Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Dean of the Faculty? Inside or Outside?

Word comes down from on high that President Hanlon and Provost Dever have decided that the College’s next Dean of the Faculty is going to be a hire from outside of the College’s professorial ranks. There could be a fight about this decision, and for good reason.

from inside or outside the College


Addendum: Outgoing Dean Mike Mastanduno might have been a do-nothing dean — the way Jim Kim and Carol Folt wanted it — but the man does have wit. At the June 1 faculty meeting he made the following remarks about the College’s mission at a time when Mark McPeek’s presentation on grade inflation was fresh in their minds:

Posted on July 7, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, July 6, 2015

Econ Breaks the Straitjacket

The College’s Economics department has long been a Dartblog favorite, and we are not alone. Student numbers in the department have continued to climb over the years, both in terms of majors and total course attendance. Professor Mark McPeek’s presentation at the last faculty meeting noted that Econ is the only department where popularity has not tracked national trends. As you can see from the below graph, the trendline of Dartmouth Economics majors continues to rise, even as the number of Economics majors across the country has been flat over the past fifteen years:

Econ Majors Dartmouth USA.jpg

And yet, Economics is among the College’s departments with the toughest grading. It, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Mathematics are the only departments with a B+ median.

In addition, Econ classes are hard to get into, and most significantly, course material is demanding and growing ever more so. On August 30, 2010 I wrote:

In an effort to reduce high enrollments and oversubscribed classes, the Economics department has made the decision several times over the past few years to increase the difficulty of its courses — with the unintended consequence that enrollments grew even more. (So much for understanding incentives!) In fact, some Econ profs consider the department’s 80’s-level courses to be more demanding than typical first-year Ph.D. material.

To that you can add the fact that some classes are not only difficult, but constitute a test of student’s emotional fortitude — no room for anxiety here. On February 2, 2007, Peter Gray ‘07 wrote a wonderful column in The D: I Got Served By Meir Kohn — to which he should have added a coda: And Not Only Survived But Thrived. Gray was referring to Econ Professor Meir Kohn, whom he termed “the feared grand-master of Economics 26”:

He fills the hour and five minute period by randomly calling on students, asking them to provide in-depth responses to the assignment, and mercilessly “serving” anyone who falls short of his high standards of excellence. Recently, in response to a what-do-you-think question, a student began with, “Well, going on my intuition I’d think that…” Eight words later, Kohn interrupted him with the crisp delivery of a British accent on the wane: “Well your intuition isn’t very good then.”

His priceless expressions of exasperation at students’ inability to see it “his” way include, “Aaaah! You’re giving me a heart attack” and “Just so you all know, that really was not a very good answer.” The effect is electric. I’ve never seen more self-assured frat boys and jockeys sweating bricks in an academic setting before. I repeatedly get blitzes from other students asking me if I want to skip my class prior and go over the answers. It has the intensity of a corporate interview, except he’s going to tell you that you blew it, as opposed to just writing it down on a notepad…

He demands excellence and a complete grasp of the material, not just on the exam or in a paper, but at all moments of the class experience. The lessons are profound. Weakness will be exploited. If you miss an opportunity, sharks are waiting in the wings to snap it up. And yes, there is such thing as a wrong answer. It is a rare preparation at Dartmouth for the hard, cold world we will find ourselves in at the end of our over-nurtured, over-stroked years in Hanover’s loving arms.

If Phil is looking for an archetype of where the College should go in his hoped-for search for rigor, he might start and end in Silsby Hall. Student flock to well taught, tough courses, even if professors are parsimonious with high grades. Did you get that?

Addendum: Today’s students might be surprised to know that in the late 1970’s, when your humble servant graced the Hanover Plain with his presence, Ecy (as we called it then) was the uncontested worst department on campus. Not only is it deemed the College’s best department today, but it is an example of how an academic area can be turned around.

Posted on July 6, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Black Arts: A Dead Design

Now Main Street’s white-washed windows

and vacant stores
Seems like there ain’t nobody
wants to come down here no more

Bruce Springsteen, My Home Town (1983)

It’s hard to imagine a building that presents a less friendly face to the street than the anchor of the College’s “Arts District” — the Black Arts Center. My photo on Lebanon Street shows the front of the building, but this face seems to be its backside:

Black Arts4.jpg

The Black Arts Center’s architects seem to have ignored, as did many designers of 6th Avenue office boxes in New York in the 1980’s, that people walk by the ugly, poorly built structure. Most of the building’s windows are mounted too high to allow a view of the interior, and the large plates of glass present only a shadowy void to passersby, rather than light and art. For shame. Hanover offers a lively streetscape of small stores and restaurants. The College’s designers have ensured that this area of Lebanon Street will be dead forever.

Addendum: The last twenty years have not been kind to the campus. From the undistinguished Maynard Street dorms to the municipal-prison aesthetic of Berry Library, our weak Presidents have shown a lack of taste along with their inabilities in other areas.

Posted on July 5, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July

July 4, 2015.jpg

A vignette of some note:

Founding Fathers' Ages Comp.jpg

Hmm. So the Marquis de Lafayette and James Monroe would have been freshmen on July 4, 1776.

Posted on July 4, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, July 3, 2015

Patently Interesting

The National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) have announced the top 100 worldwide universities granted U.S. utility patents in 2014. We don’t do too badly at #81, placing ahead of Princeton and Brown among the Ivies. They didn’t make the list:

Patents 2014 Comp.jpg

Given MIT’s small size compared to the UC system, the eggheads in Cambridge are doing well for themselves.

Addendum: The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a utility patent as follows:

Issued for the invention of a new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or a new and useful improvement thereof, it generally permits its owner to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a period of up to twenty years from the date of patent application filing, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as “patents for invention”.

Addendum: There is talk of some original reform in the ownership of patent rights at the College. We’ll follow the story.

Posted on July 3, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hide That Staff Cost

Following on the detail of Professor Zitzewitz’ exposition of the cost of the faculty as a percentage of the overall spending (a princely 10%), we present an excerpt from a document circulated by the Dartmouth College Fund circa 2010. If the faculty “who love to teach” actually make up only a tenth of the College’s budget according to Professor Zitzewitz, it is self-evident that the below chart represents the bad old days of the Dartmouth administration, a time when Wright/Kim/Folt were not restrained by such quaint notions as veracity and exactitude.

Staff Cost.jpg

How is it possible that faculty members can be 10% of the budget and the staff who assist them are 32% of spending — to reach the 42% figure above? The Economics department, with 32 tenure-line professors and ten visitors/lecturers, has only 1.5 administrative assistants and a computer support staffer in Silsby Hall. One has to play fast and loose with definitions to come up with a total of 42% of spending on teaching. Maybe custodians who sweep the walkways and wash chalkboards are considered to support teaching, but even then, the figures in this chart are laughable.

Posted on July 2, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Professor Zitzewitz Comments

I wrote to Professor Eric Zitzewitz asking him to comment about erstwhile head of the Committee on the Faculty Todd Heatherton’s letter regarding compensation that I recently obtained. Here is his reply:

Zitzewitz response.jpg

Phil should realize that the faculty are both aware that they have fallen off the compensation curve compared to professors at other schools, and that their compensation is but one-tenth of the College’s budget. I am all for saving money, but Dartmouth should not do so with the people on whom the school’s quality depends.

Posted on July 1, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Faculty Salary Squeeze

Yesterday we noted that the Kim administration’s squeeze on faculty salaries was particularly marked at the level of Assistant Professors — faculty members new to the College who are bucking for tenure — as noted in Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz’ presentation to the faculty. That conclusion was based on American Association of University Professors (AAUP) data. However confidential data from the Consortium of Financing Higher Education (COFHE), considered by many observers to be of higher quality, shows that the pinch was actually put more on the College’s senior professors. A source has sent in a letter that sheds some light on that event:

Heatherton Letter Comp.jpg

The Committee on the Faculty (COF) is the grouping that speaks for the College’s professors. You’ll note that in 2012 the COF stated: “We therefore urge aggressive action to remedy the erosion in faculty compensation we have experienced this year.” Note also that Professor Zitzewitz’ data showed that the Kim and Folt administrations did not respond to this request (though the Hanlon administration has increased the salaries of tenure-track assistant professors).

When Kim faced what he called a budget crisis — which was nothing of the kind — he trimmed compensation, or at least the growth of compensation, at all levels of the College, in addition to gouging undergraduate and graduate students’ financial aid and tuition. What he didn’t do, out of some kind of foolish sense of caring and condescension, was trim the bloated staff, which has grown significantly in each of the past five years.

I know that I go on and on regarding this issue, but the College will make little progress until the absurd waste ends.

Addendum: Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Todd Heatherton has confirmed the authenticity of this letter.

Posted on June 30, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Zitzewitz Files: Faculty Pay

After laying out the fact that tenure-line faculty salaries at Dartmouth are only 10% of the total cost of running the College (they are just under one-sixth of payroll), Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz described in June’s faculty meeting how the compensation paid to the College’s professors compares with pay at other top-ranked schools. He made sure to note for the mathematically insensitive that relatively significant changes to professors’ salaries (say +/-10%) have only a minor impact on the College’s overall spending (+/-1%).

In 2010, the first full year of the Kim administration, salaries paid to the faculty ceased tracking the evolution of compensation paid to professors at various groupings of the nation’s top-ranked schools. The drop placed the College on a different tier, only slightly above the compensation paid to the U.S. News 2nd 10 schools rather than the U.S. New Top 10:

Faculty Salaries Comparative.jpg

(Note: COFHE stands for the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, an association of 31 élite schools — including all of the Ivies — who follow need-blind application policies.)

Of course, money goes a ways further in the Upper Valley than it does in Cambridge, Manhattan, and other Ivy towns, but in the recruitment sweepstakes, a competitive salary and low-cost of living have always enabled the College to attract strong professors to New Hampshire.

More disturbing were the data that our salary ranking under Kim’s aggressive policies dropped us almost in the same way that our SAT rankings dropped (from around 11-12th to the 16th rank or far below):

Faculty Salary Rank.jpg

Professor Zitzewitz’ disaggregation of the data into Full, Associate and Assistant Professor figures illustrates that both Jim Kim and Jim Wright paid long-time, tenured faculty proportionately more than incoming, not-yet-tenured professors. One cannot help come to the conclusion that salaries were set with short-term, political goals in mind, rather than a concern for the ongoing ability of the College to attract the most promising young faculty members.

I wish that Professor Zitzewitz had also compared staff compensation with the wages paid by employers where the College’s thousands of staff members might otherwise work if they were not at Dartmouth. Many of our faculty members could teach at other top schools, but almost all members of the staff would work with local companies and institutions in northern New England. Any rigorous analysis of this question would complement the information on the relative under-payment of the faculty with data on the gross over-payment of most staff members.

The Dartmouth administration set its top priority long ago; it is not education.

Posted on June 29, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Paris Diary: Life in Wartime

The fallout from the Charlie Hebdo killings on January 7 still marks Paris. According to one soldier with whom I spoke, more than 10% of the French military’s active combat troops are tasked with ensuing the safety of the citizens of France’s major cities. There has been a recent change, one that took place before this week’s terrorist attack: rather than statically guarding potential terrorist targets like Jewish institutions, the soldiers now walk the streets on patrol. They have become part of our urban landscape, but at the same time, they engender a certain sense of unease:


There are more fun things to do in this world that lug a fully-automatic FAMAS assault rifle in 80° heat while wearing a vest, camo and combat boots.

Addendum: Soldiers in La Capitale are touchy about being photographed, making your humble servant harken back to the days of the Warsaw Pact. Silly, really, given that the French press is full of images of patrolling troopers.

Posted on June 28, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuck Scores High Once More

Tuck has acquitted itself well again: in a survey of MBA admission consultants by Poets & Quants, Tuck came in eighth in recruiting the best MBA candidates, and the school was first in the quality and transparency of its admissions process:

P&Q Tuck Comp.jpg

That Tuck’s admissions team, led by Dawna Clarke, took first honors was little surprise to many of the consultants whose clients have applied to the school over the years. From an open-interview policy, feedback to all waitlisted and some denied applicants, and frequent and helpful communications via social media as well as video and text blogs, Tuck has clearly established the best MBA admissions practices in the world.

In every contact that applicants make with Tuck’s admissions team, Director Clarke wants the school’s close-knit and highly supportive culture reinforced. “The way we talk about it internally is the importance of us embodying Tuck’s culture through every interaction,” she says. “It should be what they can expect from the school if they come here.”

The school will interview anyone who comes to campus and requests an interview. “Tuck really values strong interpersonal and communication skills because they are so important in the classroom and to a person’s long-term career,” says Clarke. “There is nothing that replaces an evaluation of that than the interview and what recommenders say.”

In a typical year, Tuck will interview between 1,700 and 2,000 of its 2,400 applicants. “We invest a lot of resources in order to pull that open interview policy off with a combination of staff and second-year students who go through a pretty extensive training process,” says Clarke. “It is a differentiator for us, and it is such a good way to get to know the applicants.”

The Tuck admissions team seems to be composed of fifteen women and one man (Sudershan Tirumala T’10).

Posted on June 28, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, June 27, 2015

For Profesors Whom Do’nt Wright Good

Great to see that the Office of Human Resources is offering assistance to faculty members who have trouble with “grammar and punctuation… sentence structure, subject and verb agreement, pronouns, and word choice”:

Writing Workshop.jpg

Wait a second. Aren’t members of the faculty supposed to be teaching students how to write? Maybe Diana Andreas, the (certainly expensive) consultant and trainer in business communications can help them. That said, is there nobody on the College payroll who can give such a seminar?

Writing Workshop Program.jpg

Note the $25/class penalty for signing up but not attending. I wonder if Google and Apple charge their employees in a similar manner. This kind of infantile personnel management gives me the sense that Dartmouth Daycare is not just about students.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

I saw on your blog the comment about the $25 fee for missed classes. For what it’s worth (which, arguably, may not be much), McKinsey charges a $500 fee for missed internal trainings that are space-constrained. This, as best as I can tell, is to incentivize projects to plan such that folks can attend their assigned trainings. The fines are charged to the project, not us personally — they’re to prevent partners from pulling us from training at the last minute because they failed to plan for our absence!

Quite amazing that a newly minted MBA-holder at McKinsey — starting salary in the area of $135k — would be influenced by a fine of $500. Or that a partner would; they make many multiples of $135k. That said, at Bain in the 1980’s we didn’t have fines.

Posted on June 27, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Backlash Against Generation Daycare

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

I like the idea of a global trigger warning. During freshman week all incoming students should be given a sticker like the one below that animates Columbia Journalism/Sociology Professor Todd Gitlin’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled: You Are Here to Be Disturbed:

Trigger Warning.jpg

Gitlin begins by asking, “Are we living through a plague of hypersensitivity?”

I can’t tell you how silly all this talk of microagressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and the like sounds out in the real world. If employees in my business complained about a customer microaggression, I’d probably fire them on the spot, and tell them to leave the premises lest they risk a macroaggression. Such things might be taken seriously within the confines of the Dartmouth Bubble, but they come across as ridiculous in a society where customers can walk out the door at a moment’s notice and businesses have to fight hard every day to survive.

Harvard’s Harry Lewis hypothesized about the origins of student helplessness in his book Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education Have a Future?:

Harry Lewis daycare1.jpg

Whatever the explanation, let’s hope that members of the faculty continue to tell kids to just grow up. Such frankness will serve as an important counterbalance to the armies of administrators who want nothing more than to coddle the little darlings as if they were still in the nursery.

A good example of the latter can be found in a recent NYT piece entitled: Anxious Students Strain College Mental Health Centers, which notes:

Nearly one in six college students has been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety within the last 12 months, according to the annual national survey by the American College Health Association.

Of course, you are anxious, young apprentices. You are at a demanding institution of higher learning where you are being stretched by challenging ideas and a heavy workload. The appropriate response to such anxiety is to gird your loins and study as hard as you possibly can. Such an effort will toughen you up for the days further out in the future when you will face real pressure — when you have to raise children, pay your mortgage, meet your quarterly numbers, get through boot camp, and maybe risk your life defending your country. I think that it is fair to assume that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are not allowed to take a break from a firefight to ask for counselling when they feel anxious. Think about that scenario, dear students, the next time you are terrified that you might get a B+ instead of an A-.

Addendum: The contrast between different parts of the College is always a source of amusement. Do you think that QB Dalyn Williams ‘16 is feeling anxiety below at the unwanted attention he is receiving from several 250 lb. Yale linemen?

Dalyn Williams.jpg

Does this Ledyard Canoe Club kayaker want to call a Dean to ask for a safe space?

Ledyard Canoe Clubber.jpg

Addendum: George Will’s recent column in the Washington Post goes further in deriding the infantilization of college students; he observes that free speech and the open exchange of ideas are being limited by an overwrought concern for students’ delicate psyches.

Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:

You ask the question if the QB or kayaker are feeling “anxiety,” and the answer is: of course, they are. But why is that wrong? Fear is a fabulous motivator, as is anger. Those are the emotions, though, that have become much less acceptable since, well, daycare.

Posted on June 27, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kim is Condemned to Repeat Himself

Jim Kim’s administration in Hanover was derided for cronyism, incompetence and an administrative culture that brooked no criticism of the top guy. How could it, when he was stuffing his resumé for his next job interview?

Now at the World Bank, Kim has been the object of massed demonstrations by employees, and while the ostensible target of protest has been his reorganization of the Bank, there has always been an undercurrent of disrespect for the man himself: if you lie enough and enough people know about it, you start to get a reputation as, well, a liar. Want proof? The WB did an internal survey that was responded to by more than 10,000 staffers. Herewith the results from the leadership section of the questionnaire (click to enlarge):

WB Staff Survey.jpg

The salient section about Jim Kim’s leadership is described in a story by the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

World Bank staffers are losing faith in the development giant’s leadership, an internal staff survey indicates, with fewer than one third of respondents indicating that they have a “clear understanding” of the bank’s direction under the helm of President Jim Yong Kim.

An even smaller number of employees - just 26 percent - said they “agree” that bank leadership “creates a culture of openness and trust,” according to the survey, which was obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Huffington Post. More than 10,000 bank staffers completed the survey, which was conducted in 2014, and distributed internally last week.

Staffers gave lower marks to senior managers than they did in the prior year’s survey in response to almost every question about leadership. In response to a request for comment, the World Bank referred to a message from Kim to staffers in which he characterized the survey as having delivered “a resounding - and humbling - message” that “senior leadership has not met your expectations.” Kim vowed to make improvements in response to the staff survey results.

Sure Kim is humbled, but then he has much to be humbled about. Admire the man’s slick contrition, but don’t expect him to change.

Posted on June 26, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Battle of the Minds: McPeek vs. Pease

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

McPeek Pease Comp.jpg

I would be remiss in recounting events at Monday’s faculty meeting if I did not describe the event-ending exchange between English Professor Don Pease and Biology Professor Mark McPeek, following on McPeek’s detailed analysis of grade inflation. Needless to say, at least for today’s undergrads, any comment about grading by “EasyPeasy” Pease is bound to elicit a knowing smile. Alas, no transcript of Pease’s remarks can properly communicate the self-regarding theatricality of one of his faculty meeting speeches. Read on:

Pease: I think that this is a really good conversation, but it makes me feel even more powerfully why the word “rigor” really needs to be qualified. The suggestions that you are making about how to have conversation among faculty around changes in incentives for the distribution of grades without the context of the philosophy of teaching, the way of producing in a class in which students have no interest in the subject, seems to me to generate a very grim and deaden, frankly, context for conversation across divisions and within departments. If grades separable from philosophy of teaching, liberal arts and understanding of what’s meant by liberal arts education, if that isolated context becomes the basis for the conversation with deans, and conversation with colleagues, I see the impoverishment of conversation across the board in the name of producing good conscience for some faculty. I’d like to have a rich conversation in which perhaps we even look at what we mean by grades. You’re going to a description of the way in which grades got sorted in the ORC. You say most faculty haven’t even looked at it. You haven’t asked the question: do most faculty agree with that particular apportionment? There’s a whole world of conversation that this mode of restricted accountability and assessment leaves out. Unless we have that rich, robust, vital conversation, I think that this report, produced in very good conscience, can have a deleterious effect.

McPeek: I think that my response would be, Don, it seems to me you haven’t heard anything we’ve said.

Pease: I’ve heard everything you said, including the subtext.

McPeek: What we’re talking about is the conversation, is the most important thing. It’s about what you want to go on in your class, and every class is going to be different, and it’s basically about how do you teach in your class, what’s important. And so I have no idea what you’re talking about.

What to say? In a very real way, we have here a conflict between the Humanities and the Sciences, between the limitations of data and the desire to move forward in a concrete way in the world. Pease bloviates — he uses the word “conversation” nine times in his 2:16-long peroration — and yet he seems to suggest little more than a desire to engage in a theoretical/philosophical conversation on the meaning of grades. McPeek, the scientist, has put forward a specific set of proposals, but Pease, the humanist, wants to chat ever more broadly about the entire subject. Here be dragons, or at least a recipe for institutional immobility.

As to what Pease meant about “a class in which students have no interest in the subject” — your guess is as good as mine.

Addendum: As an added treat, Dartblog offers a transcript of Pease’s 5:09-long opening remarks at the same meeting:

I think, too, that it was a great report, and having these reports every twenty years is crucial to the reflectivity of the faculty. I have a comment about one area of the report and a quibble about a word, a rhetorical word, as a matter of rhetoric. The first has to do with the role that reflection would play in the organization of the undergraduate’s curriculum and project as a whole. There’s a suggestion that there’s an unsurveilled aspect of undergraduate experience and that it’s important to turn sophomore year, which is relatively unsupervised, into an opportunity to add reflection to that particular year. I really admire both the criteria that are at work in insisting upon adding a dimension, call it metacognitive, of reflection to the organization of the undergraduate’s career. But throughout the report there are two virtues of a liberal arts education that are constantly reiterated: breadth and depth, focus and flexibility. These seem to me to be the chief virtues of the liberal arts; they’re liberating arts. One of the opportunities for undergraduates to discover capabilities, can-dos, skills, that they did not know they had, is to be able to walk into a classroom unsupervised, a classroom that no one suggested they enter, and discover, ‘Hey, I have really awakened in myself a capability that I didn’t know I had, that I wouldn’t have had, had I not accidentally entered into that classroom.’ That’s a matter of curiosity, and it’s a matter that is related to flexibility, and it’s a matter that is also, I think, crucially related to giving, and this is what the liberal arts really refers to, the freedom of discovery and education for one’s self. I would encourage in the sophomore year students to have as many roads not taken as possible to enable them to realize, perhaps after they’ve taken the road that they didn’t know they were going to take, that they can produce reflexively a way to turn that capability into one of the great virtues of the liberating arts.

The second point has to do with the use of the word “rigor” in the report. The word rigor refers to a virtue of the body that most usually appears when the body is to undergo its culminating experience. It is not a matter, as I understand, to be crucial in the liberating arts. It may be perhaps what your member is presently experiencing [laughter]. I want to suggest that the report itself in its preamble uses the word “rigor”; the word rigor does not appear again in the report until description of what the culminating experience should be. I think the report unconsciously linked rigor with the real culminating experience to demonstrate rigor mortis. Why not use the word “challenging”? Why not use the word “vigorous”? Why not suggest to students, if you want to encourage not to have the “work hard, play hard” ethos, and even work harder and don’t play at all, or work harder and die, which may be the message. Now, what I want to suggest is there’s a dimension of this report, the learning and living, experiential learning, the whole initiative of the institution to turn experience outside the classroom into an occasion for discovery is not folded into any of the recommendations. I think that missing component of the report is missing the whole context for moving Dartmouth forward and needs to be folded in along with the sense that learning can be a form of enjoyment. It can be a form of play that is creative. The virtues of discovery need not to be restricted to the constraining force of rigor. That’s a rhetorical point.

Note again Pease’s desire to engage in an expansive discussion — “the whole initiative of the institution to turn experience outside the classroom into an occasion for discovery” — one far beyond the issue at hand, rather then arrive at a constructive conclusion upon which actions can be taken.

Professor Frank Magilligan did not respond to Pease’s remarks; he just invited another professor to ask a question.

Pease is famous for such off-the-cuff orations. However few people in the past have had the courage to observe, as Mark McPeek did, that they are incoherent. Sure Pease’s speeches are filled with humor, sound and fury — but do they signify anything?

Addendum: I earned a B+ in Pease’s English 5 class in the fall of 1975. To my 17-year-old eyes he seemed more rigorous then than he was at the faculty meeting the other day.

Posted on June 26, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, June 25, 2015

“Dean of the College” Rebecca Biron

rebecca biron.jpgFirst of all, don’t be fooled: the Dean of the College position bears no resemblance today to what it was under Charlotte Johnson, the last Dean in an almost unbroken line of incompetents. The College has announced that Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature Rebecca Biron will be the new Dean, but the notice defines her limited role realistically:

Biron’s role will include leadership of the College’s new residential house communities and the professors directing the communities…

The Dean of the College Division has been reorganized to focus the dean’s role on the integration of academics into the full range of student experiences, curricular and co-curricular, as Dartmouth seeks to enhance academic engagement on campus.

Biron will continue teaching at least one class a year while serving as dean. In the fall she’ll teach a comparative literature course and direct an honors thesis in Spanish. “It’s important that the new dean be an active scholar and teacher,” she says. “The whole idea of the reorganization of the Dean of the College Division is to infuse student life with the same intellectual purpose that defines Dartmouth’s primary mission to produce and disseminate knowledge.”

The reorganization includes the establishment of the position of vice provost for student affairs, a role with leadership and oversight of nonacademic student affairs programs and support services. Inge-Lise Ameer, currently serving as interim dean of the College, will begin work as vice provost on July 1. Both the dean and the vice provost will report to Dever.

As we have reported, we can expect little from Dean Ameer, whose limited experience condemns her to an ineffective and probably quite short run in the Vice Provost for Student Affairs position.

Addendum: Of note, the search committee that led to Biron’s appointment was led Denise Anthony, Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives, and it included Dean Ameer, Professor Solomon Diamond, Associate Professor Jim Feyrer, Professor Irene Kacandes, and Ashneil Jain ‘15. Denise Anthony did not, um, distinguish herself as the head of Carol Folt’s now-forgotten strategic planning initiative, and Irene Kacandes headed up the search committee that resulted in Bishop James Tengatenga’s offered and withdrawn appointment as head of the Tucker Foundation. Why do the same names appear over and over again on these committees, particularly after they perform poorly?

Addendum: The D’s report on Biron’s appointment is just a rehash of the Dartmouth Now story. Read it here, if The D’s website is working.

Posted on June 25, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

The Dean of the College Disaster

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

Ameer and Blank.jpgHere’s the theory: the Dean of the College slot has been filled over the last fifteen years with people (with one exception) who were chosen for their racial/gender profile rather than their competence. (Want proof of their mediocrity? Look where they are now.) As a direct result of these sub-par hires, Dartmouth has been beset with a series of student life crises that have grievously hurt its reputation. How to repair the damage?

First, strip out all of the extraneous responsibilities from the Dean’s portfolio (Athletics, DDS, dorm maintenance, etc.) so that the Dean is free to concentrate on student life matters. That’s been or being done now.

Then choose competent Deans. That’s right: two of them. HYP all have deans who are heavy-hitting academics, but they are buttressed by experienced administrators who can handle the nitty-gritty of financial planning, personnel management, and the day-to-day responsibility of running of an organization with a budget well into eight figures.

At the College we should have co-Deans of the College: a professor who knows the school, has a good dose of common sense, and can speak with sufficient intellectual authority to be respected by students; and an experienced administrator who can sweat the details, streamline a bloated, low-performance staff, and cut out waste wherever it may be found (everywhere).

The College appeared to be on the way to executing this strategy, but a serious misteep has been made. For some reason, the first hire to fill the two-step was Inge-Lise Ameer, the acting Dean of of the College. She has been named Vice Provost for Student Affairs — a job that entails almost all of the responsibilities of the previous Dean of the College position. Oh, no. When Ameer was appointed interim Dean last May, we reported on her background as follows:

She’s been at Dartmouth since 2010, having come from some little school in Cambridge, where she had last been Interim Director of Advising Programs (a job she performed well, according to the Crimson). Previously she had been the administrator for undergraduate English programs.

That said, Ameer worked hand in glove with Carol Folt, having chaired the cliquey meeting that led to the College’s embarrassing shutdown last year. And she recently put in a pallid appearance on NPR as part of the College’s ongoing public self-immolation regarding student life issues. In addition, she has been joined at the hip with outgoing Dean of the College Charlotte “Phil’s just a fundraiser” Johnson. Whether her work with Charlotte represents the accommodation of a loyal subordinate or a deeper ideological sympathy remains to be seen….

Whatever her past record, let’s hope that Phil ranges further afield than Ameer in choosing the College’s next Dean of the College.

Uninspiring stuff, to say the least. Ameer is barely more experienced than Sylvia Spears. How is it that we can’t hire people who have done the same job admirably at a lesser school than Dartmouth? That’s what is done in the corporate world; people work their way up the ladder, gaining relevant experience at each level. Do we expect Ameer to learn the position on the job? That expectation surely hasn’t been met in the past.

When Ameer’s hire as Vice Provost for Student Affairs was announced, the Dartmouth Now notice also stated that the next Dean of the College would be a current faculty member. That’s good on its face, but, of course, this new position with the old name has a much reduced list of responsibilities, as The D reported:

The new dean of the College will be the academic leader of the residential community system initiative outlined in the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plan, Dever said. The dean will lead the new cohort of house professors, and will convene “serious working groups” on diversity and inclusion within the academic experience, Dever added.

Dever’s own announcement to the campus went further:

The dean will be a tenured member of the faculty who will offer strategic and creative leadership in the areas of undergraduate academic life, diversity and inclusion in the undergraduate academic experience, strategic planning, and the residential house system and house professors.

Reporting to me, the dean will lead the new house professors and a broad network of students, faculty, and staff to create a strong academic and residential program in the new residential house system. The dean will build partnerships across departments, programs, and schools to help us find the best ways to guide students in the pursuit of their educational goals. She or he will lead a process to help me to think through planning and innovation in the areas of admissions and financial aid, ensuring that Dartmouth is well positioned to compete in a changing world. The dean will also convene initiatives to address diversity and inclusion in the undergraduate academic experience.

And don’t forget diversity and inclusion.

The fluff about leading “a process to help me to think through planning and innovation in the areas of admissions and financial aid” has nothing to do with being the College’s official den mother and chaperone. The Dean of the College position has been gutted.

Then we learn from Provost Dever that, “The search for the next dean will be led by Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives Denise Anthony” of the Sociology department. Not a reassuring sign. Anthony was the leader of Jim Kim and Carol Folt’s laughable Strategic Planning Initiative. Do you remember that multi-year, multi-multi-committee effort? The one whose results were announced a little over two years ago, and hasn’t been heard from since. The one that didn’t even pass muster for its grammar and syntax.

How Anthony could have attracted the attention of Provost Dever is beyond me, unless Provost Dever likes to hire the same kind of person as Jim Kim and Carol Folt. Anthony was the Kim/Folt administration’s go-to good girl, and it would not surprise me if she wasn’t bucking for the Dean’s job herself. In any event, the position will likely be filled by a jargon-spouting humanist. And don’t forget diversity and inclusion.

In short, amateur hour is set to continue in the area of student affairs. When will they ever learn?

Posted on June 25, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More (of the same) Trustees

The College appointed three new Trustees over Commencement, and once again, any hope for reform is dashed. The present Board is notably bereft of expertise in higher education and the new folks signal no change at all. How are the Trustees to evaluate Phil’s performance and serve as a sounding board for initiatives if virtually none of them have experience in higher education beyond their years at the College and an MBA degree?

Effective companies have boards of directors composed of people with proven competence. The Board of Trustees at DHMC illustrates how it’s done: among the hospital’s Trustees are no less than four former CEOs/leaders of top-rank medical centers, three senior physicians and medical educators, and industry experts in information technology, government relations, and medical consulting. Quite a team.

Let’s look at the College’s newest Trustees:

Trustee Rodriguez.jpg

With a net worth estimated at between $2.1 and $3.0 billion based on a business empire centered in Peru, I’m not sure that we can expect Rodriguez-Pastor T’88 to be digging deeply into the College’s day-to-day affairs any time soon.

Trustee Kerr.jpg

While the appointment of Caroline Kerr ‘05 — sister of the College’s Sustainability Director Rosie Kerr — might gladden hearts in the LGBTQIAFRC community (that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Friends, Romans, Countrymen), can we look to her to be a force on a Board filled with alpha-billionaires? With what authority does she speak about higher education?

Trustee Fascitelli.jpg

Steven Roth ‘62 will soon leave the Board, but he won’t be without future influence. Beth Fascitelli ‘80 is the spouse of Roth’s partner Steven Fascitelli (whom Roth lured to his Vornado Realty Trust business on 2001 from Goldman Sachs with an attractive compensation package: “a $25 million bonus plus options that could have brought the total package up to $127 million.”) Beth Facitelli, with her background in investment banking at Goldman Sachs (where else?) and a Harvard MBA, will join a Board already filled with other financiers and B-school grads. People of that background have run Dartmouth’s Board for the last several decades. Hardly a reference.

Posted on June 24, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Ready, Aim, Hire: +60 Staffers in 2014

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

I want to like Phil, I really do, but if the College keeps hiring people as if it on a mission to end unemployment in America, I won’t be happy, and we’ll end up with more non-faculty employees than undergrads. As the present rate, we are less than a decade away from that state of affairs:

The Dartmouth Factbook just came out with the employment figures for non-faculty staff members, and the numbers are both alarming and, more to the point, no more than a continuation of Wright/Kim/Folt excess: between November 2013 and November 2014, the College added 60 new non-faculty staffers:

Staff Headcount November 2014 Comp.jpg

Since 2010 we have added 447 new staff members, and once again we are in record territory: the College has never had so many employees. Worse still, about two-thirds of the new people came in areas having no contact with students:

Staff Headcount November 2014 SOC.jpg

Interestingly, there were job classifications where we did reduce the headcount. It can be done. But why the growth in so many areas?

While we have hired 447 staffers since 2010, let’s look at how the faculty has grown. Since 2010 we have added only 35.8 professors to the teaching ranks — that’s 11.6 new staffers for each new professor — of whom a grand total of 7.4 faculty members came to Hanover last year:

Faculty 2014.jpg

An average College staffer and a junior professor cost nearly the same amount of money each year. Remember to keep in mind that beyond salary and fancy benefits (a Cadillac health plan and lush pension contributions), there is the cost of office equipment and space, energy, professional development and training, conferences and travel. And so it goes. At this rate, all of the extra gains from a growing endowment will be eaten up in a hurry.

Addendum: In 1999, the College had 2,408 non-faculty staffers, and that figure included about 75 employees of the Hanover Inn — a business now separate from the College. But then Jim Wright went on his spending binge, and from the looks of things, we haven’t stopped.

Posted on June 24, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The War on AD Heats Up

Dean Ameer (with Phil at her side, I expect) seems determined to break AD. While the Town of Hanover Zoning adminstrator and the Zoning Board have ruled against the house’s attempt to have more than three brothers live there post-derecognition, I imagine that College Counsel Bob Donin has determined that the case is hardly a certainty in the courts. So Dean Ameer has decided to try to destroy the house by fiat:

Ameer AD.jpg

What if the brothers en masse decided to contravene this policy — which we all know is motivated only by the good Dean’s concern for student health and safety?

Other than a possible court battle about the right to live in the house, the shoe that has yet to drop is the Town of Hanover Police investigation into AD’s branding of certain brothers. Should the Town and the Grafton County Prosecutor rule that AD has broken no laws (hazing, negligence, who knows), then the College could find itself in a tight spot having derecognized a house that had not committed a crime. Dean Ameer, who has no experience in these matters, other than her apprenticeship with the incompetent Charlotte Johnson, could well end up looking silly — and the College, too.

Posted on June 23, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Big Money for the College’s Top Dogs (and Former Top Dogs)

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

The College’s IRS Form 990 is out for the 2014 fiscal year (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014) and, as usual, the salary information (which covers calendar 2013) bears analysis:

Form 990 2013 Salaries.jpg

● Phil Hanlon took in $695,568 for a partial year’s work (stating in June of 2013), a figure which the Form 990 says included a bonus of $100,000. If we extrapolate out those figures, his annual salary would have been somewhere between $1,021,176 and $1,192,402 — depending on whether you calculate that he would have received a larger bonus had he been on the job for an entire year. The latter figure would have made him the 18th-best-paid college president in the U.S. in 2012 (the last year for which figures are available), and the fifth-highest earner among the Ivy presidents, ahead of the leaders of Harvard (President Drew Gilpin Faust earned $908,642 in her eighth year), Cornell (President David Skorton earned $817,441 in his ninth year) and Princeton (then-President Shirley Tilghman earned $948,412 in her eleventh year) — even though Dartmouth is the smallest Ivy and Phil is only beginning his presidency, the first of his career.

● Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno was paid $415,511 in 2013 in order to do, uh, what exactly? He’s still teaching, doing research, he has a radio show on Sirius, and he MC’s faculty meetings. But other than that, as I have written before, we are paying a lot for a genial, part-time Dean.

● Carol Folt took in $603,502, including a $78,000 bonus, for her half year as IP in 2013. As Chancellor at UNC Chapel Hill she made $520,000 over her entire first year. Folt had earned $699,742 at Dartmouth in 2012 for being Provost for half the year and the IP for the other half.

● Amazingly, even for Dartblog readers who could hardly be more amazed by the College’s wastefulness, Dartmouth’s worst President ever, Jim Wright, was still on the payroll in 2013: to the tune of $316,886. Since leaving the Presidency on June 30, 2009, the College has continued to pay Wright handsomely: $721,385 in 2010; $652,434 in 2011; and $645,280 in 2012; plus the 2013 money. That’s a total of $2,335,985 since he left what EVP Rick Mills indirectly called one of Dartmouth’s three consecutive failed presidencies. Now why would the College keep paying Jim? These aren’t bonuses, after all. Nope. They are part of a severance package that Jim Wright agreed to when he was fired — though, of course, the fig leaf word of “retirement” was bandied about at the time. (Curiously enough, the College’s 990 filing lists Wright as having put in 40 hours/week for Dartmouth in 2013. I’d call that a misrepresentation.)

● However, for flat-out excess — especially when the College is dismissing beloved teachers for lack of budget — nothing tops the fact that former-EVP Adam Keller took in $338,562 in 2013. Keller left his job in 2009, just like Wright, having made a shambles of the College’s finances. He is listed in the above table as Chief of Strategy at The Dartmouth Institute, but given that the actual leader of TDI is not on the 990 filing, we know who is paying the bills there. Since 2009 Keller has taken in (or has taken the College for) the following sums: $855,636 in 2010; $487,151 in 2011; and $776,756 in 2012; and the abovementioned $338,562. That’s a total of $2,458,105. I wonder what leverage Keller had to get such a great deal. Note: Keller’s background, a Masters degree in public health from the University of Minnesota, did not equip him in the slightest for the EVP job, as we all expensively learned.

Addendum: Jim Kim earned nothing from the College in 2013, and the only money that he earned in 2012 was for the time he was in Hanover — the first half of the year — plus a bonus of $200,000. That totaled out to be $778,499, far short of the one-year-of-salary bonus that Dartmouth Presidents traditionally receive. I would not even have given him the $200,000, not after he cut and ran without so much as informing the Trustees before he accepted the World Bank job.

Addendum: My apologies if any of the above seems intemperate, but when I review the close-to-$5,000,000 that Jim Wright and Adam Keller have received from the College since their departure, and then I think of students and parents indebted due to the high cost of tuition, and hard-working young academics who can’t get jobs, and students stuck in large courses because the College believes that it does not have enough money to hire more faculty members, well, I get a little upset. Dartmouth is rich, but not enough to waste this kind of money on people who did her no service.

Posted on June 23, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, June 22, 2015

We (Ab)Use the Waitlist

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

The word seems to be out that we use our waitlist to fill the freshman class to an extent that other schools don’t. Bloomberg reported that at most schools placement on the waitlist is tantamount to a flatout rejection — but not at the College, according to a graph in Bloomberg’s article. We take more people off of the waitlist than anyone:

Bloomberg Waitlist.jpg

This space reported on our heavy use of the waitlist about a year ago. Along with a ramped up use of early admissions and legacy admits, such a strategy seems designed to hide our declining yield. Do you understand why? We announce each April how many people we have accepted to fill the freshman class, and at that point we will be compared to other schools. Then later, even if we have not admitted enough students — because so many of the admittees have chosen to go elsewhere — we fill the class with people off the waitlist. Recall also that the waitlist is an area of rich pickings; before we accept people off the waitlist, we’ve already asked them if they want to remain on it after they have heard from the other schools to which they have applied.

If we extrapolate the exploitation of the waitlist to its ad absurdum limit, we could accept only 1,100 or so people to supposedly fill 100% of the freshman class — we’d have the best admissions stats in the country (you can imagine the headlines now) — and later on, when nobody is looking, we could fill the class off of the waitlist.

Word back from the field is that this year the Admissions department is breaking from past practice and admitting students that it had refused when they had applied ED last fall. How clever. No doubt such people are far more likely to matriculate at the College than someone who had just applied for regular admission at Dartmouth and a dozen other schools. Work that yield, work it, work it.

Even using every trick possible, our admissions rate is still moving in the wrong direction, unlike all of the other Ivies:

Ivy Acceptances Class of 2018.jpg

(Note: What a strange use of colors by dadaviz.com: Harvard is green and Yale is orange?)

The only way to improve these numbers is to make real changes in Hanover: cut the horrific waste, and use the savings to greatly improve the undergraduate experience by hiring more faculty members and reforming student life.

Addendum: If we cut out the fat, and there is a lot of it, we could easily reduce tuition by double digits. That would send a signal to the world that the revolution in higher education is finally beginning, and it is beginning at Dartmouth.

Addendum: The D is reporting today that we have already accepted 93 students off the the waitlist — a figure well above our past averages, and well above the rate of the other Ivies. We can expect that this figure will climb over the summer.

Posted on June 22, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Paris Diary: Le Temps des Cerises

Cherries.jpgThere are several songs that will stop a conversation in France, so strong are their evocations, at least among people of a certain age. Edith Piaf’s martial Je Ne Regrette Rien is one of them, and when Yves Montand or Charles Trenet sing Le Temps des Cerises (In the Time of Cherries), especially when the markets are full of perfectly ripe ones, it is not hard to be moved to a wistful romanticism about music from a time when such sentiments led to violent battles.

The song was composed in 1866 (words by Jean-Baptiste Clément and music by Antoine Renard) in anticipation of the communist utopia that was to come; a few years later the 1871 Paris Commune sprang to life. But that hoped-for paradise was not to last; it was violently put down during the Semaine Sanglante (the Bloody Week) by what were called the forces of reaction. The meaning of Cerises thereby changed from literal to metaphorical, from springtime’s deep-flavored fruit to the bright red eruptions on the white shirts of the Communards as they were shot down at their barricades by the government’s massed troops.

The emotions of utopian hope and wistful regret are both pure and fine. As I write these words with Yves Montand’s baritone in the background, the feelings are a sentimental pleasure. My sense is that many people on the Left enjoy these reveries, and wish that more people could share in them. That can happen, perhaps, after a dinner with good wine and music, but such passions are no substitute for the rigor of markets and accountability, much as many would like.

Posted on June 21, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Saturday, June 20, 2015

John Colenback ‘57 R.I.P.

Diversity has many meanings. Did you know that a Dartmouth alumnus was one of the stars of the long-running soap opera As the World Turns? John Colenback ‘57 played Dr. Dan Stewart in the series, in addition to starring in plays on Broadway and Off Broadway, and in numerous other television shows. He died on May 12 at the age of ‘79:

John Colenback.jpg

Variety has an obituary that notes that Colenback “was a lifelong supporter of progressive candidates and causes, especially The Names Project and LGBT programs,” and the We Love Soaps blog tells the story of his career.

I was, shall we say, not a fan of the soaps (“daytime dramas” to the initiated), but an old friend on the faculty once told me that in the 80’s and 90’s it was hard to schedule meetings with a great many students in Hanover at times when certain soaps were on TV. Maybe today’s students stream their favorites in secret? Or is the College soap opera enough for everyone?

Posted on June 20, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Friday, June 19, 2015

Pretty Good Endowment

If you fire up your Bloomberg terminal, you can access a great deal of information about college and university endowments. After all, they total in the hundreds of billions of dollars, so financial analysts are interested. And how does Dartmouth come out? After an Ivy-leading performance in the 1990s, and an Ivy-losing performance in the first decade of this century (one of the significant differences between cost-conscious Jim Freedman and break-the-bank Jim Wright), the endowment under various managers (currently Pam Peedin ‘89 T ‘98) has done pretty well over the past ten years.

Not only do we have the fourth-largest endowment per student in the Ivies, we also have the fourth highest return:

Bloomberg 10 year endowment.jpg

Like the rest of the Ivies (except for Penn and Cornell), we have beaten our investment class’ average return according to the 2014 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. Endowments over $1.0 billion returned on average 8.2% in the ten-year period ending in 2014; our return was 9.4%:

NACUBO 2014.jpg

Lest you think that 1.2%/year doesn’t mean much, $1,000 invested over 20 years at 8.2% will leave you with $4,836.65; the same money invested at 9.4% will give you $6,030.40 — another example of Warren Buffett’s miracle of compounding.

Addendum: Now if we can only figure out how it can be that even though our endowment is larger than Brown’s in absolute and per-student terms, and even though it is growing faster than Brown’s, and even though each year it throws off a lot more money than Brown’s to fund the College’s operations, as this space reported on May 11:

… in the coming academic year, tuition, room and board, and fees in Providence will be $62,046; at the College they will be $63,744. That makes Brown $1,698/year cheaper than the College.

Of course, regular readers know the answer to this question.

Posted on June 19, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Schools for MacArthur Fellows

The Chronicle of Higher Education has looked at the schools that MacArthur Fellows attended as undergrads. The Ivies do well:

MacArthur Fellows.jpg

(See the profiles of Dartmouth’s MacArthur Fellowship winners — eight undergraduates and one MALS degree holder — here.)

In addition to taking the prize in the total winners category, Harvard runs the table on a per-student calculation, too:

MacArthur Fellows Table1.jpg

Addendum: The MacArthur Fellows come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds according to this chart from the Chronicle:

MacArthurs Origins.jpg

Addendum: Jim Kim is a past MacArthur Fellowship winner (2003) in the category of, I believe, self-promotion.

Addendum: An alert reader notes that Cecilia Conrad, VP of the MacArthur Fellows Program, and previously a professor of economics and dean of Pomona College, comments on the varied origins of MacArthur Fellows in a piece in the Huffington Post. An excerpt:

One in five fellows graduated from institutions with acceptance rates of over 50 percent. Fifteen graduated from either historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) or tribal colleges and 44 from women’s colleges. Forty graduated from religiously affiliated institutions. Several fellows, such as organic chemist Phil Baran, began their studies at community colleges…

Our data provides one clue as to the educational environments most conducive for creative minds to develop: a relatively high number of fellows graduated from liberal arts colleges. Liberal arts colleges are distinctively American institutions, typically small, that focus on undergraduate education. Less than two percent of U.S. college graduates graduated from a liberal arts college, but 14 percent of MacArthur Fellows did. Liberal arts colleges are a diverse group of institutions. Some are highly selective; others are not.

Posted on June 18, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where Do My Profits Go?

I own a business in Lebanon, NH, just across the town line from Hanover: the River Valley Club. It is an important part of people’s lives — our members work out about eight times per month, which is twice the national average for health clubs — and for a club our size we have the largest personal training program in the nation by a multiple of about five. The health club business is tough, particularly due to the expense of having a large staff, but we make a decent profit for a small business — until we have to pay the various taxes that all levels of government extract from us.

Economics Professor Meir Kohn likes to use the phrase “predatory government,” and it is apropos in our case: federal, state and local governments take two thirds of our profits, a full 66% of what is left after we have paid the staff and vendors we need to operate on a day-to-day basis (note: I draw no salary):

Taxation of Profits.jpg

In the expense area, first off we pay our employees’ wages and our contribution to their health insurance. We have always been generous with health care (unlike most health clubs), and Obamacare’s new obligations won’t change anything for us. We also pay our vendors for equipment, utilities, outside maintenance, supplies, etc. After all those costs, in 2014 we were left with profits of 13.4% of our total sales. Not great, but not bad in a year when we plowed a lot of money back into the business.

Then various governmental entities take their deep cut of our profits:

● Payroll taxes on employees’ salaries amount to about 9% on top of our total compensation bill. That is, every time we pay out a dollar of wages, we pay a total of $0.09 to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance and so on. With over 150 employees, that figure adds up to a lot of money.

● The Club is an LLC, a transparent entity, so profits are taxed to us as personal income. Fortunately, payroll taxes, real estate taxes, and state income taxes are deductible. On what’s left, our federal income tax rate is in the high 30%’s.

● Real estate taxes in Lebanon run at about 2.5% of the assessed value of land, buildings and equipment. Not cheap — nor easy to stomach, given that municipal employees are better paid and have more generous benefits than our own employees.

● Though New Hampshire levies no tax on personal income, transparent entities pay a Business Profits Tax of 8.5%, and companies pay a Business Enterprise Tax of 0.75% of wages and interest paid out.

The way that I figure it, from New Year’s Day until the end of August, I work for the government; only starting in September do I begin to work for myself. Of course, were I to sell the Club and invest my money in the stock market, my capital gains tax rate would only be about 20%. Anyone want to buy a health club?

Posted on June 17, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Zitzewitz Files: SAT Scores

I would classify Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz’ presentation at the faculty meeting on June 1 as slyly subversive. The ostensible topic of the report of the Committee on the Faculty was professors’ compensation by the College, but Zitzewitz went further afield and released a great deal of interesting data. In the part of his presentation where he made the case for benchmarking, he let us know the effect of Jim Kim’s manipulation of admissions standards in his search for additional revenue. Rather than reporting on SAT scores themselves, the data-crunching professor looked at the College’s SAT score rank versus other institutions. His first slide looked (slyly) at only the 2001-2008 period:

SAT 2001-2008 Comp.jpg

Good results. There was a decline at the start of the Wright years, but our SAT rank remained consistent from year to year, and more or less consistent with the College’s U.S. News national ranking. But then Jim Kim arrived and the search was on for more money. As we have reported in the past, three major changes took place on Kim’s watch: significantly more Early Decision applicants, legacies, and private schools students were granted admission (all of these groups can be counted upon, on average, to need less financial aid than other students). What Zitzewitz showed was that Kim & Co.’s policies lowered the College’s SAT scores relative to schools with whom we compete:

SAT 2001-2013 Comp.jpg

Ouch. From a rank around 11th, we dropped to the mid-teens or worse. Obviously, when it came time to choose quality over money, Kim chose money every time.

Though he did not evoke EVP Rick Mills’ favorite metaphor — the Red Queen hypothesis — Zitzewitz also pointed out that even as Jim Kim chose to have the College’s relative SAT scores decline, other schools with whom we compete for the best students, were making serious efforts to better themselves:

SAT v. Other Schools Comp.jpg

And so it goes.

Addendum: It takes a certain amount of work to come up with these stats. If you just look at the College’s raw numbers, all might seem well in Hanover, until you also analyze the performance of schools who are trying hard to improve (unlike Dartmouth):

SAT Raw Scores Comp.jpg

The point is not to remain static, but to gain ground. As the French saying goes, Qui n’avance pas, recule. If you ain’t going forward, you are probably going backwards.

Posted on June 16, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Churn in Advancement

A few weeks ago we noted the large number of jobs open in the College’s Development/Advancement office (that’s “fundraising” in plain English). I surmised that the College was gearing up for the capital campaign that has been looming for quite a while now. In fact, the campaign is part of the reason, and the hiring proceeds apace:

Development 11.06.2015 Comp.jpg

Thumbnail image for Development Office.jpgWhile there are plenty of new jobs to be had, another motive for the frenetic recruiting is the awful work environment up in Advancement’s dedicated building in Centerra (right). As we reported on October 1, 2014, Senior VP for Advancement Bob Lasher ‘88’s name bespeaks his management style:

From the first, Lasher’s behavior has spawned stories of slammed doors, angry tirades, whining about the Upper Valley social scene, and, well, very close supervision of certain subordinates.

As we noted then, and the observation is still true, people are leaving Development in good numbers, and many others are shopping their resumés at other schools. This is hardly what the College wants to see at the start of a campaign. Phil has set high goals for fundraising (though he should do more cost-cutting — that’s where the real money is), but if he wants to raise money, he needs to have on staff a cohesive, happy group of development officers, people who love the College and are willing to stay with her for the number of years needed to establish relationships with donors. Allowing a burn-and-churn boss to run Advancement won’t get Phil to where he wants to go.

I’m the first person in the world to admit that hiring quality people is a challenge. Nobody is better than good at it; the necessary strategy is to undo your errors as quickly as possible. Will Phil send Bob Lasher packing before too much damage is done and too many good people leave — or is he reluctant to admit a mistake? The current office pool is only running even odds on whether Lasher will get the boot before Vice Provost for Student Affairs Inge-Lise Ameer, an equally dismal hire (whose job consists of almost all of the responsibilities of what once was the Dean of the College position). Who knows how long either one will last?

Posted on June 15, 2015 4:00 AM. Permalink

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Commencement 2015

Where, oh where are the Grand Old Seniors?
Safe at last in the wide, wide world.

Dartmouth Class of 2015.jpg

The new alumni are safe in part thanks to the College’s newly commissioned 2nd lieutenants: Jonathan Griffith ‘15 (Army); Joshua Rivers ‘15 (Army); Monica Wagdalt ‘15 (Army); Joseph Carey ‘15 (Marine Corps); and Zachary Queen ‘15 (Marine Corps):

Dartmouth Commissioning 2015.jpg

Addendum: With special thanks to the Class of 2015’s members of Dartblog’s Baker Tower Irregulars, who helped out in so many ways.

Addendum: Here is the College’s report and the Valley News story on the weekend’s events.

Addendum: 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Carey ‘15 is the son of Government Professors John Carey and Lisa Baldez. Can anyone recall a Dartmouth professor with a child in the military?

Addendum: One of Dartblog’s ever vigilant readers notes that Jamie Ermarth ‘04 gradated with an Army ROTC Commission. His father is recently retired History Professor Michael Ermarth, and his stepmother is English Professor Barbara Will.

Addendum: Another alumnus writes in:

Surely there are many others, if one goes back far enough. We always knew about and celebrated Stanley Proctor Wright ‘42, son of Philosophy Professor William Kelley Wright, but we never thought of him as being that unusual. He was 2nd Lieutenant USMC, killed at Bougainville on November 13, 1943.

Posted on June 14, 2015 5:56 AM. Permalink