Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Engles '79 Ups the Stakes

For the first time, the Dartmouth Trustee election is painted in liberal vs. conservative colors. Alumni Council-nominated candidate Gregg Engles '79 addresses "Orthodoxy of Thought" in his email to the Alumni body:

"'Group think' can be corrosive. It breeds prejudice, intolerance, and a lack of critical thinking. I fear we have a bit of group think going on in Hanover in the administration and the faculty, and it is bad for the College. The faculty selects and weeds out their own in the hiring and tenure process. They tend to support their own as they move into the administration. The process reinforces and concentrates, often silently, certain attitudes and philosophical tendencies in the institution.

At some point those attitudes become so much the norm that one feels free to say that football is antithetical to the academic mission of 'colleges such as ours' about the most storied football program in the Ivy League, or to stifle points of view that the group 'knows' are incorrect. No one even notices when a poll shows Ivy League professors support one political point of view by 84% to 16 % (link to academia.org website).

My comment has nothing to do with the scholarly credentials of Dartmouth's faculty. Rather, it deals with an inbreeding strong enough in certain dimensions that I believe the College is losing its ability to educate its students in a balanced way about the most important issues of our time. I received my law degree from Yale Law School, which has quite a liberal reputation. But when I was there, many of the lions of the faculty were conservatives, and the Law School continues to recruit and retain them [...] I feel Dartmouth is losing its balance in this regard."

Now, the nominated candidates are addressing the issues that the petition candidates have brought to the forefront -- in even more explicit terms! Invoking faculty reaction to The Dartmouth Review? Karl Furstenberg's "antagonist" view toward football players? Language like "in-breeding" and "group think" ?!? Gregg Engles '79 makes it clear where he stands, but only after the petition candidates had the courage to bring the issue of free speech to the heart of this election.

The petition candidates have changed this process forever. In the past, nominated candidates were merely required to state some abstract, noncommittal, positive message about "Dartmouth." The Dartmouth establishment still wants this vagueness to continue.

But today, in order to win real alumni support, nominees actually have to reveal where they stand on controversial issues. And, in his email, Gregg Engles '79 certainly goes far enough to irritate the very people who have been actively campaigning - in spite of rules to the contrary - against the petition candidates.

Why haven't they gone after Gregg, or is it just a matter of time?