that those who attend college tend to be more understanding of opposing political and religious views, as well as more open-minded about other races and religions, than those who don’t attend. That’s not only because of what’s taught in the classroom but because of the campus experience.

What a shame that Phil can’t recall the democratic and diverse dorms that were an outstanding Dartmouth feature right up until the mid-80’s — as I wrote in a column in The D a decade ago. Students’ life in a “home dorm” should begin freshman year — there should be no segregrated, ‘shmen-only dorms — and they should be able to return to that all-four-classes dorm on a priority basis throughout their four years in Hanover. That successful housing system was an old tradition that should not have failed. Don’t you remember, Phil?

Addendum: Music Professor Jon Appleton writes in:

You are right about “affinity” living spaces. My first year at Reed College my two roommates could not have been more different. Walter wrote his thesis on Machiavelli and later joined the CIA. Ray studied complex mathematics and was son of a farmer. He followed in his father’s footsteps. I learned a lot from both of them. How boring it would have been if I had been in a music house.


Posted on September 18, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



The KAF Controversy

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

[While The D is now reporting that KAF will remain in Baker, the reasons for its almost-departure are worth considering. The Valley News has a short piece on KAF@Baker as well.]

The D and the Valley News have reported on King Arthur Flour Café’s year-end departure from Baker. Jim Kim’s only positive legacy is on the chopping block. For what reason? All sides agree that the extent of the Café’s menu is the issue. The College won’t allow KAF to serve sandwiches; KAF must limit its menu to coffee and pastries. KAF says that it can’t make a go of things with a limited menu, so it is leaving.

KAF.JPGWhy the restrictions? Is nutrition the issue? Or litter? Self-evidently not. The obvious impetus is that KAF is a far more attractive option for students than the Novack Café, and undergrads have voted with their feet, wallets and (Dart)mouths. The end result is that Novack is losing gobs of money.

Well, we can’t have that now, can we. Of course, if Novack would up its game and serve more attractive food at better prices, then it might compete better for students’ patronage. But if it did so, it would lose even more money. As this space reported three years ago, wages and benefits for DDS workers at Novack are close to double what the friendly KAF workers take home. In order to make ends meet, DDS is forced to charge high prices and make sandwiches and other items with cheap ingredients. In contrast, KAF pays a market wage to its people, actually a little better than that paid to most food service workers in the Upper Valley. The resulting saving allows it to offer tastier, more nutritious products.

Novack1.jpgThe College’s effort to protect DDS’s monopoly from competition is entirely the wrong choice. The better move in the short term would be to keep KAF in Baker, and see if another food service company wants to take over Novack. More competition rather than less is what we need.

Then the next step would be to have DDS’ entire slipshod operation in ‘53 Commons replaced by an independent company that has experience in servicing a large population like the College’s undergrads. Let’s end the SEIU sinecure and ask DDS workers to go find jobs elsewhere. If they want to work for the new company that runs the Class of ‘53 Commons, they can do so at the same level of wages and benefits that all of their friends and neighbors earn in the Upper Valley.

By passing the ensuing savings on to students, we could lower the cost of board at the College. In making that change, we would no longer be the second most expensive Ivy, even though we do business in the second cheapest locale (after Ithaca). Phil, you’ve said that you want to control the cost of education. If you are serious about that goal, then start by running DDS for the benefit of students, not the staff.

Addendum: Seattle was recently in the news when it boldly raised the local minimum wage to $15/hour (benefits are not included, and vacation days can be as low as ten days/year). The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hour. In unhappy contrast, DDS’s starting wage for SEIU workers is $16.78/hour. In addition, DDS workers over 40 years of age receive a 9% of wages pension contribution. All DDS workers start with just under five weeks of vacation each year; things get better as time of service goes on. I won’t even start on the Cadillac medical plan. Whatever your politics, the College can’t afford such unnecessary largesse when market wages are so much lower in Hanover and its surrounding communities.

Addendum: Meanwhile the New York Times reports:

Boloco.jpg


Posted on September 18, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, September 17, 2014



Endowment Yields 19.2%; Rises to $4.5B

The endowment has risen from $3.73 billion to $4.50 billion as the College announced that its investments yielded a 19.2% return. That’s the best performance since the blowout at the top of the dot.com bubble in 2000, when the endowment rose by a mind-numbing 46%. (As a cautionary tale, it fell by 3%, 6% and 3% over the next three years, and the administration was forced to make painful budget cuts). The College’s calculation is as follows:

The increase reflected net investment gains of $778 million and new gifts and transfers of $146 million, offset by distributions of $189 million to support Dartmouth programs.

By way of background, the draw from the endowment to support the College’s operations each year is about 5% of the total value of the endowment (based on a rolling three-year average).

The real question here is, “Hey Phil, what you gonna do about it?” A jump in the endowment of $735 million will allow the endowment to throw off an extra $36.8 million in a couple of years (recall the 5% draw figure mentioned above). Where will the money go? If past practice is followed, the ever-growing, overpaid staff will get most of it. One might expect that this is how things will go this time around, too — after all, most faculty members received a raise of only 1.5% this summer, with some getting a meager performance raise on top of that figure.

I’d suggest that right now Phil announce that he is allocating a good chunk of this money to reducing tuition. The 2.9% increase for this year was twice the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index, even though Phil had promised increases in line with inflation. He justified that commitment on the basis that investment returns would probably be moderate in the coming years. How happy he must be to have been wrong. In 2013, the College took in about $120 million in undergrad tuition (not including room/board and fees). Using part of the new $36.8 million could make a big dent in that figure.

If Phil is the bold President that I hope him to be, he could announce right now that next year we will match Princeton for the lowest cost of education in the Ivies: $55,440/year. Dropping from the current $61,947 to that level would cost us something in the range of $16-$18 million dollars, not even half of the new budget money made available by the endowment’s wonderful return. And Phil could set a further goal of reducing that figure even more in the future, if endowment returns allow it. His three-year goal could be to make Dartmouth the most affordable school in the Ivies. Long live, Phil!

Addendum: Beyond the intrinsic nobility of such an ambition, a bold statement by Phil would get us on the front pages of national newspapers for something other than rape, binge drinking, hazing and racism. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?

Addendum: While the College is thinking of how to spend this extra money, an allocation to revamping dorms would go a long way to improving residential life at the College, as Lorelei Yang wrote in The D today, and as this space has noted, too.

Addendum: None of the other Ivies have reported their results to date.


Posted on September 17, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



More Good Press

Something in print that makes us look good. How unusual.

Green D Founders Comp.jpg


Posted on September 17, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, September 16, 2014



Show Me the Financial Aid

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

In perusing the College’s financial aid figures, there is proof to be found for an assertion that we have repeatedly made:

…over the past three years the Admissions department has bent over backwards to protect the College’s yield figures by admitting more students early decision, and also by accepting far more legacies. These two moves, beyond helping the yield, also have had a positive financial impact: students accepted early cannot play off one school against another in negotiating financial aid; for them it’s take it or leave it. And legacies, by and large, have a far greater capacity to pay full freight.

The above table shows that the Trustees have made a similar financial calculation as regards our mix between public and private school admits; students from the latter group are self-evidently wealthier. For the classes between 2007 and 2013, admitted private school students ranged between 32-36% of the freshman class; the last three years have seen a jump to a rock-solid 40%. That consistency sure looks like a quota to me. Of course, you might believe that kids from private schools suddenly got a lot smarter starting in 2010. If so, may I interest you in a bridge?

Once again, the Kim administration chose to play fast and loose with the quality of the College’s incoming students — our lifeblood — for financial gain, rather that dealing with the big bear in the room: our bloated, over-compensated staff.

The Dartmouth Factbook describes how the number of students receiving need-based financial aid has dropped since the Class of 2014, the class year in which the Kim administration made significant, financially motivated decisions regarding the College’s admissions policies (here and here). From a high of 51% in the 2009-2010 academic year, the number of students receiving aid has consistently fallen:

Financial Aid Comp.jpg

Dartmouth Now reported in March that “Forty-six percent [of accepted students in the Class of 2018] have qualified for need-based financial aid,” and Dean of Admissions Maria Laskaris has informed me directly that it now appears only 45% of incoming students will receive aid.

The difference between 51% and 45% of students is significant: approximately 260 students over four classes. If this many students no longer receive financial aid — of which the average award is now over $44,000 — the College will take in an extra $11.4 million each year.

Soak the students to feed the staff.

Addendum: I don’t share President Obama’s worries about “the rich,” but if 55% of the College’s incoming students come from families that are able to drop more than a quarter of a million dollars on the education of each of their children, Dartmouth can’t help but have a social atmosphere somewhat divorced from the real world.


Posted on September 16, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



Our Aid Effort vs. the Ivies

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

The other day [above] we noted that the number of students receiving financial aid from the College had dropped in recent years from 51% to 45% of the student body — part of the Kim adminstration’s “soak the students to feed the staff” balanced budget initiative. Several readers wrote in to ask how we are doing versus the other Ivies. Here are the figures for Dartmouth, Penn, Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard:

Ivy Financial Aid 2014.jpg

Not only are we again worst-in-show in the financial aid sweepstakes, but we have fallen off the previous trendline that related financial aid to endowment/student: by that latter measure we are still in fourth position in the Ivies behind HYP, and we used to be #4 in giving financial aid, too. Not any more.


Posted on September 16, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Monday, September 15, 2014



Head in the Sand Department

Phil has issued a statement on the State of the College to open the academic year. He is brimming with pride and optimism about Dartmouth — though for some reason he does not even barely refer to the student-life crises that have made the College a national whipping boy in the media. Today Dartblog will award no points for courageous leadership.


Posted on September 15, 2014 6:00 PM. Permalink



Where Did the $58 Million Go?

(For students returning to campus, we are re-printing a few highlights from last term.)

As we’ve mentioned before, the College has the fourth highest endowment/student in the Ivies, coming after Princeton, Harvard and Yale. But rather that looking at HYP, let’s continue our comparison between Dartmouth and Brown. I keep referring to Brown because the structure of that school (ratio of undergrads to grads, number of professional schools, etc.) is closest to the College among the Ivies.

On June 30, 2013 our endowment was $3,733,596,000 and Brown’s was $2,669,948,000. Our position is a strong one, given that Brown has over a third more students than we do.

Last year we drew $183,816,000 from the endowment to fund the College’s ongoing operations:

Dartmouth Endowment Draw 2013.jpg

Given that there are a total of 6,342 students at the College, that works out to be a draw of $29,984/student.

Brown was able to draw only $125,858,000 from its endowment in the same time period.

Brown Endowment Draw 2013a.jpg

Given that there are a total of 8,619 students at Brown, the draw was $14,602/student.

Putting things another way, Dartmouth drew more from its endowment than Brown did in absolute terms: $57,958,000, and the difference on a per student basis was $15,382/student.

Where did all this money go? Certainly not to the College’s students. Tuition, room and board, and fees at the College in the fall of 2014 will be $61,947. Brown will only charge its students $59,428. That’s a difference of $2,519/year. Dartmouth students will pay 4.2% more for their education than the kids at Brown — a total of $10,076 over four years.

The faculty did not get its hands on the $15,382/student surplus either. According to the federal government’s authoritative Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data for 2011, not only does Brown have 35% more full-time professors than Dartmouth — as you would expect, given that Brown has 36% more students than Dartmouth — but Brown also pays its professors more than faculty in Hanover, by about 10% or so, depending on the level that the faculty member has achieved:

Dartmouth Brown Faculty Salaries2.jpg

Certainly some Dartmouth professors out-earn their equivalents in Providence, but the overall figures are clear.

If the students and the faculty don’t enjoy the benefits of the endowment’s big payout, then who the heck does? I’ll leave that answer up to you.


Posted on September 15, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



Some Good Press For a Change

We’ve commented before on the visible success of the the College’s gay alumni. The Times added to that story last week by noting that Trevor Burgess ‘94 is one of two openly gay CEO’s running publicly traded corporations. Burgess commented on Dartmouth in the article:

When Mr. Burgess was a student at Dartmouth College in the early 1990s, one of his fraternity brothers wrote an article in the conservative Dartmouth Review that referred to Mr. Burgess with an anti-gay slur. “Within one week, I resigned from my fraternity and became president of the gay and lesbian student association,” Mr. Burgess recalled. When he was applying for jobs after graduation, he included the organization on his résumé. “They said they were looking for evidence of leadership,” he said. “Maybe I was naïve.” But it didn’t stand in the way of job offers.

Mr. Burgess noted that today, Dartmouth has Triangle House, one of five living and learning communities at the college. That house aims to enhance the “intellectual and cultural environment” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, according to Dartmouth. “Progress is possible,” Mr. Burgess said.

Trevor Burgess1.jpg


Posted on September 15, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Sunday, September 14, 2014



Paris Diary: Lady Di’s Memorial

Statue of Liberty Flame.JPGThe French authorities seem to have accepted that the Statue of Liberty flame on the banks of the Seine has become a widely beloved memorial to Princess Diana, popularly called “Lady Di” here. The flame itself — an exact replica of the one that stands in New York Harbor — was made by the same guild of Gallic artisans who crafted the original Lady Liberty, and who restored her several decades ago. It stands above the tunnel in which Diana’s fatal traffic accident occurred on August 31, 1997.

We flew back to Paris from our Hanover summer that year after having watched Diana’s funeral at the break of dawn. Her brother’s eulogy was one for the ages. After our arrival, jetlag kicked in and at about 3am Elizabeth and I and our seven-month-old son found ourselves unable to sleep. We strapped the little guy into a Baby Bjorn and spontaneously decided to go to the site of Princess Di’s accident, which is a little more than a mile from our apartment. I don’t think we had ever before or have ever since gone on a middle-of-the-night walk in Paris. In some curious way we were drawn to the place, as we found hundreds of other people were, too. We could leave no flowers at that hour, but there was solace in understanding our own emotions were widely shared.

A good friend repeatedly asks what Princess Diana did to deserve such adulation. The better question is what it is about her that moved so many people, as she still does.

Princess Di Memorial.JPG

Addendum: We regularly bike and drive by the site. It stands near the Pont D’Alma at the bottom of avenue du Président Wilson, where an excellent open-air market is held each Wednesday and Saturday. There are always people standing reverently near the flame.


Posted on September 14, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, September 13, 2014



Everything in the Press Is True

As my father says, “Everything in the press Is true, except those stories about which you have personal knowledge.” The NY Daily News did not distinguish itself in reporting on the College’s declining ranking with U.S. News. What school is this?

NY Post Dartmouth Mass1.jpg

Of course, the feckless Daily News photo editor should have known better. Accurate data was in plain sight:

NY Post Getty Images.jpg


Posted on September 13, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, September 12, 2014



Our Worst Press Yet

The headline might say “America’s Top Colleges,” but the great majority of Newsweek’s 4,282-word story is about Dartmouth. Not a single mention of academics, great teachers, extracurriculars, or the love for the school felt by alumni. Nope. It’s all about pong — beloved by undergrads, still played by alums — and the entire range of the College’s negative aspects that have been reported on endlessly in the press. The gods of public opinion are angry. In fact, the term “feeding frenzy” is now appropriate.

Newsweek 0911.jpg

The piece was written by Newsweek editors Abigail Jones ‘02 and Alexander Nazaryan ‘02, with reportorial help from Lauren Sarner ‘14. The authors have their facts straight, and given the depth of research and fact-checking, there is no doubt that this story has been in the making for a good while. It jumps between a history of pong, a rundown of Dartmouth’s various woes, and a narrow depiction of debauched campus social life. Herewith some excerpts:

Pong is more than a game at Dartmouth; it is a symbol, maybe the symbol of the school. It is a seductive relief valve on a campus where “Work hard, play hard” has become an unofficial motto. It is also a public health pestilence that, critics say, vanquishes both brain cells and intellectualism. Worse yet, it is at least partly responsible for what some say is an epidemic of binge drinking and sexual assault on campus…

[Dartmouth] is the smallest and most remote of the eight Ivy League schools—respected, well known, the perfect microcosm for what challenges the success of American higher education. Perhaps that’s why it’s been the subject of some brutal headlines over the last year: “Dartmouth in the Glare of Scrutiny on Drinking” (The New York Times); “Dartmouth vows to curb student misbehavior” (The Boston Globe); “How I Became an Alcoholic and Failed Out of Dartmouth” (Business Insider)…

But while other top-ranked schools have transcended their scandals, Dartmouth seems trapped in a keg of sour beer. The problem is that the school’s beloved pong culture is, well, a big part of the problem…

The Dartmouth weekend begins on Wednesday night, when the 30 fraternity, sorority and co-educational houses hold their weekly meetings. For the next four days, campus social life largely revolves around pong…

Eventually, all of those 16-ounce cups will find their way to someone’s lips; if they don’t, the contents will end up in a garbage can, a dim corner of the basement or on the floor, where the beer will turn into a sticky substance known as mung. All the while, young men and women watch the games from the sidelines, talking, flirting and drinking, some of them waiting to play on the next free table, others content to watch for hours…

“Imagine the valedictorian of your high school class,” says a current Dartmouth fraternity member, who asked that his name not be used. “Now put lots of versions of that person in a remote New Hampshire town and try to make them socialize. Now create a game that makes it acceptable (and heavily encouraged) to drink at a pace of six-ish beers an hour without having to say more than a few words to each other. Congratulations, you just created Dartmouth nightlife.”…

On January 25, 2012, a student named Andrew Lohse published an op-ed in the school’s daily newspaper, The Dartmouth. Titled “Telling the Truth,” it revealed the sordid details of his pledge term at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, wherein he and his cohort were allegedly made to engage in extreme, sometimes nauseating acts. The piece went viral, and Lohse became the focal point of a Rolling Stone feature that painted the campus as a boozy proving ground for future Goldman Sachs managing partners who treat global finance like a game of tree. Lohse’s book about the ordeals of Greek life at Dartmouth, Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy, has just been published.

Lohse’s op-ed ignited what has been a remarkable stretch of bad publicity for a school that, by dint of its remote location and small student body, generally stays out of view. In April 2013, about a dozen protesters interrupted a session for prospective students to protest the school’s supposedly lax handling of sexual assault. Over the summer, the Alpha Delta fraternity held a Bloods and Crips party, with predictable outrage following online. In February 2014, The Dartmouth uncovered online postings by a male student gleefully describing the rape of a woman he called “Choates whore,” a reference to a dormitory where underclassmen live. Students occupied the office of new college president Philip J. Hanlon, who had been a member of Alpha Delta in the 1970s. A former student was acquitted of raping a fellow student. Online organizers UltraViolet launched ads on Facebook and Web browsers claiming Dartmouth had a “rape problem.”

After a piece like this, certainly the harshest one to appear in the press during this annus horribilis, one has to wonder just who is going to apply this fall for admission.

Addendum: We can take solace that the once-mighty Newsweek — its circulation in 2003 was four million — doesn’t do even 5% of that figure now in newsstand and subscription sales. The reach of its for-pay website is unclear.

Addendum: The Valley News’ Rob Wolfe ‘12 reviews Andrew Lohse’s book today.


Posted on September 12, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, September 11, 2014



There’s Something Happening Here

What it is ain’t exactly clear, but it seems that Phil’s new CFO, Rick Mills, the guy with the interesting background, is holding a series of open fora on the state of the College’s benefits policies:

Mills Benefits Comp1.jpg

As we have observed only a few dozen times in the past, the College’s salary and benefits policies are hobbling the school. For example, while Brown has a third more professors and students than Dartmouth, more employees overall, and it operates in a large city, Brown’s total spending in 2013 on compensation was 22.3% less than the College’s — that’s a difference of $86,715,000. This efficiency enables Brown to charge its students about 4% less than the College for tuition/room and board/fees.

Let’s wish good luck to Rick Mills. I’m hoping that this could be the start of something big.

Addendum: The Dartmouth Now description of the events notes that a forum will be recorded and put up on the web. The first one will take place today from 11 a.m. to noon in Kemeny 006.


Posted on September 11, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



With Friends Like This

Ouch. A real double whammy.

Bloomberg Top Ten Comp1.jpg

Addendum: An alum writes in:

Bloomberg is relentless in its biased coverage of Dartmouth. Duke and Penn each took a step down in the rankings this year but no one is suggesting that those schools have a problem.

Addendum: Bloomberg has now re-written the headline in its story to make it punchier, and to fit yet another stereotype:

Bloomberg Top Ten Revised Comp.jpg


Posted on September 11, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Um, Did We Mention the Top Ten?

This WCAX-TV story is an example of journalists stretching for something to say:

WCAX Top Ten Comp.jpg


Posted on September 10, 2014 6:00 PM. Permalink



Almost Unchanging Rankings

The Washington Post has looked at the evolution of the U.S. News rankings over the past five years in a story that summarized this year’s changes. As for the College, the Post used Bloomberg’s phrasing:

Dartmouth College in New Hampshire slipped out of the top 10 among national universities, moving from 10th to 11th.

In its interactive graphic, the takeaway for the Ivies and other top schools is that change is slow at best. Of the sixteen top schools (I chose this figure to capture all of the Ivies, Brown being in last place this year), over the past half decade none has moved on net more that one slot up or down, except for Chicago (+5), Penn (-3), Caltech (-3) and the College (-2). Plus ça change.

WP U.S. News Changes.jpg

Addendum: As we observed the other day, in the 1990’s right up until the disastrous moment when Jim Wright became President, we were in seventh place most years.


Posted on September 10, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



Diversity and Endowments

The Times Upshot column continues to crunch the numbers: last week it looked at a very limited data sample to see how students pick among top schools when they are accepted to several leading colleges; today it reviews the economic diversity of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning. We come in fifth in the Ivies in terms of recruiting students from low-income and first-generation-to-college students.

The Upshot folks are thorough with data. In addition to the basic ranking, they have calculated the capacity for each school to be generous with financial aid. As we have noted in the past, the College is the fourth wealthiest of the Ivy schools: we have more endowment/student than anyone except HYP. Curiously, Columbia, Brown and Penn, which have endowment/student numbers well below ours, do better at recruiting an economically diverse class; as does Harvard, the Ivy’s third-richest school. Poor kid Cornell (the lowest endowment/student in the Ivies) and über-wealthy Princeton and Yale have the least economically diverse classes.

Upshot Economic Diversity.jpg

Addendum: As we have noted repeatedly, the sticker price of attending Dartmouth is the second highest in the Ivies — despite the fact, as detailed above, that we have the fourth highest endowment/student and we do business in a low-cost area of the country.


Posted on September 10, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, September 9, 2014



We Can’t Catch a Break

Bloomberg logo1.jpgHere’s how Bloomberg is reporting the U.S. News rankings:

Bloomberg on U.S. News 2014.jpg

The downward death spiral continues.

Addendum: The alumnus who pointed out the above Bloomberg story writes in with some thoughts:

I agree with your conclusion that Dartmouth escaped potential disaster with the US News rankings. However, I have two observations on the rankings:

Although the drop from 10th to 11th place is fairly de minimis (especially given that there was a tie for 10th last year between Dartmouth and Cal Tech), the media (see Bloomberg headline above) is reporting it as Dartmouth dropping out of the top 10. That makes it look worse than it really is.

Also, I think the real concern is the drop in the undergraduate teaching category from 1st to 4th place. Despite all of the controversies, Dartmouth has been able to claim for the past 5 years that it has the best undergraduate teaching in the country. Now it plays second fiddle not only to Princeton, but to W&M and Miami of Ohio. That one hurts…

Addendum: You’d think that Bloomberg could be a little more charitable to the College. After all, Michael Bloomberg’s “significant other,” Diana Taylor ‘77, is a member of the Board of Trustees.


Posted on September 9, 2014 11:59 AM. Permalink



BREAKING: We Drop to #11

U.S. News logo.jpgAll scandalous things considered, we should be happy to have dropped only one place in the latest U.S. News rankings:

US News September 2014a.jpg

We dropped to #4 in Best Undergraduate Teaching (after Princeton, College of William and Mary, and Miami University—​Oxford).

In other criteria, we are #7 in the High School Counselor Rankings (tied with Brown, Cornell and Penn; the other Ivies tied for #1); #7 for Best Value Schools; #15 for Most Students in Fraternities (male undergraduates) (only Ivy on list); #23 Most Students in Sororities (female undergraduates) (only Ivy on list); #13 Lowest Acceptance Rates (sixth in Ivies ahead of Penn and Cornell).

Addendum: After Columbia and Chicago, we have the third highest tuition and fees among the top schools. What can I say, it’s expensive to do business in major metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago and Hanover.

Addendum: An alert alumnus makes some interesting points:

Based on the US News chart that you provided in your most recent posting, it appears that they used 2013 data for the current rankings, which would not include the 14% drop in applications or the 11.5% acceptance rate in 2014. Does that mean that the real damage will occur next year when 2014 figures are incorporated in the data by US News?

Also, you may be interested in an article today in the Brown Daily Herald (link below) which tries to explain why Brown dropped two places (from 14 to 16) despite a record low acceptance rate in 2014. They blame it on an administrative reporting error.

http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/09/09/brown-slips-two-spots-u-s-news-rankings/

Addendum: The College’s press release (headline: ‘U.S. News’: Dartmouth a ‘Great Value,’ With Low Debt) focused its first four paragraphs on metrics other than our declining national rank and undergrad teaching rating. Here’s how it reported on those measures in paragraph five:

Dartmouth also ranked in the top 10 for high school guidance counselors’ top picks and for “Focus on Student Success.” It remained in the top 12 in the magazine’s overall ranking of national universities, coming in at No. 11. The College was in the No. 10 spot for the last two years, and three years ago ranked No. 11. Dartmouth ranked No. 4 for undergraduate teaching, and for six years, since the category was created, has ranked among the best schools on the list.

I’d say that we rank pretty high for obfuscation.


Posted on September 9, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, September 8, 2014



A Big Day Tomorrow

Dartmouth employees have all been ordered to cross their fingers for the next 24 hours in anticipation of the to-be-announced-tomorrow U.S. News rankings. We could be looking at a black day in the history of the College. Here is what I wrote on February 20:

We’ll have to wait until September to learn where we stand versus other colleges after the bad press of the past few years and the collapsing application numbers, but it’s hard to imagine that we’ll keep our #10 position (tied with CalTech).

In U.S. News’ methodology, the acceptances/applications percentage only counts for 1.5% of our total rating, but that slight difference could cost us our tie. However, beyond that, 22.5% of the ranking comes from peer assessments: the views of college presidents, provosts and deans of admissions; and a survey of counselors at top-ranked public high schools. By now there can’t be anyone in these categories who isn’t aware of the College’s string of student life scandals, the AP fiasco, and the general turmoil on campus (fly-by-night Jim Kim and the high turnover in the senior administration, the College’s overspending, high tuition and comparatively ungenerous financial aid). I could go on.

Our ranking has already been drifting lower for a good while; on average, we have dropped about one or two positions each decade:

Dartmouth U.S. News Ranking.jpg

The trend can only accelerate now. I can’t see us being any better than #12 come the fall.

Let’s hope that we dodge a bullet, but given the weak leadership in Parkhurst and the non-existent/incompetent role played by the know-nothing Trustees over the past twenty years, we don’t really deserve to do so. The College has never been ranked worse than eleventh during this period, though as you can see from the chart, we were often as high as seventh in the 1990’s.


Posted on September 8, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, September 7, 2014



DAM Looks at the Mess

Though unheralded on campus, we have one of the nation’s best alumni magazines. It regularly wins top prize in its class, and a couple of years ago one of the competition judges, not an alum, opined that he’d like to buy a subscription. In the most recent issue, there is a good overview of the current lurching chaos at the College. Kudos to the editors for having the nerve to let alumni know that improvements are sorely needed in Hanover.

DAM Sep-Oct 2014 Comp.jpg

I wonder if Phil is even aware of the drubbing that we have taken over the past two years in the press — and in the minds of high school students and college counselors.


Posted on September 7, 2014 6:00 PM. Permalink



Garavicchio Diary: Niki de Saint Phalle

Franco-American Artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s (1930-2002) Giardino dei Tarocchi (The Tarot Garden) will bring back memories for Dartmouth students who have spent time in Barcelona. Her sculpture park in Garavicchio, Italy (Tuscany) was clearly inspired by Catalonia’s Antoni Gaudí.

All 22 cards of the tarot are represented in the phantasmagorical park, whose sculptures have a secondary whimsy: many can be lived in. De Saint Phalle carved out bedrooms, bathrooms and even a dining room and chapel inside the monumental pieces.

Nicky1.JPG

Nicky2.JPG

De Saint Phalle constructed a similarly fantastic park in Ecsondido, California: Queen Califia’s Magical Circle.


Posted on September 7, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink