Sunday, December 21, 2014



A Dartmouth Photographer

You don’t hear much about photography at the College today, but it seems that people like Gary Winogrand spent time holding workshops here in the 1960’s. One of the students that he influenced was Jonathan Sa’adah ‘72:

Jon Saadah Comp.jpg

As a young photographer Sa’adah documented everything from the seminal moments of the 1960’s (the 1969 occupation of Parkhurst Hall — that’s Anthropology Professor Hoyt Alverson holding the microphone):

Parkhurst 1969.jpg

to off-beat life in the Upper Valley:

Jon Saadah Union Village.jpg

Slate Magazine notes that Sa’adah

recently published a collection of images taken around that time through 1975 into a book called How Many Roads? The book, divided into three sections, provides plenty of subtle moments that transport the age-appropriate viewer back in time: Anti-war protests, a broken down VW bus, snapshots of seemingly all American families, and portraits of people who could just as easily be mistaken for your neighborhood barista.

The book is only available through Phoenicia Publishing.

Addendum: What a wonderful photograph:

McGovern.jpg

Addendum: The Hood has purchased several silver-gelatin prints of Sa’adah’s photographs of the Pilobolus dance company ca. 1971-72.


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

Saturday, December 20, 2014



An Arch Look at Memorial Field

How often did you sit in the Memorial Field stands to cheer as the backs go tearing by? Those seats are no more: the old façade will remain, but the home side area is being entirely re-done.

Memorial Field.jpg

The College’s press release from earlier in the year has more details:

The project will feature wider aisles and concourses, handrails, modern rest rooms, a premium chairback section on the 50-yard line, and accessible seating on three levels connected by an elevator. The new press box will also be accessible by elevator, and will include upgraded technology for video streaming, television and radio broadcasts, and video scoreboard operation.

The West Stands were originally completed in 1923, and the structure has been deemed by engineers to be nearing the end of its useful life. The Trustees originally approved the replacement project in 2008, but it was suspended along with several other campus projects due to the economic downturn. The College had already invested several million dollars in precast concrete, which will now give the project a head start and limit the additional construction cost to $10.5 million…

The project will be the latest in a series of impressive improvements to Memorial Field. A new track and FieldTurf® playing surface were installed in 2006, followed by Floren Varsity House, the new East Stands, and end zone seating in 2007. Field lighting was then installed in 2011 and a new video scoreboard was erected in 2013.

Here’s a rendering of how the final result will look when the 2015 football season begins:

Memorial Field Elevation.jpg


Posted on December 20, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, December 19, 2014



Valley News Gives Credit

After initially crediting “a rumor” as leading the paper’s reporter to ask about the absorption of the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, the Valley News has now edited its story as follows:

Lawrence’s statement, sent in response to a request for comment following a Dartblog post that the center was going to be absorbed by the institute, described the planned changes as intended “to facilitate President (Phil) Hanlon’s vision” for how Dartmouth could contribute to health-care reform, both domestically and internationally. [Emphasis added]

In addition, the VN printed a clarification at the bottom of the piece:

Valley News Clarification.jpg

Merci.


Posted on December 19, 2014 7:22 PM. Permalink



No D Today

The Daily D’s website has been down for several days, but I don’t think that anyone has noticed.


Posted on December 19, 2014 4:46 AM. Permalink



Kim’s Center Absorbed

Now here’s a really fun read. On December 10 we noted in an addendum:

Kim’s other healthcare project at the College was the Center for Health Care Delivery Science. You’ll recall that Kim appointed then-Trustee Al Mulley ‘70 to run this new institute, funded by a $35 million gift, said to be from Trustee Steve Mandel ‘78. You might also recall that Mulley headed the Presidential Search Committee that brought Kim to Hanover. Such endearing mutual support. In any event, it looks like Mulley has run the show as well as any crony can be expected to do, and word has it that the standalone Center will soon be absorbed into the The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

On Wednesday the 17th the Valley News wrote a story on the event, after asking the College to “comment on a rumor that the center was going to be absorbed by the institute”:

Mulley Center Comp.jpg

Read the entire story for an example of journalism where nobody is speaking frankly, neither the College nor Rick Jurgens, the Valley News’ writer. If you are short of time, let me translate the entire 902-word piece into plain English for you:

Dartmouth: As we had always planned to do, we are folding Jim Kim’s Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science into the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

VN: I don’t believe you.

Dartmouth: And Al Mulley, who Jim Kim appointed to head the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, will be staying at the College for a long time.

VN: I don’t believe you.

The Dartmouth crowd is spinning its little heart out — look at the full piece for endless jargon and boilerplate from every College representative — and Jurgens knows it, too, but the strictures of modern journalistic practice restrain him from saying so. However his repeated questions and his choice of quotations communicate what he really thinks.

Playing Kremlinologist has its pleasures, but the world would be a better place if people spoke plainly.

Addendum: The funniest line in the whole story is this one:

[Director of the Dartmouth Institute Elliott] Fisher, who last year became the institute’s director, said that he didn’t know what his opinion at the time would have been about the original decision to create a separate entity, but noted that there was “good theory” that a separate entity might act as a catalyst for innovation. “I think (the center) was successful in catalyzing some important things,” he added. [Emphasis added]

What a great quote. It reminds me of the legal depositions where the person being deposed says “I don’t recall” 149 times. Given that Dr. Fisher has been at Dartmouth since 1986, I have little doubt that he had an opinion — and quite a strong one — about Jim Kim’s decision to give Al Mulley his own fiefdom, rather then integrating the activities of the Center for Health Care Delivery Science into the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice from the very start.


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



Phil Klay ‘05 on Colbert

Phil Klay ‘05, who recently won the National Book Award for fiction for his collection of short stories about the Iraq war, Deployment, did well on the Colbert Report:

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,The Colbert Report on Facebook,Video Archive


Addendum: In its July 2008 issue, the Alumni Magazine published a controversial piece about Colbert, whose character claims to be an alum. Some folks did not get the joke.


Posted on December 19, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Thursday, December 18, 2014



Record Number of ED Admits/Students

It would seem that the Admissions department has detected weakness in the number of applicants again this year, and in order to keep the College’s precious yield figures in line with the other Ivies, the number of students admitted via Early Decision has climbed to an all-time high of 483.

Early Decision Admits 2006-2019.jpg

Of these students, The D is reporting that only about 148 are athletes; another 50 athletes have been told that they will be accepted with the pool of students admitted in April. Given that everyone in these two groups of athletes will matriculate, and that one can expect a continuation of the increased number of legacy and private school admits that began with the Class of 2014, our yield figures should be safe for the time being — along with our increased tuition income.

The D also quoted Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Maria Laskaris as noting that “the admitted group of students will represent approximately 41 percent of Dartmouth’s Class of 2019.” That number can be interpreted two ways: that the admitted 483 ED students will be 41% of a class that will therefore number 1,178 students; or that the students from the ED group who actually matriculate — usually about 3% less than those accepted — will be 41% of a class that will therefore number 1,142 students.

Either way (I used the conservative figure in my chart below), the number of students in this year’s freshman class will be similar to last year’s entering class, which numbered 1,152 students — the largest freshman class in Dartmouth’s history:

Freshman Class Size 2006-2019.jpg

When Phil Hanlon was Provost at Michigan, he increased the size of the student body in order to compensate for reduced state funding of the university. He appears to be adopting the same strategy now in Hanover. Certainly the budget will benefit from extra tuition payers, but how will academic life improve when ever more students chase after already-oversubscribed courses and a limited number of dorm rooms?

Addendum: The College boasts that we had a record number of ED applicants this year. That’s no surprise; the word is out there that we accept a larger percentage of students from our ED pool than any other Ivy. Look at this this table of last year’s figures compiled by the Ivy Coach:

Ivy Coach Comp.jpg

In addition, the Daily Pennsylvanian compared the selectivity of the ED admissions cycle at the leading schools that have announced their results this year:

Penn ED stats.jpg

We don’t look too good.

Addendum: The Washington Post lists the early decision rates for a broader range of schools.


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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014



EVP Rick Mills Outside the Envelope

Phil’s EVP Rick Mills is proving to be a surprise. To date all reports have been good regarding his attention to detail and seriousness, but the characteristic that has been even more pleasing has been his unrelenting honesty. At the Town Meeting that he held with Provost Carolyn Dever on December 4, he explicitly raised the issue of trust at Dartmouth. He went so for as to show the below claymation video:

Now why would an administrator raise a topic like this? The discussion was summarized as follows in the College’s press release:

Mills says he hopes the meetings will help build trust among members of the College community.

“You don’t get trust because you say ‘trust me,’ ” Mills said. “You build trust and you earn trust over time.” His aim, he said, is to unite around the idea that everyone at the College is working to make Dartmouth better.

Of course, Mills is hoping explicitly to build trust among the various constituencies at the College because there has — for good reason — been so little of it in Hanover over the past twenty years or so. The unholy trinity of Wright/Kim/Folt were unprincipled in their justification of decisions and initiatives, not to mention the conflicts of interest they allowed in multiple appointments to senior positions in the administration. I don’t call someone a liar easily, but these three played fast and loose with the truth whenever it even minimally suited them. Phil Hanlon and his team are a happy, optimism-inducing departure from that course of conduct.


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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014



Looking at the 2014 Accounts

The College’s 2014 accounts (for the fiscal year from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014) are a mixed bag, but they do contain hopeful signs. The original budget was Carol Folt’s, but its administration was Phil Hanlon & Co.’s responsibility .

To start, total spending grew by only 2.1%, the lowest growth since before Jim Wright became President. With little fanfare, the College’s expenses grew less than during any of Jim Kim’s three supposed budget-cutting years.

Dartmouth Expenses 2002-2014.jpg

A sign that the credit does not all go to Carol is that the budget showed an operating surplus of $13.6 million (versus a slight deficit of $1.8 in fiscal 2013). It seems that the administration kept a grip on spending throughout the year.

However the Kim tuition gouge that began with the Class of 2014 contiinued to work its way through the College’s classes. You will recall Kim markedly increased early admissions acceptances (ED applicants have no leverage to negotiate financial aid), admits from private schools (a wealthier demographic) and legacies (a group also more likely to pay full freight), along with tightening up financial aid so that we are the least generous of the Ivies. The end result of these policies is that fewer students at the College receive aid that at any other Ivy.

Net tuition receipts — after deducting for financial aid — grew by 6.2%, the highest growth in over a decade, save for Kim’s 12.2% explosion in 2012. The 6.2% figure far outstripped the 3.8% increase in the tuition, room and board, that the Trustees had announced for the year. Obviously, the College is taking in more money from the same number of students:

Dartmouth Tuition 2003-2014.jpg

Although total salaries and wages grew by 5.25% (from $350.9 million to $369.4 million), spending on employee benefits fell — that’s right — by 1.73% (from $124.6 million to $122.4 million). Why didn’t I think of that?

Let’s hope that these first inklings of fiscal discipline don’t give way to the old profligacy, given the endowment’s strong 19.2% increase during the past year. If Phil wants to formally announce that the rules of the game are changing in Hnaover, he might announce at the March 7-8, 2015 Trustee meeting that there will be no increase at all in tuition, room and board, and fees for the 20154/2016 academic year.

Addendum: The College’s SEIU union contract comes up for renewal on July 1, 2015. Last time around, IP Folt gave away the store with wage hikes of 3%, 3% and 2% over the three years of the accord. Those raises were all above inflation for staffers whose total compensation is already approximately double what comparable workers make in the private sector in the Upper Valley. Thanks, Carol. As we have noted in the past, the College pays market wages to faculty members, and students and their families get gouged with sky-high tuition, but the support staff does better than fine, thank you. For whom is the College being run?


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

Monday, December 15, 2014



Whither/Wither the Greeks? January 29

Rubber Stamp.jpgAt Rick Mills’ December 4 Town Meeting, Provost Carolyn Dever noted that the Trustees will review the Moving Dartmouth Forward committee’s recommendations in New York City at a special meeting on January 28, and then Phil will present the group’s proposals to the Dartmouth community on January 29:

Further improvement will come from the Moving Dartmouth Forward process, which Dever said is nearing completion. She said President Phil Hanlon ‘77 will present his plan to address extreme behavior on campus to the Board of Trustees on Jan. 28, and will announce the plan as part of a major address on his vision for Dartmouth’s future; the announcement is slated for delivery to the Dartmouth community on Jan. 29.

Hold on a second. Let me see if I have this straight. The Trustees will meet on January 28 to review the proposals. They will have a long, searching discussion of the pros and cons of the MDF committee’s ideas, to which they will bring to bear their extensive experience with the College, organizational behavior and management; when that discussion has concluded, they will vote unanimously to support the changes to Dartmouth’s ongoing life that the committee has developed — and Phil will present these ideas to the College community the very next day. That’s it, right?

Of course, it is. What you are seeing yet again is that the Board of Trustees is no more than a rubber stamp for anything that the administration wants. But then, how could it be otherwise?

Addendum: The above surmise is the fruit of extended conversations over the years with former Trustees of the College. One Trustee went so far as to assert that his colleagues on the Board did not just have rubber stamps in hand; rather, he said, there was a putative stamping machine in the corner of the boardroom that functioned fulltime. Judge Jose Cabranes suggested as much as in his important article: Myth and Reality of University Trusteeship in the Post-Enron Era.


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



Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

He could write, he could think, he loved to argue. Christopher Hitchens died three years ago today. He undoubtedly rests in peace in a well furnished library in the ether.

About how many people can you say that you’d read whatever they write, no matter what the subject: the logic was persuasive, the style fluid and delightful, and the conviction always firey bright. The modern Mencken in a different idiom? Who is his equivalent today? Whatever Hitch was, he illustrated the wide gulf between the good and the great.

Hitchens Comp.jpg

I miss him every day.

Addendum: I’ve enjoyed posting about Christopher (never Chris, please) in the past.

Addendum: For students wanting to learn to write well, an intimate acquaintance with any of Hitchens’ writing will teach a great deal by osmosis.


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

Sunday, December 14, 2014



The French Exalt an Entrepreneur

Paul Durand-Ruel1.jpgIn the second half of the 19th century Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922; portrayed at right by Renoir in 1910) owned art galleries in Paris, London, Brussels and New York, and at a time when nobody cared for their art, he bought paintings from Monet, Manet, Renoir, Dégas and other artists who would soon be known as Impressionists. “We would have all died from hunger but for Durand-Ruel,” said Monet later in his life. Well, perhaps not died, but rather gone on to other styles of paining or even other work, had not the dealer believed in their creativity and promoted it tirelessly (and profitably). In exchange, Durand-Ruel had right-of-first-refusal contracts with the major Impressionists: he could buy up their works and then release them for sale in an orderly fashion — a little like de Beers does with diamonds. However, beyond his acumen as an innovative, globalizing businessman, Durand-Ruel had a fine eye and a sincere love for the new painting: he kept for himself many of the finest works that passed through this gallery, or even bought back decades later at market prices works that he had had to sell in earlier, less prosperous times. Lucky fellow. He owned Renoir’s three dances: à la Campagne, en Ville, and à Bougival.

Renoir Danses.jpg

I hadn’t ever seen these freshman-year, Art 2 favorites together until attending an exhibition of the most important paintings from Durand-Ruel’s erstwhile collection at the Musée du Luxembourg last week. The show runs until February 8.


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

Saturday, December 13, 2014



Out With Parietals; In with Hook-ups

Recently we looked at a page in the 1962 Student Handbook, which laid out the obligations incumbent on incoming freshmen. The publication was given to members of the Class of 1966 when they arrived in Hanover. A different page reviews parietals: the rules that limited late-night interactions in dormitories between Dartmouth men and their female acquaintances:

Class of 66 Parietals.jpg

The restrictions lasted for several more years into the 1960’s, until, as the story has been recounted over the decades, the College Proctor opined, “What business of mine is it if a guy wants to discuss Spinoza late into the evening with his girl.” Après ça, le déluge.


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

Friday, December 12, 2014



What You Didn’t Know About Eleazar

The Atlanta Blackstar publication has prepared a list of 9 Big Name Colleges You Didn’t Know Benefited From Slavery. The College merits the #2 position on the list due to the following anecdote:

Slavery Comp.jpg

Dartblog is informed that even today students at the Geisel School of Medicine routinely carve up cadavers as part of their education in anatomy. Such practices now take place with bodies of all races and genders.


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

Thursday, December 11, 2014



Foreign Study: The Real Story

The College put out a feel-good press release last month — Dartmouth Leads the Ivies in Study Abroad Participation — after the Institute of International Education released its annual report showing the College with the ninth-ranked (and #1 in the Ivies) percentage of students participating in foreign programs:

Foreign Study 2014 Comp.jpg

The other Ivy League schools ranked as follows: Yale #11; Princeton #21; Penn #28; Harvard #34. Brown, Cornell and Columbia did not make the list of the top 40 schools.

John Tansey, the executive director of the College’s Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education was quoted in the presser:

By spending a term on a Dartmouth program, students reap the benefits of deep, integrative learning experiences through engagement with leading local scholars and Dartmouth faculty, with communities and locales around the world serving as their classroom. Looking to the future, our goal is to engage even greater numbers of Dartmouth students on these programs.

I sure hope that he succeeds in upping the number of students on LSA and FSP programs, because over the last few years students have been abandoning the College’s overseas offering at a rapid clip:

Foreign Study 2014 Factbook.jpg

The number of students participatng in the College’s off-campus programs dropped 18.8% between 2009 and 2013, while the number on the (cheaper) programs of other schools almost doubled over the same time frame. Curiously, or maybe not, the Office of Instittuional Research has not updated this table in almost eighteen months.

To restrain this migration the College has gone so far as to impose a punitive tax on students participating in foreign programs offered by other schools: $1,100 for the fall term and $2,200 for the winter, spring, and summer terms. As well, the administration has forbidden more than five students from simultaneously attending the same program offered by other institutions.

We should step back and look at the larger picture here. First off, the College needs to ramp up the quality of programs that are too-often referred by students as LSPlay. Secondly, there are myriad sound pedagogical reasons for making participation in an LSA or FSP program mandatory for all students. An ancillary benefit of such a requirement would be to reduce the number students in Hanover — thereby allowing the renovation of slum-like dorms such as the Choates and the River Cluster, and giving enough flexibility to the housing system so that students can live in the same dorm, not just the same cluster, for their four years in Hanover.


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

Wednesday, December 10, 2014



Kim’s Drinking Collaborative Dies

The College’s 21-man Public Affairs office kicks into high gear when it has something positive to announce about the College, but where is it when later you want to know what actually happened in the field to the thing that had been announced? Let’s take a look at Jim Kim’s Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, our departed President’s signature effort — part of his National College Health Improvement Project — to work on the problem of campus alcohol abuse. Kim roped 32 institutions of higher learning into the effort (though Harvard notably chose not to join; the folks there know Kim all too well) and Kim’s usual hyperbole was front and center. As he stated in an interview with the Austin Statesman:

The point is to actually reduce binge drinking and certainly to dramatically reduce the harms from binge drinking. And if you’re going to do that, the approach you’re going to have to take is going to be multidimensional, and unfortunately, there’s no cookie cutter. We want to create a group of institutions that are working so effectively together to reduce the problem of binge drinking on their campuses that those institutions that don’t do it will be in trouble. Because when they have a death, the parents will come and say: “Wait a minute. Look at all this stuff that’s going on over here. Why didn’t you do that?”

So what happened to the multidimensional effectiveness that was supposed to make such an impact? The Chronicle of Higher Education’s report last week on Alcohol’s Hold and Campus notes:

Jim Yong Kim, a physician with a public-health background who was president of Dartmouth College, attempted to drag the issue back into the spotlight, announcing an intensive, public-health and data-driven approach to dealing with campus drinking. He used his influence to drum up participation from 32 institutions in the National College Health Improvement Program’s Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking, and secured money to keep it going for two years. But when he left Dartmouth to lead the World Bank, in 2012, the leadership and the money dried up. The project issued its first and final report this year.

Interestingly, the Chronicle draws a distinction between Kim’s national profile and his policies while in office in Hanover:

Dartmouth has had one of the more public struggles with its Greek system, the subject of numerous unflattering portraits. Ironically, while Dr. Kim was a national leader on the issue, at home he was perceived as going easy on fraternities and sororities, telling the campus newspaper, “I barely have any power.”

Sad stuff, and all too typical. We live in a world where the distance between press releases and people’s lived experience is so great that nobody is close enough to the action to challenge flimflam men on their claims. For example, on Jim Kim’s page on the Wheelock Succession of Dartmouth President’s website, the National College Health Improvement Project is cited as one of his signature achievements as Dartmouth’s leader. I wonder if that entry will soon change? After all, the only result of all the hubbub is a one-year set of meetings, an impact-free report, and good press for Mr. Self-Promoter. That’s Jim Kim in spades.

Addendum: I called the contact phone number listed on the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking flashy website to confirm the Chronicle’s assertions. It has been disconnected.

Addendum: Kim always wins the prize for self-aggrandizement. Look at his quote below from a June 12, 2012 interview with The D (shortly before he left Hanover for good):

I am also very proud of our health care delivery work and of the National College Health Improvement Program. Through NCHIP, we created a group initiative that now counts 32 colleges and universities as members. We took an approach the breakthrough collaborative model I used with great success earlier in my career and applied it to higher education to tackle an important student life issue: high-risk drinking. No one has ever done that before. We’ve already started to see positive results, and I know we will see more.

I am also pleased that we were not afraid to launch a strategic planning process while we worked so hard to close the $100 million budget gap. Many schools would have been content to just put its financial house in order, but we knew without an ambitious plan for the future the job was only half done. I am proud that Dartmouth had the courage to do both.

With a few years’ perspective, we have seen that the NCHIP has faded into nothing; the budget gap was not solved, if there ever was one at all (total spending under Kim increased each year); and all talk of the once-much-touted Strategic Plan disappeared once Phil Hanlon came to town.

However note that not only did Kim congratulate himself for these efforts, but he directly said that they put him above what other schools would have done in similar circumstances.

Addendum: Kim’s other healthcare project at the College was the Center for Health Care Delivery Science. You’ll recall that Kim appointed then-Trustee All Mulley ‘70 to run this new institute, funded by a $35 million gift, said to be from Trustee Steve Mandel ‘78. You might also recall that Mulley headed the Presidential Search Committee that brought Kim to Hanover. Such endearing mutual support. In any event, it looks like Mulley has run the show as well as any crony can be expected to do, and word has it that the standalone Center will soon be absorbed into the The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice. If I don’t miss my mark, other than the presence of feckless Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno, when the Center ceases to be independent, then all traces of Jim Kim’s presence in Hanover will have been erased.

Erratum: An avid reader notes an error:

In your most recent post, you mention that Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno is all that’s left. Credit is due where credit is due; Kim did bring us Athletics Director Harry Sheehy!


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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014



Professor Ballmer On Cheating

Religion Professor Randall Ballmer, the faculty member teaching Religion 65, has used his regular column in the Valley News to comment on both the cheating scandal in his class and on the College’s Honor Principle. Among his interesting points:

Although my impulse was simply to confront the students and work out a kind of plea bargain, conversations with the head of judicial affairs, who in turn consulted with the office of general counsel, revealed that was not possible. College policies and the honor principle itself mandated that the matter be referred to the college’s judicial process.

That is where the matter stands at this writing. Students can either admit to the charges or contest them (the forensic evidence against them is overwhelming). Nearly half of the students implicated in the scandal have come to me and apologized abjectly. I’m not naive enough to suppose that these confessions are entirely innocent of self-interest; I still have the authority to assign grades in the course independent of the judicial findings. But many of the protestations of remorse are quite compelling, and the head of judicial affairs reports that more than a dozen accomplices have come forward to confess their complicity and submit voluntarily to the judicial process, even though I had no evidence against them.

The whole affair is sad and regrettable. Dozens of students will very likely have a stain on their college transcripts. A level of trust between professor and student, so necessary for effective teaching and learning, has been broken. Dartmouth’s reputation as a first-class educational institution (which it is) has taken a hit, at least in the short term.

In additon, he cites details a College study done in 1972 — a decade after the Honor Principle was formally introduced. I found this information of particular interest in light of the fact, as I mentioned yesterday, that I did not encounter cheating as a student from 1975-179:

In 1972, my friend James Heffernan, now retired as professor of English at Dartmouth, chaired a committee charged with evaluating the Academic Honor Principle 10 years after its inception. The committee sent questionnaires to the students, and of the 429 who responded, anonymously, 63 percent admitted to having violated the honor code at least once, including taking library books without checking them out. Bracketing out that offense, 55 percent admitted to clear-cut instances of cheating — plagiarism, exams, improperly helping others — and 42 percent confessed to multiple offenses.

Oh, my.

Addendum: A local alumna writes in:

A student of honor codes would look to Virginia Military Academy — the honor code there is enforced by the students themselves.

I can only agree that making student/adults as the core of a community responsible for enforcement is really empowering. I am not a fan of helicopter parenting, so a structured environment with well informed and counseled students, in my mind, ultimately results in a responsible community.

Rules applied from above by people who are not living the life will always be at odds with an honorable community where the beliefs are deeply ingrained.

Addendum: An undergrad shares his views:

Balmer laughably notes at one point that criticisms of class size are often borne of jealousy:

“Look, so-and-so has a lot of students; must be an undemanding course. (For the record, the course requirements included a midterm and essay-based final examination, a paper, almost daily quizzes and the reading of seven books and 22 articles — all within a 10-week term.)”

The fact of the matter is that Religion 65 is one of the most widely acknowledged lay-ups in the entire course catalog. 287 students signed up for the course because they believed that it would be incredibly easy in terms of the amount of work that was demanded of them. A friend of mine took the course last fall and went to class three times—once on the first day of class, once for the midterm, and once for the final—and received a B. This was before a “clicker” system was employed. It’s sad in a tragic way that Balmer believes that students signed up to take his class because they were interested in the material. I personally blame the registrar for even considering approving a 300 person humanities class.

Also, when Balmer says that “the problem with the academic honor principle is that the notion of honor has very little currency in contemporary culture” is he ignoring his own previous paragraph that says 55% of students at the College in 1972 admitted to clear-cut cheating? I’m honestly a little confused by this part of the article. If John Boehner doesn’t “lie awake at night worrying about whether or not he acquitted himself with honor”…what does that make Richard Nixon? To me this is a ridiculous point to make.

People have always cheated and been dishonest. People always will cheat and be dishonest—especially if there’s an opportunity for them to get ahead with very little risk. Truthfully, I think there probably is more cheating at Dartmouth now than there was forty years ago, or even ten years ago. But to me that is largely a function of technology, not of the students’ moral fiber.

My final word is this: in a well-designed, rigorous course it is very difficult to gain an advantage dishonestly. Balmer has nobody to blame but himself for designing an absolute gut — a course that was not only fabulously easy to cheat in, but also a course that attracted some of the least engaged students at the college who were most likely to not want to show up to class.

Addendum: A professor writes in to take issue with a part of the previous comment:

I saw that a student wrote “I personally blame the registrar for even considering approving a 300 person humanities class.”

This student knows nothing about how courses are approved. The Registrar has *nothing* to do with approving a course. Courses are approved by divisional councils, and the Registrar has nothing to do with divisional councils. The Registrar does sit on the COI (Committee on Instruction), but the COI’s only role in approving a course is to approve its distributive and world culture designations. (There’s one exception: the COI does approve College Courses.) Now, the student complains about the enrollment in the Ballmer’s course. Again, the Registrar has nothing to do with that. Departments decide on enrollment caps for their courses, not the Registrar.

Addendum: Former Dartmouth Professor Jon Appleton has written a letter to Professor Ballmer:

Dear Professor Balmer:

Of course, there has always been cheating at Dartmouth, but never on this scale. I know because I taught and proctored exams for eighty or more students beginning in 1968. It began when money became the criteria for some college admissions (I had development officer Lou Sterling beg me to write a positive recommendation to the Admissions Office for the son of a “huge potential donor” who was completely untalented). If your parents have enough money you will not only get admitted but spared a dishonorable “C.” See:

http://www.concordmonitor.com/article/at-dartmouth-c-stands-for-catastrophe

Such dishonesty started with James Wright and continued with Carol Folt. No wonder 60% of grads go into “consulting” or work for Wall Street banks and hedge funds. Dartmouth has become a dishonorable institution that is just now getting the press it deserves. I’m glad I quit six years ago.

Addendum: A ‘17 adds an observation:

I’ve been reading your blog since coming to Dartmouth last year. Here’s my personal take on the whole REL 65 cheating scandal. Thought you might be interested to hear it.

The problem with Dartmouth’s academic honor principle is that it almost never gets discussed and promoted. My high school upheld a firm and strict honor code. Teachers at my high school constantly remind students of the code and the values it upholds. Furthermore, at the bottom of every test or quiz, students write an affirmation of their adherence to the code with a short sentence. At the very least, this keeps the issue of academic integrity on the mind of students for at least a moment each time work is submitted.

All Dartmouth does to promote the Principle is make freshmen check some box saying they’ve read it over (as well as a sentence or two in the occasional syllabi reminding students to read it online). These are so easy to gloss over that I’ll bet many students weren’t even aware an honor code existed before the REL 65 scandal.

Sure, students should know that getting someone to mark attendance for them is wrong. But Dartmouth needs to understand that it’s human nature to overlook large and distant issues like morality and integrity without constant and consistent reminder. There needs to be a greater and more institutionalized effort on the part of the faculty to make the Principle a real thing in the eyes of students. Otherwise, there’s no reason to have it.

Addendum: An alumnus from the 1970’s offers a concluding thought:

Regarding your blog entry about Prof. Balmer and the Dartmouth honor system. One huge obstacle to dealing with it is that hardly anyone seems to grasp what cheating actually is, and why it’s wrong. Balmer himself is typical; toward the end of his article he says, “The problem with plagiarizing a paper or cheating on an exam is that it makes it easier to take the next step: padding an expenses account, fudging on taxes, marital infidelity and so on.”

That is *not* the problem; the problem is that cheating and plagiarism both are simple theft, from fellow students; and in a way it’s worse than theft because it devalues the very currency. Like money, grades are a medium of exchange and a measure of value; and cheating is like counterfeiting One person earns an A, or $1,000, by hard work; another gets the same by theft; but the theft is double, because the ‘real’ A or the ‘real’ $1,000 is now worth less.

This is why the brilliant, clear-headed Dante puts thieves near the bottom of his Hell in Circle VIII, Ditch 7, but puts still lower - in Circle VIII, Ditch 10 - the falsifiers: the falsifiers of things (e.g. Alchemists), of persons (Impersonators), of words (Perjurers), and of money (Counterfeiters). It’s very easy to see where the falsifiers of grades should go.

If you ask any class of 30 students exactly why e.g. plagiarism is wrong, usually you’ll find that nobody can; they try and try but just spin their wheels, sinking deeper into the sand. (I know this, from having often asked.) But what wonder is that, when even a prof. of Religion can’t say anything better than, “it makes it easier to take the next step.”


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



Male and Female Students

Following on my slightly tongue-in-cheek post on Saturday regarding the domination by women of the College’s academic honors, an alert reader directed me to a Forbes February 16, 2012 review of the basic gender gap at institutions of higher learning, a disparity that is growing:

Forbes College Gender Distribution.jpg

Forbes also observes:

It should also be noted that the national male-female ratio for 18-24 year olds is actually 51-49, meaning there are more (traditionally) college-aged males than females.

I wonder how much effort Admissions has to make to ensure the College’s balanced male:female numbers, a ratio that has not varied by more than 1% over for the past five years.


Posted on December 9, 2014 3:59 AM. Permalink

Monday, December 8, 2014



Some Thoughts on Cheating

Uniform System of Citation.jpg The Religion 65 cheating scandal appears to be but the tip of the iceberg in College cheating, about which I have heard stories and complaints for years now. We should put this feature of modern Dartmouth life into the category of the decadence that we see in so many areas — as the institution drifts away from the values and rigor that made it great.

That’s not to say that there was no cheating at all in my day. Stories would float around about fraternity paper banks and how profs would turn a blind eye to seeing essentially the same paper in successive years. However not only did I never observe an instance of cheating in exams, but during Freshman Week we assiduously read through the Blue Book out of a trembling concern that a missed footnote would have us turfed from the College on short notice. I don’t know how the administration imparted that feeling, but I can tell you that as freshmen we had the fear of god in us about transgressions to the Honor Code.

The Code certainly had benefits. I enjoyed on occasion (as an upperclassman) leaving a classroom filled with fidgety fellow examination takers for a quiet neighboring room. Nobody ever asked where I was going; there was nobody to ask. Professors would drop off exams at the appointed hour, tell a joke or two, and then leave us to it, returning two hours or so hence to pick up our answers and essays.

How long will Dartmouth’s Honor Code endure? In the face of widespread admissions of cheating, Middlebury is now moving department by department to proctoring; the expectation of students there is that all exams will be supervised within a few years.

As I wrote recently to a friend in another context, trust is one of the finer emotions. Without it, how can we speak about a community, and if we can’t trust students to honestly fulfill academic requirements, what values have we successfully imparted from a liberal arts curriculum. To use language from another time, Dartmouth should teach her students to be ladies and gentlemen. If we don’t succeed in doing that, what have we done?

The issue is a larger one: in the businesses world one’s integrity is at the core of all relationships. A reputation for shady dealings will close many doors forever. Students would do well to learn this lesson now.


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

Sunday, December 7, 2014



Christmas Foie Gras

Around this time each year we receive a shipment of fattened duck livers from the cooperative in Sarlat-le-Caneda in the Dordogne. The foies come from ducks that are slaughered on a Monday, and we have them in our Paris kitchen by noontime on Tuesday morning, usually a dozen of them (they weigh about a pound each). De-veining takes several hours, and then we prepare (I am taking liberties with my pronoun here — pace my wonderful wife) two types of foie gras: mi-cuit, which is just the lightly cooked livers with some seasoning; and a version enlivened by dried fruit and sweet wine (this year a German Eiswein from the Pfalz). We freeze most of the white porcelain terrines for later enjoyment, usually accompanied by Champagne or Sauternes.

Foie Gras Comp.jpg

Preparing foie gras chez soi earns admiring looks from French friends. It is an activity that ever fewer people do at home.

Addendum: There are as many recipes for foie gras as there are people who make it.


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

Saturday, December 6, 2014



Phi Bet Discrimination?

If you believe that disparate outcomes are evidence of bias, then the College has a serious problem with its election of undergraduates to Phi Beta Kappa. Only seven out of the twenty-two new members of the honors society were men, a scant 32%:

Phi Bet Comp.jpg

Here are the criteria for being elected to the society:

To be eligible for election to Dartmouth’s chapter as a junior member in course, an undergraduate must have completed eight terms within three years of matriculation and hold one of the top 20 cumulative grade point averages in their [sic] class.

Perhaps Dartmouth men are subject to unconscious bias in grading by the faculty, or, heaven forfend, to the shudder-inducing phenomenon of microaggressions? Maybe the women were privileged?

Or maybe they just worked harder? Nah, that can’t be it.

Addendum: Further evidence of the College’s heinous bias towards women comes in the distribution of Stamps Scholar grants. Two thirds women again. Oh my.

Stamps Scholars.jpg

Addendum: Do you think that a task force is needed to right this wrong, or at least a committee? Definitely a new dean with a couple of administrative assistants.


Posted on December 6, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, December 5, 2014



Rolling Stone Recants UVA Story

It looks like the Duke Lacrosse Case has a little brother:

RS UVA Comp1.jpg

Does this mean that the frats at UVA aren’t suspended anymore?

Addendum: The Washington Post’s T. Rees Shapiro reviews in a lengthy article the deficiencies in the Rolling Stone’s reporting and the current state of the investigation into the events that befell the UVA freshman at Phi Kappa Psi house. The Times does the same.


Posted on December 5, 2014 2:34 PM. Permalink



How Long Can Kim Last?

The latest salvo of criticism against Jim Kim’s character and his management of the World Bank comes from the Guardian:

Kim Guardiian Comp1.jpg

I’d have headlined the piece, “A World Bank of Hurt,” because the Guardian focuses on the fear of retribution on the part of WB staffers if they voice criticism of the Bank and its noble leader:

But frustration had been brewing within the bank for months - and not just about jobs and salaries. Several World Bank employees, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said there are serious concerns about the restructuring plans themselves, and anger is also growing over a “climate of fear” in which employees fear retaliation from management for speaking out.

“Over the past six months, the situation has really degenerated,” said a third employee, who lamented that the global practices structure has become a “nightmare”. Now there are 19 different groups that “don’t really talk to each other,” she said. “From a country perspective, this is unmanageable.”

The employee, who has worked for the bank for more than a decade, said she has never seen anything like the current level of fear among staff: “The bank I know was one that was very diverse in composition but also in the way people approached issues … That was its richness, its wealth. Today, people who disagree get in trouble.”…

In February 2014, results of a bank staff survey found only 46% of respondents agreed with the statement: “I can report unethical behavior without fear of reprisal.”

Paul Cadario, a retired World Bank senior manager, said the “climate towards dissent” appears to have worsened under Kim.

“Clearly, there’s a lot of unease and discontent about Dr Kim’s reorganisation. Many feel it is not being carried out properly and part of that is a result of the fact that the rationale is not very clear,” said Cadario, who is now senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

He added: “A sense of retribution is absolutely a killer of morale and trust. And all it takes is a fear of retribution to make that true.”

At the College, Jim Kim, Carol Folt and Jim Wright all had a reputation for harshly punishing critics — though harshness in this instance is a relative term. Our tenured faculty members only ran the risk of receiving parsimonious raises or skimpy research money; down at the World Bank, staffers who are fired often have no alternative but to return home, often to countries much less comfortable than Washington, D.C. Let’s give a cheer for the courage shown by these WB protesters. They are putting themselves in harm’s way in order to save their Bank from the man who hurt the College a great deal, too.


Posted on December 5, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, December 4, 2014



Good Ol’ Boys for Hillary

I wonder how much it cost the Hillary Clinton campaign to make a country music video around the catchy song Stand With Hillary. And why any highly paid campaign advisor thinks that it will cause people to vote for the former junior Senator from New York?

Does anyone know the singer? ♬♪ She’s a mother, a daughter, and through it all, she’s a loving wife♪♬ Sheesh.

Addendum: The Clinton primary campaign has already reared its head in Hanover.


Posted on December 4, 2014 4:58 PM. Permalink



Be Careful What You Wish For

At this point in time I don’t expect that the College will abolish the Greek system and turn Webster Avenue into a long row of co-ed dormitories, but if the administration were to make such an ill-advised move, you have to wonder where students would then go to drink. Of course, you’d see an increase in behind-closed-doors vodka swilling in the dorms, but there is an alternative: bars in Hanover. That’s a likely — and very unhappy — scenario. After all, other college towns have seen the same development. In a lengthy series of articles, the Chronicle of Higher Education examined Alcohol’s Hold on Campus. One vignette in the lead piece looked at the effect on the town of Athens, Georgia when the University of George cracked down on student drinking:

The story of how Athens became a big booze town is complicated, but the simple version goes like this: During the 1980s, many downtown businesses closed, and department stores relocated to a suburban shopping mall. Only a handful of bars were downtown when the university, in response to alcohol problems on the campus, got tough on drinking in the Greek system. The new rules, including a ban on kegs, pushed students into local watering holes.

At the time, some Athens officials worried that more businesses would flee to the ‘burbs. So they didn’t cap the number of bars and restaurants that could open downtown, where a fast-growing music scene also drove demand for late-night drinks. After a decade or so, there were dozens of places to buy a beer or a bourbon just off campus.

Georgia Bars.jpg

Sixty places to drink within 400 or so yards of the Athens campus? That sure gives one pause.

Now, let’s imagine mobs of Dartmouth students on Main Street outside Hanover bars and restaurants, all of them drinking, drunk or soon to be. Loud noise. Rowdy behavior. The sound of broken glass. Cheering. On those nights, we’ll all recall with some nostalgia when Hanover was a quiet little town, and student drinking took place mostly on Frat Row.

Addendum: Driving to off-campus party houses would be a third option. I don’t know that we want to trade in SAE for DUI.


Posted on December 4, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink



Lohse in Time Mag: Abolish Greeks

With his accustomed all-in vigor, Andrew Lohse ‘12 has penned a piece for Time Magazine that militates for the abolition of the fraternity system:

Lohse Time Comp.jpg

As a matter of anthropology, it is interesting to watch the waxing hysteria against the Greek system in all of its manifestations. I wonder if cooler heads will prevail.

Addendum: A groundswell of criticism has begun regarding the veracity of the recent Rolling Stone article that describes a horrific gang rape at UVA. Joe Bishop ‘78 was one of the first people to address that concern. More than a week later the NYT summarized the controversy, as did the Chronicle of Higher Education today.


Posted on December 4, 2014 1:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, December 3, 2014



Tengdin: Big Green Returns (2/2)

Doug Tengdin.jpgIn posts today and tomorrow, Douglas Tengdin ‘82 will be analyzing the comparative performance of the Dartmouth endowment over the past decade. Doug came to Dartmouth from Minneapolis, MN and was on the Dartmouth Ski Team for four years. After working in finance in Boston, Providence, Tunisia, and Burlington, VT, he moved back to the Upper Valley in 2000; he is the Chief Investment Officer for Charter Trust. Doug lives in Hanover with his wife of 30 years, three of his six children, mother-in-law, three horses, and two cats. He writes a blog called Global Market Update. His daily thoughts can be heard on various radio stations around the Upper Valley and across the State.

A Two-part Series: Part 1, Part 2.

Is the “Endowment Model” of investing broken? Schools have traded liquidity for enhanced returns over the past couple decades. How has that worked out?

One of the problems with illiquid investments is that you have to be careful to manage all the demands on your cash. During normal times, this is pretty straightforward. The endowment’s contribution to the school’s operating budget can be planned. But some investments can call for cash contributions at inopportune times, and the Financial Crisis was certainly inopportune.

During the downturn, Harvard actually had to sell some of its illiquid investments. This creates a perverse pricing situation. In order to place an illiquid issue, a manager will often choose to sell the best quality securities. These often sell at a deep discount to their economic value, while poor-quality assets can remain model-priced and skate along at fair value. Harvard also had significant forward commitments that they had to reduce. Dartmouth ran into liquidity problems as well. Harvard and Dartmouth rushed to borrow money in the bond market — during a time when the Financial Crisis made borrowing particularly expensive. Both Yale and Harvard lost about 25% in fiscal 2009, while Dartmouth “only” lost 20%, and the benchmark was down less than 15%.

But since the Crisis, everyone has grown — Yale the most, Harvard and Dartmouth close to one another, and the benchmark coming in last. Here’s how 5 and 10-year returns look for all the Ivies, as well as our 60/40 blend:

DT2.jpg

Over the past five years everyone’s portfolio has been recovering from the downturn. Over the ten years that include the Crisis, Yale and Columbia have the best returns. Let’s assume 8% as a baseline requirement — spending plus inflation plus growth. Cornell, Brown, and Penn have just met this level; Harvard and Dartmouth are just a little higher, and Princeton, Yale, and Columbia hold top honors. The multi-million dollar salaries the schools pay to their investment staff seem well-worth the price. The total value of all Ivy endowments is now more than $100 billion; the cumulative excess return above the 8% bogey over the past decade is more than $15 billion.

But absolute return isn’t the full story. Risk matters. We saw this during the downturn. What follows here is a chart of 10-year return versus standard deviation of return for same period. We use standard deviation of return as a way to quantify risk. It’s as good a measure as any, and it’s widely used in the investment industry.

DT3.jpg

Here the clear winner is Columbia. Among the Ivies they scored the best return for the level of risk. Narv Narvekar has overseen Columbia’s endowment since 2002. Prior to that, he worked in Penn’s Investment Office, where he got his MBA. He managed to achieve an 11% annual return on their endowment with a risk level roughly equal to Dartmouth’s.

Part of Columbia’s success came from sound tactical management. They went into the Financial Crisis with a stronger liquidity position than most other institutions. As a result, they were in a position to profit from the volatility of 2008-2009, rather than fall victim to it. Having higher liquidity definitely went against the prevailing consensus in the middle of the last decade. But as a result, Columbia didn’t have to make as many drastic cuts to their operating budget.

One reason they were able to go against the grain is their structure. The Columbia Investment Management Company is an independent, nonprofit subsidiary which oversees the $10 billion endowment. The IMC employs twenty people. They have enough staff to evaluate complex strategies; to do in-depth analysis of outside managers; and they can maintain a level of detachment from the fads and fashions that tend to dominate the world of investment consultants.

Most significantly, they have a great deal of independence. Rather than serving as part of the University’s administration, or reporting directly to the Trustees (as Dartmouth’s Investment Office does), they take their direction from a Board that includes leading investment professionals from among their alumni, as well as a few senior administrators. This independence is critical. Yale’s David Swenson enjoys similar freedom, but that’s more a result of his 20+ year tenure in the CIO position and his larger role as a true thought-leader in the investment management industry.

On the athletic field, Columbia is rarely competitive. The Lions finished at the bottom of the Ivy League football standings this fall, with a record of 0-10. But their money-management team is first-class — supported by an outstanding governance structure. Perhaps Dartmouth’s CIO Pamela Peedin is wise to keep her office in Boston — away from any undue interference.

So what are some bottom-line lessons from this little tale?

1. Set your objective based on your needs, not some random benchmark.
2. Stuff happens, so liquidity matters. Giving up liquidity may have unforeseen costs.
3. Risk matters; risk-adjusted returns are the true measure of investment skill.
4. Governance is perhaps the most under-rated factor in investment performance.


Posted on December 3, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, December 2, 2014



Tengdin: Big Green Returns (1/2)

Doug Tengdin.jpgIn posts today and tomorrow, Douglas Tengdin ‘82 will be analyzing the comparative performance of the Dartmouth endowment over the past decade. Doug came to Dartmouth from Minneapolis, MN and was on the Dartmouth Ski Team for four years. After working in finance in Boston, Providence, Tunisia, and Burlington, VT, he moved back to the Upper Valley in 2000; he is the Chief Investment Officer for Charter Trust. Doug lives in Hanover with his wife of 30 years, three of his six children, mother-in-law, three horses, and two cats. He writes a blog called Global Market Update. His daily thoughts can be heard on various radio stations around the Upper Valley and across the State.

A Two-part Series: Part 1, Part 2.

Imagine you’re a College Trustee looking at the endowment. You have some investment expertise — a personal portfolio that does well, maybe an investment company. You want to earn 5% to fund annual distributions to support the budget, 2% for inflation, and maybe 2% more to grow the principal. Above all, you want to beat your rivals — Harvard and Yale, especially. It galls you when they sit atop the standings, and you get a strong sense of satisfaction when you’re ahead.

Endowment management wasn’t always a competitive sport. 150 years ago, colleges would receive lands and estates in bequests, and tending to these meant mainly visiting the properties and collecting rent. Then came John Maynard Keynes and a revolution in endowment management. Keynes saw that the endowment’s long time horizon would allow it to make a substantial commitment to more volatile securities. So he shifted his school’s portfolio — King’s College, Cambridge — away from real-estate and into public equities.

Gradually, institutions in the US adopted this approach, managing their portfolios for total return, taking a percentage of the total endowment for annual support. In fact, there was a vigorous debate in the ’70s as to whether portfolio gains could be legally considered “income.” But by late in the 20th century, the question had been settled. Private colleges and universities had a clear mandate: earn enough to support the college, compensate for inflation, and grow the corpus — without taking inordinate risk.

Since the ’70s public stocks and bonds could have done this job. A 60/40 blend of S&P 500 stocks and domestic investment-grade bonds returned 10.4% — just enough: 5% for the school, 3.4% for inflation, and 2% for growth. Along the way, there would have been some headaches — a 20% decline in 2008; a 13% pullback from 1999 to 2002. But you could sleep well, knowing that the College endowment was invested in a broadly diversified mix of liquid stocks and bonds that would grow with the economy.

But that approach didn’t do the job the last decade. Over the ten years from 2004 to 2014, that 60/40 blend returned only 7.1%. Enough for distributions, but not enough even to keep up with the 2.3% annual inflation rate over the period. You could enhance returns by allocating more to stocks, but only at the cost of bone-jarring volatility. A 100% stock market allocation grew almost 8% during this period, but fell over 50% twice — in the aftermath of both the internet and the housing bubbles.

So colleges have turned to alternatives, investing in global securities, real assets, private equity, and innovative strategies to enhance returns and reduce risk. After all, college endowments are long-term investors. They don’t have to be 100% liquid 100% of the time. They can give up some liquidity in exchange for better returns. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work in theory.

How has it worked in practice? The following chart gives a pretty good picture:

DT1.jpg

Using each school’s fiscal-year returns, starting in 2004, we see that Dartmouth did far better than a traditional 60/40 blend for the first three years, although it lagged behind Harvard and Yale. (We use portfolio returns, rather than portfolio value. The returns measure investment performance, apart from additions to or withdrawals from the endowment.) During the Financial Crisis, however, all three schools suffered serious setbacks. Building projects were postponed, staff were laid off. It was widely reported that the “Endowment Model” — pioneered by Yale’s Chief Investment Officer David Swenson and widely adopted by institutions around the country — was broken.

Is the model really broken? To be continued, tomorrow …


Posted on December 2, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, December 1, 2014



A Rhodes By Any Other Name

We have had a great crop of Rhodes scholars this year: Colin Walmsley ‘15 of Fort Macleod, Canada was announced today as the College’s third winner.

Walmsley.jpg

Here is his Rockefeller Center profile:

Colin Walmsley ‘15 grew up in Fort Macleod, Canada, a small town in the foothills of southern Alberta. Walmsley attended F.P. Walshe High, where he was a volleyball all-star, track team MVP, and rugby team MVP and captain. He also played rugby provincially, representing Team Alberta four times at rugby nationals and making the Team Canada long list once. Walmsley graduated from F.P. Walshe in 2010 as class valedictorian and used his valedictorian speech to come out as gay to his family and friends. At Dartmouth, Walmsley has continued to play rugby as a center on Dartmouth’s first XV team. He has also, however, rediscovered his love of music, singing bass for the Dartmouth Brovertones a cappella group and hosting a weekly radio show on 99 Rock, Dartmouth’s commercial radio station. Walmsley is an Anthropology and Government double major, and he hopes to complete a PhD program in Anthropology after graduation.

Addendum: Read The D’s brief notice and Colin’s Rhodes Trust bio.


Posted on December 1, 2014 10:41 AM. Permalink



Kadish Got the Boot

Kadish2.jpgWe have noted that Jim Kim and Carol Folt have been heavily criticized for poor performance in their new jobs. That should come as no surprise to readers of this space; congenital incompetence has a way of reasserting itself. So it has been with other members of the College’s leadership team originally hired by this unholy pair. At institutions less tolerant of duplicity and failure, such people do not last long.

The latest example of this phenomenon is slippery ex-Executive Vice President/CFO Steve Kadish, who recently was fired from his position at Northeastern, to which he had run immediately after Jim Kim’s departure from Hanover in the summer of 2012. A few weeks ago he announced that he was leaving Northeastern to become Chief-of-Staff for Massachusetts’ newly elected governor Charlie Baker. However the Globe is reporting today that Kadish’s announcement and Northeastern’s “beaming” departure presentation were nothing but a charade; Kadish had been discharged weeks earlier with no future employment position in sight:

Northeastern University’s president had announced in October that Kadish was leaving his post as senior vice president after a scant two years “to pursue other opportunities.” He would remain on the payroll through the end of the year, Joseph Aoun said in a memo, though his duties would be assumed by others starting in November.

But Baker’s staff chose not to mention Kadish’s departure in their Nov. 17 announcement, though Baker aides acknowledge that the governor-elect knew about it. Virtually every news story described Kadish as Northeastern’s chief operating officer, creating the impression that Baker had lured a top manager away from academia.

People with direct knowledge of the situation say Kadish had fallen out of favor with other senior managers and that he was leaving a job paying more than $400,000 a year with no other position lined up in advance.

Northeastern officials insist that Kadish’s decision to leave was his alone and when, Baker announced his choice of Kadish, he was still on the Northeastern payroll. In press coverage of Kadish’s new job, university officials beamed with pride.

The Globe quoted Religion Professor Ron Green, who did not hold back in describing the Kim administration:

“I found [Kadish] to be a very pleasant individual, but he was part of one of the most unfortunate administrations in Dartmouth history,” said Ronald M. Green, a professor for the study of ethics and human values. “I have witnessed six presidencies, most of them much longer in duration than Kim’s. It was an administration characterized by poor communication and a lack of transparency. The administration came in stating it was facing a financial crisis, which may or may not have been true, and imposed drastic cuts. These cuts were not well explained or carried out.”

Kadish and his wife were so closely allied with Kim that when he left to head the World Bank in July 2012, many in the Dartmouth community thought they would follow. Within days after Kim left in July 2012, however, Northeastern announced it was hiring Kadish, who would start working for the school in October of 2012. His wife took a job at Tufts.

We can expect that a shark like Kadish will last a while in politics, but I predict that Kadish’s spouse Linda Snyder, formerly the College’s VP for Campus Planning and Facilities and now Vice President for Operations at Tufts, will be the next ex-Dartmouth manager to join the long list of College executives who fail to cut it in the real world. Snyder left the Upper Valley in 2012 having generated only contempt in the building trades for her management of the College’s facilities.

Addendum: The Globe’ story also noted that Kadish took a pay cut of approximately 20% (from $500,000 to $400,000 per year) when he left the College for Northeastern less than two and a half years ago.


Posted on December 1, 2014 4:00 AM. Permalink