Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Old News

We know that it is last week's news, but we just have to comment on the disgraceful abolition of the Speech program at Dartmouth -- which, by the way, is in direct contravention to a 1979 Trustee Directive to maintain the program, and in absolute indifference to student demand.

It is a perfect example of the Dartmouth administration's tin ear. The speech courses at Dartmouth are rigorous, demanding, and interdisciplinary, featuring rhetorical theory and practice. If students at Dartmouth are required to take course in order to write cogently, they should be required to take courses in order to speak with the same clarity and persuasiveness.

As a grateful student of Professor Kuypers's, I could not be more disgusted with the Deans of Faculty. His class has impacted my post-graduate scholarship and my professional life more profoundly than any other course that I took at Dartmouth. The constant waitlists for his courses indicate that other students feel the same way.

Most importantly, the "vocational" and "technical" excuse is just insulting. Is Dartmouth's Education Department not vocational? Is engineering not technical? Speech and rhetoric features theory, history, and critical reading. It is not just a matter of "public speaking," which, by the way, is NOT taught indirectly in other classes at Dartmouth. In fact, a number of Dartmouth professors could benefit from a speech class or two.

This leads me to the thought that the College may have targeted Kuypers for other reasons: namely, his mentorship of conservative organizations on the Dartmouth campus and his academic expertise on presidential oratory, especially that of Ronald Reagan. Virginia Tech obviously knows what a prize he is.

To eliminate this storied department citing lack of funding -- only to hire a Director of Sustainability the next week -- is unspeakable. It's enough to want me to take my Dartmouth diplomas off the wall.

ROLLING IN THEIR GRAVES: Oh, never mind that Dartmouth College still offers the Benjamin F. Barge Prize for Oratory Speech and The Class of 1866 Oratorical Prize. Never mind that the nation's greatest orator, Daniel Webster, hailed from Dartmouth - no thanks to Lenore Grenoble and Carol Folt.

Dartmouth Hires 'Sustainability Director'


We know, they hired a what?!?

Maybe we're missing something, but in this era of oversubscribed classes, cuts to library and athletic budgets, and a general lack of spare dough, it seems like the college's priorities are a little out of whack when the substance of the "sustainability director's" responsiblities will basically consist of coordinating recycling efforts. He couldn't find work with BFI? We'd be shocked by this except it's so in keeping with current mindsets in Hanover that it's actually par for the course.

Joking aside, we agree that enivornmentalism is, most definitely, a worthy pursuit in many cases. However, there is absolutely no evidence in this case that Dartmouth would be unable, with its burgeoning ranks of 30+ deans, to take on the tasks that the new sustainability director will have, without spending more money on a new administrator. Seriously folks, this is ridiculous.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Why Dartmouth Doesn't Get It

Dartmouth's General Counsel, Robert Donin, responds to the Rich Roberts op-ed and the speech code situation. It's just spin and blather, but its final paragraph actually made me feel nauseated:

One other thought about speech at Dartmouth: it is a shame that an isolated incident which occurred four years ago continues to obscure the robust, unfettered and wide-ranging debate that flourishes here daily. Within just the past six months, the list of campus speakers has included J.C. Watts and Daniel Pipes, with Dinesh D'Souza scheduled to visit in May -- hardly a pantheon of political correctness. A Dickey Center program last week featured pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian speakers. Student publications and political organizations of every stripe are thriving. The marketplace of ideas seems to be doing a brisk business. To suggest that the atmosphere here is repressive is to ignore reality.

WOW! On a campus where there are a number of featured speakers on any given DAY, Donin is pround that a whopping THREE conservative speakers have been scheduled to speak on campus in just SIX MONTHS!

"Hardly a pantheon of political correctness"?!? First, the term "hardly a pantheon" derides the quality of the three speakers who have agreed to speak at Dartmouth. They are a pantheon of refreshing thinkers! Second, I've never been sure why a conservative-leaning speaker is automatically equated with being politically incorrect. Aren't many liberals like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher also "politically incorrect?" It's a snide term that is normally used to describe the cartoon "South Park," and shouldn't be directed at a former member of Congress and leader in the United States House of Representatives. When you think that this U.S. Representative was also an African-American pioneer within that elected body, Donin's comment comes across as not only rude, but cruel.

Next: having both pro-Palestinian AND pro-Israel speakers on a panel?! Donin says this like it is a novelty, and as though it is somehow a gesture of generosity to include two points of view. Um, news to Robert Donin -- this should be de rigueur at the College you are paid to represent.

This attitude of sarcasm, intolerance, and tokenism shows that Donin -- and the Dartmouth establishment -- just doesn't get it.

With this paragraph, Donin implies that the College is actually going out of its way to present more than one side to an issue, and insinuates that this is somehow more than is normally expected or required. That's scary. The fact that Donin has to point to this token effort, and that he does so with a bizarre, inflated pride, reveals just how out of touch Dartmouth College really is.

Speech codes may not officially exist on paper at Dartmouth, as the College contends, but they are undeniably entrenched in the administrative mentality. That's where this fight must be fought.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Change Management

There is another group known as Dartmouth Alumni for Social Change that is also waging a campaign against the petition candidates.

If there are any change agents at work here, it's the petition candidates. It's hard for me to believe that campaigning against them is consistent with the mission of an organization who incorporates "social change" as part of its name. They might as well be called "Dartmouth Alumni for the Status Quo."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

One is an Anomaly, But Three is a Movement

As the Dartmouth election enters its final weeks, it has begun to attract national interest. This article in the Weekly Standard makes the case that the Dartmouth election is of interest to non-Dartmouth grads because it highlights the issue of speech codes on campuses across the country.

The article underscores an interesting coincidence: a letter by James Wright on the Dartmouth website on the issue of speech regulation subsequently disappeared after it was referred to by one of the petition candidates. The relevant portion of that letter read as follows:

"As a community committed to fairness, respect, and openness, we have no patience with or tolerance for bigotry or demeaning behavior. I affirm here, with deep personal conviction, that Dartmouth is and will be an actively anti-sexist, anti-racist, and anti-homophobic institution and community. . . . In a community such as ours, one that depends so much upon mutual trust and respect, it is hard to understand why some want still to insist that their "right" to do what they want trumps the rights, feelings, and considerations of others. We need to recognize that speech has consequences for which we must account."

The article points out that "Wright's letter vanished from the Dartmouth president's website last month. Try to find it, and you discover its location has been 'moved.' (But where? Calls to his office went unreturned.) Is it a coincidence that the document on Wright's website disappeared after Robinson and Zywicki zinged its contents? Probably not."

Why the resistance to the candidates? Because one trustee is an anomaly, but "three trustees might signify the beginning of a movement."

Indeed, the movement is afoot.

Friday, April 15, 2005

"Good enough" in admissions

Economist Thomas Sowell has a thought-provoking piece on the less-than-objective standards used by admissions officers of top US colleges and universities. Via Real Clear Politics.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Arbitrary Line-Drawing"

As alumnus Rich Roberts '83 explains in this op-ed, the subjective naure of speech codes makes them dangerously prone to abuse.

Further, in specific reference to the derecognition of Zeta Psi, Roberts writes that "other organizations with far worse levels of behavior have been rehabilitated, though perhaps not as well-located real estate." The implication is that Dartmouth is picking its 'speech' battles against the very institutions whose real estate it covets in order to realize its expansion plans. This might explain why a Dartmouth organization which posted incendiary phrases from the Koran on its website wasn't taken to task for similar 'violations.'

Voting Deadline Extended

Thanks to the advocacy of some committed alumni, the Balloting committee has decided to extend the voting period by two weeks to Friday, May 6 due to a delay in the mailing of paper ballots. Electronic ballots will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on May 6, and paper ballots postmarked by May 6 will be counted. This announcement will be made via email and postcard to alumni who have not yet voted.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Reassessing Research

In an op-ed yesterday, one Mohamad Bydon '02 argued that the college should become a research university, and if one agreed with that position one should vote against the petition candidates for trustee, or for the other candidates. Or at least that's what we think he said, because at times he seemed a little confused- arguing that Dartmouth already is a research university, even though some people were trying to prevent it from becoming one and we should thus oppose those people. Or something. We were at times as confused as he seemed to be. Whatever the case, it all boiled down to a last line urging people not to vote for the petition candidates. We'll leave aside for now the blatant disregard for the election campaign rules, since things like rules or decorum seem to be so passe in Hanover these days, and move straight to the argument the piece (we think) is trying to make. We majored in a soft science, not desensitizing literature, so maybe we're missing something in the prose, but here's our crack at refuting this stuff.

First, there is wanton and willful distortion (or at least a woeful ingorance) on Mr. Bydon's part when he states that the petition candidates' arguments against becoming a research university equate to attacks on Dartmouth's three cornerstone graduate institutions, Tuck, Thayer and the Med School. As both candidates have explicitly stated, those three schools are wholly separate from the college in both mission and funding, and should remain as vital AND separate as always. Tuck, Thayer and the Med school have little or nothing to do with regular undergraduate life (with notable exceptions, of course, in engineering and bio) and this has always, repeat, always been the case. Mr. Bydon attempts to blur the line between those schools and students in the Arts and Sciences grad programs, which are two entirely different groups. (Remember this the next time someone says to you that Dartmouth is a "research university." If Dartmouth defines research university, and has since the inception of Tuck, Thayer and the Med School, then what the hell are Harvard, Cambridge, Princeton and many other institutions going to call themselves? If you miss our drift, Dartmouth is fundamentally different from those institutions, and that's a good thing. Dartmouth is a college, bub.)

Another myth that Mr. Bydon hopes to perpetuate is that the petition candidates are "against research." To our knowledge, nowhere have the candidates stated that scholarly research in and of itself harms a professor's ability to teach undergraduates; in fact, Todd Zywicki has made statements quite to the contrary. This page has also argued that a professor engaging in research can (but does not at all necessarily) improve their teaching. The disconnect is in who is getting taught.

Mr. Bydon- though he doesn't explicitly say it but we're inferring it- seems to want graduate students to be a part of this equation in the arts and sciences curriculum. He throws out increasing funding numbers (which does make us wonder if he's privy to some information that we're not) totaling a $100 million increase over an undefined time period ("a few years") and makes an unsubstantiated judgment that this has been a good thing. If these millions came in through med school channels and went to fund the cervical cancer research he mentions, then good for us all. We're guessing, however, that the numbers to which he refers are general operating budget numbers for the central Arts & Sciences campus, and that's where we have a problem. Funding a grad-student oriented academy is enormously expensive, as Jim Wright is finding out, and thus requires enormous investments of both money and manpower. The details are too lengthy to get into here, but with the stock market decline of 2000 and subsequent belt tightening, the college discovered that the extra 100 million clams it had been ladling into graduate studies wasn't as easy to come by as it had been in the gravy train days of the late 1990s. This presents an allocation of resources problem that any bureaucrat is loath to attack, and is where the real disagreement between Mr. Bydon and the petition candidates exists- where Dartmouth is spending its scarce resources.

Mr. Bydon was in the Class of 2002, so he wasn't in Hanover for the closing of Sanborn Library or the cutting of the swim team. (Was he in a research-induced haze down there in New Haven?) I wonder if among the wondrous millions he champions he could somewhere find a few hundred grand to lavish on those two institutions, which he apparently views as extraneous. The petition candidates (as well as this page) take quite the opposite view. Evenings in Sanborn and weekends spent competing alongside or cheering for our fellow students in our minds are vastly more important to the fabric of Dartmouth than a newly funded graduate study program.

At the end of the day, we commend Mr. Bydon for at least trying to make clear his vision of Dartmouth, and, though we hope the reader will forgive us for using an overtired cliche, that vision looks awfully like institutions in Cambridge, MA and New Haven. We also wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Bydon that the college needs to hire more professors to teach its undergraduates, although we would refer him once again to the candidate statements so he can reassess just who would actually try to do that (here's a hint: think insurgent).

Our own, final take on Mr. Bydon's piece is that he shares a love for Dartmouth that virtually all who come here feel, and he wishes that those two people he knows who chose to go elsewhere had instead chosen to venture to the Hanover plain. However, Mr. Bydon, by expressing his fondness for the institution, has betrayed his own argument and made our point: the fondness he feels for Dartmouth is special, even unique, and it is not easily replicated. There are other methods of educating 18-22 years olds, Harvard and Princeton and Yale turn out many fine examples of this every year, and they have their own deep-seated, passionate loyalties. But Dartmouth is different. Its fabric is woven tighter through small experiences, whether in the classroom with those famous educators, or on the playing fields, or (heaven forbid) in basements across campus. It used to be that for their four undergraduate years, students who attended Dartmouth were given the chance of a lifetime- to live and learn amongst their peers, without having to compete for resources with grad students and administrative bureaucracy- in short, to do everything Mr. Bydon espouses. And those four years are what Dartmouth, simply, should return to being all about.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Are Coaches to Blame?

From the Dartmouth Athletics Blog: James Wright blames coaches for Dartmouth's suboptimal athletic performance. Here is the report:


Report on Jim Wright's talk to the Sarasota Alumni Club - 3/16/05

Jim and Susan Wright visited Sarasota on their way to their timeshare on Captiva Island for a well-deserved vacation away from the snow still on the Hanover Plain. [...]

He mentioned, of course, all the new facilities and the ones that are being planned, including renovations to Memorial and Rolfe Fields to help both football and baseball. He reiterated the new success we are having with women's BB and Hockey and men's BB under Terry Dunn, plus soccer last fall and the ski team this year.

I asked him a question I sent to his office 2 weeks ago, why with all these improvements were we still tied for 6th (or 7th) in the League when considering all 30 of our Ivy sports teams. He felt that coaching was a big cause [ed. - !!] and when the rest of the facilities get done (including the major renovation of Alumni Gym) that we would do even better. He also said he wasn't privy to my numbers in figuring our 6th place finish. The Ivy League doesn't keep score the way I figured it. In fact, the League keeps no across-the-board rankings (as I produced) at the direction of the Presidents of the Schools. No one wants any competition between schools. Please read Brad Parks's article in the last Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Page 24-5. He used to keep score this way when he was editor of Dartmouth Sports Today.

Facilities and coaching are only part of the picture, and once these are in place, they have to be leveraged to recruit top scholar-athletes. The College has demonstrated a major priority deficit in the latter.


Does Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth engage in blatant campaigning? Hmmm.

This mass email pretty much just about sums it up.

From: Geoff Berlin [mailto:geoff@dartmouth84.org]
Sent: Monday, April 11, 2005 11:19 AM
To: @Alum.Dartmouth.ORG
Subject: Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth

Dear ,

It's not too late to get out the vote for the alumni trustee elections...Dartmouth needs your help now!

I'm working with a group of concerned alumni who remain supportive of the College and would like to ensure that responsible leadership remains on the Board of Trustees.

Please check out the platform for ALUMNI FOR A STRONG DARTMOUTH at:


If you share our point of view, please Sign Up and spread the word to other alumni.

This is very important for Dartmouth. Much thanks for your support!

Best regards,

Geoff Berlin '84

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Class of 2009

The Class of 2009 has been admitted. It was one of the most competitive years in Dartmouth history. (Isn't every year?)

Having participated in roughly 8 candidate interviews this year, I was very surprised to see the actual results: essentially, the candidates whom my co-interviewers and I felt were the strongest were rejected or waitlisted. Meanwhile, the very candidates whom we felt were weakest were accepted.

It is important to note that our interview assessments did not favor charisma or academic achievement. It was night and day: the candidates whom we felt were less-than-ideal matches for Dartmouth were accepted. Meanwhile, Dartmouth passed over outstanding candidates that included a female patent holder, an expert in ancient languages, and an incredible student athlete who triumphed over adverse personal circumstances.

Veterans of College interviewing can testify to this bizarre, inverse pattern -- and this is why so many alums turn away from interviewing over the years. A not-so-well kept secret: alumni interviewing doesn't make a difference!

Looking at the pie charts, Dartmouth has again admitted a "balanced" class in terms of geography and race. This is important. However, in looking at the class of 2003 first-year survey via the Office of Evaluation and Research, Dartmouth's students are over 17% more likely to consider themselves "far left" and "liberal" than the national average. If Dartmouth wants to honor its commitment to diversity, balancing ideology is one place they should start.

Inquiring Minds

Proving it actually is good for something other than juicing the Upper Valley's bicycle black market, the Dartmouth Student Assembly has asked each of the trustee candidates a set of questions from a current student's point of view, and posted the answers on a website (link here). Two of the candidates, Ric Lewis and Greg Engles, have yet to respond, but the other four have replied at length. The questions aren't totally dissimilar from the ones the candidates were asked by the College, but have a much more productive, shall we say, flavor and have thus generated more interesting responses.

The responses from the candidates, in our view, are telling. The two Alumni Council trustees are somewhat concise and - ah, crap, no sense in sugar coating it- they basically repeat the same inoffensive, fairly mundane, and uncritical schpiel that we've heard from every trustee candidate save TJ Rodgers for the past two decades. "Dartmouth is wonderful, the sports teams are wonderful, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, yada yada yada."

The petition candidates, no surprise, have a different view. Their answers are not only insightful and yes, critical, but also show constructive visions for the future of the institution, as opposed to an affirmation of a vaguely defined status quo. As always, it bears repeating that this site explicitly does not endorse any candidate; however, it is very hard to take Shiela Cheston seriously when she pens statements like "Notwithstanding the recent revelations, it is my understanding that the actual admissions policy still values athletic contributions" given Dartmouth's documented general athletic failings these days. Don't worry, Shiela says the emperor really does have clothes, phew!

Special attention also should be given to each candidate's answers regarding undergraduate teaching and the state of research at Dartmouth. Peter Robinson does not mince words: "Calling Dartmouth 'a research university in all but name' betrays a profound misconception of the College’s history, traditions, and signal strengths. Dartmouth College is a college." Did you hear that Mr. Wright? He goes on to say "While maintaining the excellence of its graduate schools, each essentially a free-standing institution, Dartmouth should strive to provide incomparably the finest undergraduate education in the nation. I’d work to ensure that the College reduced its bureaucratic overhead, provided enough courses in the most popular subjects, granted the very highest standing to the very finest teachers, and concentrated resources where they belong—in the classroom."

In our view, it is not necessarily professors doing research that is troubling at Dartmouth, rather, it is the rapid rise in graduate students being attended to by those teachers that is the problem. Two of our favorite professors, Bruce Sacerdote in economics and Jere Daniel (sadly now professor emeritus) in history, did excellent (even prize-winning) scholarly work outside of the classroom. However, to our knowledge, they never had grad students and were commanding lecturers whose classes never failed to inspire.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Provoking the Provost

There is an excellent op-ed piece in the Daily D today, written by one Kenan Yount, a member of the class of 2006. The whole essay is invaluable, but the following passage is of particular note:

"I agree with the Provost that the vast majority of Dartmouth students and faculty enjoy their experience here; however, we do so in spite of the problems referenced above and in previous editorials -- specifically those of course oversubscription, housing shortages, and overcrowded athletic facilities. After all, shouldn't Dartmouth's primary concerns be aimed at educating its students in a personal setting, providing a superior residential life, and promoting the health of its students? Where were these guiding principles when the administration chose its own aggrandizement over saving popular interdisciplinary offerings, libraries, athletic teams, and more effectively reducing class sizes?"

Indeed. Mr. Provost, what say you sir?

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Taste of their Own Medicine

Apparently, some local Hanover libertarians are a little irked at non-NH native Dartmouth college students voting in regular elections, and thus are protesting for a say in Dartmouth's governance- here. We say turnabout is fair play.