Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Summer Break

To those still reading this page, all five of you, we Curmudgeons and Neophytes apologize for the lack of posting recently. Suffice to say our satisfaction in the result of the trustee election and the consuming nature of our own lives at present have temporarily stemmed our momentum. As soon as we get a moment free though, there will be more.

As the school year winds down in Hanover, it is important, though, to at least note what we would term an unsettled feeling wafting down on the hill winds. The latest goings on include an e-mail, which we will reprint below, that was sent to several alums we know, but strangely not us. The e-mail touts the giving participation rate of the graduating class of 2005 to their class fund, it is a respectable 53%. It also shames the prior two classes, which came in at 28% and 13% respectively. The most interesting part for us is that the 2005 senior class giving effort was spearheaded by Kabir Seghal, who is most well known for his inferiority complex toward other Ivy league schools. A year or two ago, Kabir created BuzzFlood, an organization whose mission was to raise the profile of the college through branding and advertising, because it seems Kabir felt that Dartmouth simply didn't have to recognition of HYP (Harvard Yale Princeton) set.

Now, it seems, Kabir has used his relentless energy and undernourished ego to whip these graduating seniors into shape, and to donate to their alma mater. Now, despite being a Neophyte and sharing sympathies with a Curmudgeon, we don't want to belittle the fundraising efforts of people dedicated to the college. Their hard work is laudable. However, two points need to be made. First of all, the 53% rate achieved by this class, while high by very recent standards, is still low when you consider even only ten years of history. Second, and perhaps more distressing, is that the only class that Dartmouth can currently reliably attain a 50% giving rate with is the one currently on campus, where they can be effectively badgered, cajoled, and even bribed (there was a competition among greek organizations and prizes for high participation rates) into 'supporting' their college.

Frankly, this is pathetic on the college's part. It speaks to the rank desperation they currently feel, as fewer and fewer alums support the agenda present in the current administration. Our frustration with President Wright and his minions is only met by their feckless attempts to pacify the alumni body, and it is as transparent as it is foolish. When the current students are being bribed into voicing support for an administration, Dartmouth has truly come to an ugly crossroads.

Here is the e-mail:

Dear [Alum],

I am thrilled to announce that 53% of the senior class have made gifts totaling more than $14,000 to the College through the Dartmouth CollegeFund. This is a milestone for the senior gift program; in comparison,overthe last two years, 28% and 13% of seniors made a gift through the Fund.This success comes from the efforts of a volunteer committee of 35students. The average gift was $24, with several seniors joining the1769society with gifts of $100 or more.

Greek houses were especially active in this effort, with eight of themachieving 100% participation: Alpha Chi Alpha, Alpha Phi Alpha, Alpha XiDelta, Chi Gamma Epsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sigma Lambda UpsilonColony, Sigma Nu, and Sigma Phi Epsilon. Three houses raised $1,000 each for financial aid: Alpha Xi Delta, Kappa Delta Epsilon, and Kappa KappaGamma. In addition, the Senior Executive Committee achieved 100%participation and raised $2,000.

Kabir Seghal '05, a member of the gift committee, explained the successoftheir efforts in the Daily D: "Last year was 13% participation, sowe'rereally turning it around," Seghal said. "We're really trying to set thebar for future classes. The total money is nice, but we're looking fortotal participation. It shows that we're appreciative of our educationandwe're willing to give."I want to thank all 35 members of the senior gift committee for theirenthusiasm, commitment, and hard work, and I know that you join me inwelcoming them to the alumni body when they graduate on June 12!

Sylvia R. Racca
Executive Director
Dartmouth College Fund

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A Rational Voice Speaks Out

There is an excellent and thought provoking op-ed in the Daily D today (link here) by Professor of Economics Meir Kohn. Kohn takes on the notion that teaching and research are mutually exclusive, and argues that at Dartmouth not merely is it possible to be both an excellent researcher and teacher, but that those who are leading researchers are necessarily better teachers. He then goes on to describe how good teaching can be encouraged through the recruitment of good researchers.

The article is also striking in its strident criticism of the liberal intellectual echo chamber that exists at Dartmouth, and he directly challenges the worth of the college's new "Center for the Advancement of Learning" (which, frankly, sounds to us like an indoctrination oxygen tent instead of something that would foster critical thinking). All in all, the piece is so refreshingly honest, open and willing to challenge the conventional wisdom on campus that one wonders about the looks Professor Kohn is getting around the coffee counter this morning.

We also do not think it is a stretch in the least to say that Kohn's coming forward at this time is linked to the results of the trustee election. We should point out that Kohn has never been shy in taking on controversial topics, in July he wrote an article which came strongly criticized Dartmouth's selection of guest speakers, particularly those speaking on Isreal and Jewish topics, for being too leftward biased. However, the topics he takes on in the article today are so central, and the problems so pervasive, that he must feel he finally has support and cover. We would ask, who will be the next to come forward?

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Manifesto for Change

With the results of the Trustee election now in, it is clear that alumni have sent a message to the Board of Trustees. That message is that there is a need for a change in leadership at Dartmouth.

The election results can been seen most clearly as a referendum on the direction of Dartmouth. The large number of alumni voting against the direction taken by the incumbent administration in this election (and last year’s) shows the widespread lack of support for it in the alumni body. Can an institution like Dartmouth, so heavily dependent upon financial support from its alumni body, long continue without broad alumni support?

Perhaps perceiving all this, the administration in the past year has sought to reposition itself by recanting nearly all of its prior positions and direction. Jim Wright, the author of the seminal work for the destruction of the fraternities, now says he supports them. His administration has driven the athletic program to its worst record in memory, and his admissions director has badly embarrassed the college, our athletes and crippled our recruiting capability, but he now says he supports a strong athletic program. His administration has spent millions trying to develop graduate Ph.D. programs in the arts and sciences towards developing a research university, which he now entirely repudiates. His administration has driven legacy admissions to half the rate of our sister institutions (for example Princeton’s most recent class has 12% alumni children, whereas Dartmouth had 6%), but now says he now “welcomes these applicants” (a nice evasion: but does he admit them?). After adopting policies regulating unwanted speech, he recently had his minions withdraw these policies (see [FIRE link]) In short, can an administration that had veered one way and now veers back in the opposite direction possibly have any further credibility? And can it possibly lead effectively?

And to make the point most clear, look at the record of fundraising of this administration. Dartmouth is now lagging badly behind its peers in both its undergraduate program and facilities as a result of poor fundraising. All one need do is look at the facilities of our peers to see the evidence of this. The point would be proved if Alumni Relations would only get the college to publish the information it most surely has, comparing the rate of growth of both annual giving and capital giving from alumni sources at Dartmouth, as compared with our peers over the last ten years. I have no doubt that if this were published, the evidence would be clear. Will the college do so? Under Wright, we sincerely doubt it.

We should be clear that our opinions are merely our own, but we hope that others will take up this call. To crib from another prominent site in this election, we would say that for a truly strong Dartmouth to continue in the 21st century and beyond, it is time for change at the top.

We will post more thoughts on the election as we digest over the weekend, including our priority list by which to evaluate new presidential candidates.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Win for Dartmouth Alumni

It's now official. The college has announced the results of the balloting for alumni trustee, and as we first reported, both petition candidates are in. The offical press release is here. The election of two outsider candidates, and three in two years counting TJ Rodgers, should send a clear and unequivocal message to both the Board and, more importantly, the current administration. That message is, we're not happy, and we intend to do something about it. Moreover, this is a win for all Dartmouth alumni, whether or not they voted in the election, because it positively asserts that Dartmouth alums (who both fund and maintain the college spirit), as opposed to a small group of of administrative lifers, control Dartmouth's future, and that is as it should be. More thoughts to come.

Confirmation

A third source has confirmed that petition candidates Peter Robinson '79 and Todd Zywicki '88 have indeed won the balloting for Alumni Trustee, and "won big." This is great news for the entire Dartmouth community, and we here at Voices eagerly look forward to their joining the Board.

Savor.

The word is out that the petition candidates, Todd Zywicki and Peter Robinson, have won election to Dartmouth College's Board of Trustees. Congratulations to them both.

Monday, May 09, 2005

An Early Victory

A direct result of this election and the candidacies of the petition candidates.

Voting Irregularities

The voting in the 2005 Dartmouth trustee election has passed. However, the election's lack of transparency and a number of missteps may drive reform for future referenda.

Such irregularities, as compiled by various readers and sources, include:

1. In the many weeks, even months, prior to the inception of the campaign period, the names, pictures and biographies of the administration/alumni council-backed candidates had been featured constantly on the official Dartmouth College website. Also, for three months, the same website featured an official streaming video'endorsement of these same candidates by the current president of the Alumni Council.

However, once the petition candidates had received enough signatures to place their names on the ballot, all candidates were required to be silent, except for two email messages which were supposed to be sent to all alumni. The petition candidates did not have the advantage of this earlier free publicity. The restrictions on free speech hurt mostly the petition candidates.

Further, during the non-campaigning period and throughout the whole voting process, the full resources of the administration were used to undermine and attack the arguments and platform of the petition candidates. President Wright's travel budget for the last 2 months could be interpreted as a testament to this effort. Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth engaged in blatant electioneering against the petition candidates.

1) The voting period began on March 7 (and was to end at 5pm on April 22). March 7 was the first day that a person could vote electronically. However, paper ballots weren't mailed out for another two to three weeks, when the voting period was nearly half over.

2) On March 10, two candidate emails from the Association of Alumni were sent to alumni. One was from Ric Lewis, backed by the Alumni Council; the other was from Todd Zywicki, a petition candidate. Many alumni received the Ric Lewis email and not Zywicki's. It would likely be incompetence if alumni with access to email received neither message, but how is it that some received one and not the other?

3) Why were the official questions asked of some of the candidates different from those asked of other candidates? As an example, candidate Curtis R. Welling was asked, "How do you recommend that Dartmouth reflect its core human values with respect to modern day campus life?" Meanwhile, other candidates had to answer a somewhat different question: "Dartmouth was founded on the basis of certain human values, including a sense of community, inclusiveness and life enrichment through people from various and diverse backgrounds. How do you recommend that this leading institution reflect these values with respect to modern day campus life?"

4) A number of Dartmouth alumni never received paper ballots, even though they constantly received fundraising material from the College.

5) The so-called "third party" vendor handling most of the election related tasks, including validating and tabulating the ballots, is employed by Dartmouth's Alumni Relations Office to perform other tasks including publishing the Dartmouth Alumni Directory and therefore has a conflict of interest.

6) The Ballot Committee met and voted NOT to answer some basicquestions about the third party vendor being used to do the mailings and validate and tabulate the votes. The Alumni Relations Office has been able to monitor the number of alumni voting in this election on a daily basis. And, no independent observers can be present for the counting of the votes.

On Friday, May 6, Dartmouth trustee T. J. Rodgers sent a letter to Ballot Committee chair John Walters saying he has now lost confidence in the election process. Furthermore, he requested that he be allowed to monitor the election results by flying to Dallas to personally interview the firm managing the election.

Whatever the outcome, I doubt that alumni will tolerate such an irregular election again. But free speech advocates have already scored a victory: Dartmouth is reversing its policies on speech codes.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Voting Ends Tomorrow in the Battle for Academic Freedom

The piece below appeared today on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education, highlighting the battle for academic freedom that has underscored the election. On the eve of the end of the election, it's a good summary of the larger issues and interests at stake.

In the piece, Peter Johnson quotes Dartmouth professor Meir Kohn's ominous description of "the deadly grip of political correctness at Dartmouth."

The entire article is reprinted below.

Trustee Election at Dartmouth Is Seen as 'Battle for Academic Freedom'

By PAUL FAIN

Elections of trustees to college and university boards are generally a snooze. Not so at Dartmouth College, where an alumni vote for two slots on the Board of Trustees has featured as much drama as a mudslinging congressional campaign. The results of the election will be released in the next few weeks.

Dartmouth alumni choose seven members of the college's 17-trustee board. With two seats open this year, the Alumni Council, a body composed mostly of class and alumni-group leaders, selected a slate of four candidates for the election. However, two dark-horse candidates have mounted successful petition campaigns to get on the ballot, earning them the tag of "insurgents" among sympathetic conservative media and bloggers.

Despite strict limits on campaigning, the write-in candidacies of Peter M. Robinson and Todd J. Zywicki have sparked dueling Web sites, charges of improper electioneering, an extended voting deadline, and the attention of free-speech advocates.

David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, thinks the hotly contested trustee election at the prestigious college could have national ramifications for the academy.

"This isn't like running for the trustee of your local Elk's Club," Mr. French says. "I think this is a critical development in the battle for academic freedom."

A De Facto Speech Code?

The stir around Dartmouth's trustee elections began with last year's contest, in which T.J. Rodgers mounted a successful petition bid as an alumnus and then defeated the three Alumni Council nominees who were vying for a single seat on the board. Mr. Rodgers, the founder and president of Cypress Semiconductor, a company in San Jose, Calif., won in a landslide, receiving votes from 55 percent of alumni who voted in the election. (About 24 percent of Dartmouth's 62,000 living alumni voted.) He was the first petition candidate to be elected to Dartmouth's board in 24 years.

Mr. Rodgers says concerns about free speech at Dartmouth were key in his decision to run for trustee, claiming that college administrators have enforced a de facto speech code based on subjective definitions of what constitutes bigoted statements.

A college spokesman denies that assertion, citing remarks by Dartmouth's president, James Wright, in an April speech to alumni in New York City.

"It appears to me," Mr. Wright said in the speech, "that there is a lot of speech from every conceivable viewpoint -- both by members of our own community and by guest speakers whom we invite to campus -- and that the free exchange of ideas is alive and well" at Dartmouth.

In the strictly limited campaign materials that candidates have been allowed to distribute to alumni, the two write-in candidates in this year's election have shown that they share Mr. Rodgers's passion for curing Dartmouth's alleged free-speech ills. Mr. Robinson is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace who, while working as a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, wrote his famous demand, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

In addressing "the deadly grip of political correctness at Dartmouth" during a six-minute video monologue, Mr. Robinson says, "I'd like to see more than an administration that pays lip service to freedom of speech."

In his video, Mr. Zywicki, a visiting professor at Georgetown Law School and a contributor to the Volokh Conspiracy, a blog with a libertarian bent, says he will work to restore full freedom of speech on the campus.

The similarity of the campaign messages of the two candidates to Mr. Rodgers's platform of a year ago, as well as the support they have received from the National Review, The Weekly Standard, and Power Line -- Time magazine's blog of the year in 2004 -- quickly caught the attention of alumni, faculty members, and administrators at Dartmouth, some of whom were worried about a hostile conservative takeover of the board.

Opposition to the write-in campaigns sprang up, chiefly in the form of a group called Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth, which was endorsed by more than 100 alumni. Susan Ackerman, a Dartmouth alumnus and professor of religion at the college, sent a widely posted e-mail message to alumni in which she urged votes for the four Alumni Council nominees and said the petition candidates represent "the same sorts of reactionary ideologies as were represented in last year's elections by T.J. Rodgers."

Another site, called DartmouthWTF, was launched to protest the Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth Web site, which it claims violated rules against campaigning for specific candidates. Ironically, Marion Bates, an alumnus who created the tongue-in-cheek site, says she voted for the four Alumni Council candidates. She says she made the site to protest flaws in the election rules and to defend the legitimacy of the petition candidacies.

Not Too Right?

For their part, the two write-in candidates concede that Mr. Rodgers was their inspiration and, in Mr. Robinson's case, an active advocate in his decision to run for trustee. However, the candidates say they launched their candidacies independently and aggressively deny allegations, which Mr. Robinson calls "piffle," that they are part of a coordinated conservative agenda.

"I don't see that there's really any place for liberal-conservative issues in this election," Mr. Zywicki says. "This is solely and exclusively about Dartmouth and what my goals are for Dartmouth."

Mr. Rodgers, after all, is not a straight-ticket conservative. The outspoken trustee describes himself as a "libertarian with a small l" who comes down on the left side of social issues such as abortion and contraceptive use. Furthermore, Mr. Rodgers argues, the politically charged climate at Dartmouth and on other college campuses has motivated him to steer away from partisan arguments as a trustee.

"Once you dive into that caldron, that's it," Mr. Rodgers says.

When asked why his campaign, if nonpartisan, has attracted backers among the conservative media, Mr. Zywicki says the "extraordinary smear campaign" waged against his candidacy and the strict rules imposed on the election triggered the backlash from conservatives, who were already worried about dissent being squashed on liberal-dominated campuses.

"Obviously it's caught people's imagination," Mr. Rodgers says.

Whatever camp they support, it seems to most active campaigners in this election that Dartmouth's alumni organizations have struggled to effectively manage the closely watched trustee contest, particularly in how to control Web sites and e-mail.

Geoff Berlin, an alumnus, created the Alliance for a Strong Dartmouth Web site as a rebuttal to what he sees as misleading arguments by the petition candidates. But Mr. Berlin says the real issue might not be the election's results, but how Dartmouth decides to react to two uniquely participatory elections.

"It would be completely paradoxical if we ended up censoring the democratic process at institutions of higher learning," Mr. Berlin says.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

How to Live on $5K a Year

A reader to Powerline explains how "sustainable" such an income really is.

The real question is whether or not Dartmouth will continue to pay this guy his $5K annual salary, one that he is seems content enough to be earning. Odds against. But based on the sheer absurdity of his title, it seems that even $5K is too much.