Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

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.