Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Crady's Dissertation

After learning that Thomas Crady, the incoming Dean of the College, had recently written his Ph.D. dissertation about the use of alcohol in fraternities, I was interested in obtaining a copy. I was somewhat pessimistic about the chances of getting a hold of it, but it was surprisingly easy. Crady received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University this year, and his dissertation is entitled Written and unwritten rules: the use of alcohol by fraternities: a study of one college.

When I first heard about the dissertation, I was afraid that it was going to be staunchly anti-Greek and would be indicator of the future tightening of Dartmouth's alcohol and Greek policies. As a member of a fraternity, I think that Dartmouth's policies towards alcohol use are far too restrictive, as they create a bureaucratic nightmare for sorority and fraternity leaders. After reading his study and recommendations, I was somewhat reassured. Crady takes a pragmatic view towards the subject, and is focused on alcohol abuse, not alcohol use:
My philosophy may be characterized in the following manner: I do not believe that colleges and universities should ban alcohol from their campuses, and alcohol education programming should focus on responsible drinking rather than abstinence.
The study mainly used focus groups and questionnaires to learn about alcohol use on campus and the connection to fraternities. Crady compared the views and responses of Greek and not-Greek students.

At the end of his dissertation, Crady has a list of recommendations for college administrators:

a. Develop and implement strategies to evaluate the student and Greek letter culture to better understand the dynamics between the two groups relative to the campus culture. Since evidence exists that Greek culture may supersede institutional culture, it is important to examine this phenomenon on a regular basis to ensure that independent students are not isolated on their campus.

b. Examine, monitor, and compare the use of alcohol and drugs by Greeks and independent students both on and off campus. Given the evidence that alcohol plays a significant role in Greek systems, campus administrators should have an ongoing mechanism to determine the level of alcohol used by all students on their campus.

c. Assist Greek Letter organizations in emphasizing the positive aspects of Greek life. Many Greek letter organizations are developing and implementing impressive social justice and/or community service programs. These should be highlighted and reinforced on campus. Standards should exist for Greek letter organizations outlining activities they are expected to offer to the campus.

d. Provide Greek letter organizations with the resources and tools to accomplish their goals both on and off campus. Greek letter organizations should be fully supported by campus officials to ensure that resources are available to assist these organizations.

e. Develop positive and constructive interpersonal relationships with the leaders of Greek letter organizations on campus. Campus administrators should establish positive working relationships with Greek leaders before problems occur.

f. If Greek letter organizations are affiliated with national organizations, develop clear communication lines with the national organizations. These national groups are often excellent resources for local chapters particularly in the areas of liability.

g. Examine the pledging process to ensure that it does not conflict with the academic performance of students engaged in the pledging process. Emphasis should be placed on academics and no activities should conflict with the academic mission of the institution.

h. Resist the temptation to view Greek letter organizations as negative elements of student life and the campus culture. Resolve problems that arise quickly and efficiently while maintaining positive interpersonal relationships with students in Greek letter organizations.


John Bruce said...

On the other hand, I don't think it's a good sign that the PhD is in Education (at least it's not an EdD). Education is generally not regarded as a rigorous field in the same way as Philosophy or Chemistry. In addition, to spend n years in graduate school working up a theory of how to regulate alcohol in Greek houses is not testimony to this guy's intellectual capacity. When I was in grad school, there were schoolteachers in most of our classes picking up graduate credits in their areas. You could tell the teachers and education majors right away, they simply weren't at the same level as PhD students.

At least (unlike Susan Dentzer) he doesn't seem bent on imposing the Presbyterian Church's alcohol policies on the campus. But that doesn't mean everything's lookin' good.

Nathan S. Empsall said...

Way to go, David, this post shows real initiative!

David Nachman said...

I don't think what sort of Ph.D. he has really matters. He's fundamentally an administrator, not an academic - he's not coming to Dartmouth to teach, nor did he reach administrative ranks through being a professor. By comparison, Jim Larimore didn't have a Ph.D. When it comes to being Dean of the College (a student-oriented position, not a faculty-oriented position) having a Ph.D. in Education is more valuable than a Ph.D. in a unrelated field.

DartBored said...

John - You are too quick to judge him. Maybe he is a poor guy with no connections, like you.

DartBored said...

John - ...and maybe, if you are correct in your characterization, what we need need is a workmanlike adminstrator without delusions of grandeur who will give the customers what they want and, thereby, keep the former customers, the alumni, happy.

How much more critical would you have been if he were Deerfield - Amherst?

Anonymous said...

Crady was beloved at Grinnell - see their website. And he is a heck of a lot better than Wright's first choice, the legendary Carmen Twillie Ambar.

I think that this guy will turn out to be really good. Clearly Wright caved into pressure not to make another stupid AffAc appointment.

John Bruce said...

Naturally, we'll see. But if he was selected primarily for his position on alcohol and Greeks, I've got to wonder if that's all a Dean ever does.

And if his own background is in Education, essentially a gut field, how well will he understand kids going through pre-med at Dartmouth?

Education is also what I would consider an anti-intellectual field -- it is focused mainly on the highly politicized public school environment. How will this enable him to understand the need to preserve an intellectual atmosphere at a place like Dartmouth?

Also, no list of top schools of any sort includes Grinnell. It's apparently improved since I was in high school and it was considered basically a diploma mill, but still. Shouldn't Dartmouth be looking at someone from a peer institution, or near-peer?

This leads me to wonder if the choice was based entirely on his views on alcohol and Greeks -- commendable, of course, but in every other area he seems to be a mediocrity. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

At least the guy managed to get a PhD in something, though, didn't he?

Funny, I don't remember any overlap between the alcohol policies of the Pres. Ch. and Dartmouth. Does the Church require big stickers on kegs and prohibit bars that are permanently-affixed?

Was the alcohol policy of the SLI any different from the Dartmouth policy that preceded it, except perhaps in degrees? Then why did pre-SLI policies ban or restrict kegs (witness the protesting Grinch on a keg for an early-90s Carnival) and ban taps (witness AD's legendary rerouting of beer through their basement faucet)? Does anyone really think the SLI alcohol policy marked some great polar shift, from tolerance to prohibition? It didn't. Prohibition existed beforehand, using many of the same methods that the SLI sharpened.

John Bruce said...

The Presbyterian Church USA's 1986 statement on drinking:

"The following general principles should guide . . . personal and corporate choices about the use of alcohol:

Abstention in all situations should be supported and encouraged.
Moderate drinking in low-risk situations should not be opposed.
Heavy drinking in any situation should be vigorously discouraged.
Any drinking in high-risk situations (e.g., during pregnancy or before driving an automobile) should be vigorously discouraged, as should all illegal drinking."

Google is your friend. Susan Dentzer is a national Edler in the PCUSA.

Anonymous said...

John, please answer the questions. To point out again that Dentzer was a church elder is to not say anything at all.

None of your obvious PCUSA alcohol guidelines is unique to the church. Do you think (a) that the Presbyterian Church is some kind of unique force in present American prohibitionism, more important than, say, MADD or high-school sobreity clubs? or (b) that the Presbyterian Church, which is a Christian denomination and has policies on many issues, has somehow transformed into a primarily-prohibitionist organization? When Dentzer goes to church, do you think her purpose is to fight alcohol abuse? I'd bet her purpose is to get religion.

Dartmouth's alcohol policy contained all of the PCUSA tenets before the SLI, except perhaps the pregnancy one -- which is probably still absent from Dartmouth's policy after the SLI.

So if Dentzer is so swayed by the guidelines of her church, why didn't she get Dartmouth to discourage alcohol use by pregnant women? And why did she go beyond the PCUSA policy to prohibit the use of bars that are affixed to the floor, to set limits on the number of kegs used per term, to require registration of every keg, and to permit S&S inspections during parties? And what makes you think most of these policies weren't in place in some form before Dentzer?

I think your problem is that you have a certain vision of alcohol policies in the 1960s, accurate or not, and you assume that such a policy remained in place until the moment Dentzer singlehandedly instituted a draconian SLI policy in the late 1990s. Here's a bit of information: Dartmouth has always officially discouraged alcohol abuse, has often discouraged any use at all (the PCUSA policy is a lot closer to Wheelock's vision than the policy of the 1960s was), and it has changed and generally tightened its alcohol policies on a regular basis over the past 40 years.

Nothing in the SLI alcohol policy's discouragement of alcohol abuse represents a major change from the prior policy, and no part of the SLI bears the particular fingerprints of Dentzer or the Presbyterian Church. The SLI was created by a committee larger than Dentzer alone and was adopted by the entire Board of Trustees. And it's possible for more than one institution in this country to discourage alcohol use at the same time. It's not worth even calling a coincidence.

John Bruce said...

The PCUSA documents on line, of course, make no secret of the Presbyterian Church's prohibitionist antecedents. Its non-prohibitionist views were fairly recent.

The Board documents that were leaked to The Dartmouth Review in 2005 make a strong case that the Board was moving in a prohibitionist direction throughout the 1980s. A memo from Sandy McCulloch tells the Board the College needs to move away from alcohol culture, whatever that is. I don't think this was a creature of the SLI or Susan Dentzer in particular, but an anti-alcohol platform, consistent with neo-prohibitionism, has been a consistent College policy for some time. No argument there. But Dentzer et al certainly tightened the policy, and Dentzer in particular had segments on The News Hour on the problems of alcohol and fraternities. But where do I imply this started with the SLI?

Hard to imagine who other than you, Dentzer, and McCullogh is now saying the SLI was an OK thing!

Anonymous said...

John, what do you mean by the SLI being "an ok thing"? That the SLI was good, wise, skilfully implemented, or successful? All I've said is that it was not a success or was not completed according to its own goals.

I thought the PCUSA was a church, not a prohibitionist group. The Temperance League or even MADD is a prohibitionist group. You must be even less familiar with the church than I am if you think its main purpose or stated central goal is to reduce alcohol use or abuse. People would still go to church if the PCUSA dropped any reference to alcohol from its policies.

Of course the board was moving against alcohol in the 1980s -- you don't need any stolen documents to see that. That's my point: Dartmouth has irregularly clamped down on alcohol use in ever-increasing ways since the 1960s. Therefore embodying a generally "anti-alcohol" bias in the SLI was not a surprise and cannot be attributed to Dentzer -- after all, it was not only the latest in a long line of such policies from the board as a whole but represents the committee work of several people that was approved by the whole board.

Where do you "imply this started with the SLI?" You said yourself that Dentzer had a conflict of interest in being both a PCUSA elder and in working on the SLI, and you suggested that her views on alcohol influenced the alcohol policies that were part of the SLI. Your idea is more irrelevant than stupid, but it is still hard for me to write with a straight face.

Anonymous said...

Pretentious Dartmouth kids...Grinnell was listed as best overall liberal arts education a year or two ago. Grinnellian pride!

Anonymous said...

Tom Crady was essential at Grinnell to keeping the administration out of students' lives with respect to alcohol and recreational drugs. He knew that if the students knew they could trust the administration, they would get help when they needed it. His replacements have cracked down a little more and sure enough, more kids are off to the hospitals. Appreciate what you've got, Bruce. We'll gladly take him back.

(Yeah, Dartmouth is 11 in the US World rankings for Universities, Grinnell is 14 for Liberal Arts Schools (and as a previous poster alluded, Newsweek named Grinnell "America's Best College" about five years ago. Shameless self promotion!) I don't think it's been a "diploma mill" for many decades, if ever. I went to Columbia for two terms, and the classes were virtually interchangeable. Honestly, the only class that was comparable to Grinnell was a graduate level class taught by a visiting prof from Oxford. And correct me if I'm wrong, Mr. Bruce, but Columbia is ranked a little higher than Dartmouth. Viva Grinnell!)