Friday, September 28, 2007

Merkel Leaves the College

Jim Merkel, the somewhat controversial head of sustainability, left the college in early August, The Dartmouth reports, complaining that he did not have time to pick raspberries and that he didn't need a job. The Review celebrates.

College Issue of NYT Mag

This weekend's edition of The New York Times Magazine, one of my favorite publications, is "The College Issue." Check it out.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Were the Odds?

Dave Glovsky '08 wrote a very interesting opinion article about the availability of debate tickets to students in today's The Dartmouth. The tickets were allocated via a lottery, but like Dave, I know almost nobody who won tickets despite widespread participation. As the cameras span along the audience last night, you could see almost no students except College Dems leaders and Travis Green, the student body president, who were of course specially invited. So where did all the tickets go? How many tickets went to local residents, Dartmouth staff, and faculty, and how much tuition do they pay?

The Debates

I didn't get tickets for the debate itself, so I went to the watch party in Leede Arena. Afterwards, all the candidates except Hillary Clinton and John Edwards came to Leede to talk to us. Obama made the crowd go insane. I have a lot to say about the debates, but I'm tired and I have a 10a tomorrow, so I'll write more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We Have Work to Do, You and I

Convocation took place at 11:00 this morning. Compared to the previous two convocations, each of the respective speeches (student body president, guest speaker, and President Wright) was the best yet.

Travis Green, Dartmouth's new but already outstanding student body president, led the way with a speech that struck a very different tone than that of Noah Riner '06 and Tim Andreadis '07. The previous speeches were both prescriptive. Noah spoke about the need for character among Dartmouth students (infamously arguing for the importance of Jesus) and Tim discussed the need for action and awareness about sexual assault. Both speeches left a bitter taste in the minds of many. I remember listening to Noah's speech as a freshman and witnessing the sense of shock, both personal and all around the audience, as Noah said this line:
He gave His life for our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear the penalty of the law; so we could see love. The problem is me; the solution is God's love: Jesus on the cross, for us.
Tim's speech, on the other hand, wasn't offense or controversial in content at all, but seemed starkly out of place for convocation. Convocation is about the renewal of the academic year and the welcome of the new class, but Tim simply listed a series of statistics.

Travis, instead, gave a call-to-arms for freshmen to challenge their assumptions about themselves and to change and mold Dartmouth into the place they want it to be:
Class of 2011, it might not seem like it, but today, each of you has the same opportunity, along with a few advantages. Unlike those novices, you have a lot of people here to help. You also have two hundred forty attempts’ worth of experience to draw from. Unlike those white, male, preaching New Englanders and their founding Native American counterparts, you have potential friends from all walks of life, from all ranges of experience, and from all over the world.

Here, you’re freed from your past. Your roots are gone. You can choose which to grasp back on to, and what new ones to lay down. You don’t have to conform to what you were in high school. Jocks, nerds, goths, those segregations can disappear. You can make new friends, find new interests, reveal inner passions. Be who you want to be, while you make this College what you want it to be...

As [your Dartmouth spirit] grows, you will begin to answer questions integral to Dartmouth’s soul: Should there be a typical “Dartmouth man” and “Dartmouth woman”? Why do we have the cluster system? Does cutting-edge research enhance liberal arts teaching? Should Dartmouth value the Greek system? Does diversity matter to us? Is the D-Plan effective? Do athletics enhance the Dartmouth experience? What defines this Dartmouth? What defines your Dartmouth?
It was a very solid address and was warmly received. Rather than telling students what they should think or how they should act, he encouraged them to find the answers for questions about Dartmouth through personal exploration.

Bruce Duthu '80, a Vermont Law professor, a visiting professor at Dartmouth, and a former administrator of the college, spoke about the importance of humility and its connection to a liberal arts education. Though it sounds like a strange topic, it was a really great speech.

James Wright spoke eloquently about the role of affirmation action at Dartmouth. He began by discussing Dartmouth's historical commitment to diversity. The president then said that he agreed with the principle of race neutrality - that is, ideally people should not be considered or judged for better or worse on account of their race or heritage - but that Dartmouth and other colleges do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, affirmative action must exist to counteract fundamental differences in opportunity.

Wright then spoke about Robert Putnum's concept of social capital and its relation to diverse communities. He discussed a study which found that diverse communities actually have less social capital than homogeneous communities. But Wright refuted the study on the basis that a diverse communities is absolutely essential for the intellectual exploration that Dartmouth seeks to provide:

So, it is essential that we ask ourselves on this September morning whether all of this-the legal, constitutional, political, and cultural challenges of our time; the pessimism suggested by the Putnam research-whether all of this means that Dartmouth should back away from its historic principles and assumptions?

Having raised the question, I shall take the opportunity to provide an answer: No, to me it surely does not. This College's legacy and responsibility are richer than the cycles of politics. Our commitment to the nature of this learning community is older than the formation of this Republic.

The fundamental principle underlying this College and the liberal arts in general is to examine assumptions, to respond to new ideas, not stubbornly to hold to what we once thought to be true. The Putnam research makes more, rather than less, urgent our historic purpose. The appropriate response to these new findings cannot be to strive for homogeneous communities, which may, in the short term, have more social capital, but will surely not, in the long term, provide the intellectual excitement, the general stimulation, and the preparation for a lifetime of learning that Dartmouth seeks-as it has always sought to engender.

Wright ended his address with his usual closing phrase:

As has been my yearly custom, I would close this ceremony by reminding you, and myself, that now we turn enthusiastically to our task. We have work to do, you and I - and it is time to begin! Welcome to Dartmouth.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New York Times Gets Fooled

This is old news, but I just saw the correction now (though I saw it in the original article):

An article last Saturday about Dartmouth College's governance structure incorrectly described a Web site congratulating Todd J. Zywicki, a trustee, for meeting with members of the Phrygians, a secret society, and discussing possible actions against the college administration. It was a hoax site, not an official Phrygian site. Mr. Zywicki says he met several times with the Phrygians, but did not discuss actions against the administration.

I can't believe that the Times a) fell for it, b) didn't check to make sure it was legit. What sort of secret society would not only have a website but put a photo of their members on it? I've heard that this is the work of the Jacko, but I don't think its been confirmed.

Gearing Up for the Debates

Dartmouth is getting ready for its Democratic presidential debate, which will take place from 9-11 pm on Wednesday, and will be broadcast on MSNBC. Until the "candidate forums," which have been frequent in this election season, this is one of only six debates officially sponsored by the Democratic Party. Students (as well as faculty, staff, and local residents) were eligible to win tickets via a lottery. Apparently, there was an overwhelming response, and I've barely know anyone who has won tickets. To deal with the overflow, there is a watch party taking place in Leede Arean. In order to prepare for the debates, Dartmouth has formed an army of student volunteers - approximately 200 students.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A new friend for the Etats-Unis

When I first read about Nicolas Sarkozy, several years ago, I was interested. He struck me as an innovator and an ascendant leader. But as the French presidential election approached last April, I became extremely disillusioned. I saw him a right-wing demagogue, a radical and more dangerous version of Rudy Giuliani. I was also working in a legislative office with two Columbia grad students from France who thought that Sarkozy's election was apocalyptic.

But in the past few months, I have really been shocked and stunned by Sarkozy's performance - pleasantly surprised. Rather than being Mussolini incarnate, he's been the cool new kid on the block, the next Tony Blair.

Sarkozy has radically changed Franco-American relations overnight. France has suddenly changed from being one of our biggest critics to being one of our closest allies, particularly on the highly difficult subject of Iran. Surely some fellow liberals would accuse Sarkozy of being fundamentally pro-Bush rather than pro-American. But Sarkozy's overtures have gone far beyond Bush. Rather, he believes in America, the way immigrants often do, the way we are taught to in elementary school. And that is a radical change. I have no doubt that Chirac thought America sucked. Although I disagree with Bush's foreign policy goals (read: Iraq), the United States will always be more effective with the support of our allies. If the French government being pro-American means that they are simultaneously pro-Bush, well, I could care less.

In a new interview with The New York Times, Sarkozy spoke vividly about what he sees as the shared common values between the United States and France:
You know from the way we celebrate the [Normandy] landings that the French people are with the Americans, and the American flag is popular in France. I have said, moreover, that relations between France and the United States go well beyond the personality of Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Bush. There are people who will come after me, and who will come after Mr. Bush. And I see myself in the historic tradition of [French military leaders during the U.S. Revolution] [the count of] Rochambeau and [the Marquis of] Lafayette. At the time, there were 20 million Frenchmen and four million Americans. And it was the genius of Louis XVI to understand that this young, American democracy had to be helped. France was there. With Lafayette and Rochambeau. Rochambeau refused to receive the sword from the British — he gave it to [George] Washington in a magnificent gesture. Lafayette is a great figure in French history because he was the godfather of relations between the United States and France. We have never been at war. We have always helped each other. We have always helped each other. I don’t see why we should see ourselves as enemy nations. It makes no sense.

So maybe the problems we’ve had stem from the fact that we are both countries which believe — and not all countries believe this — that our values are universal. For my part, I think that the French and the United States are much more alike than they think. Much more. It is rare to find countries in the world that think their ideas are universal. The Germans don’t, nor do the Spanish and the Italians. Nor do the Chinese. They think themselves to be universal for themselves, I mean within their empire. In the United States and France, we think our ideas are destined to illuminate the world. And perhaps that is the source of the competition between us. It’s perhaps the fact that we are alike.

Sarkozy frames himself as a pragmatist and he has acted as such as president. He appointed Bernard Kouchner, long time Socialist politician and founder of Médecins Sans Frontières, as foreign minister, a very bold and surprising move. He also nominated Dominique Strauss-Kahn, runner up in the Socialist Party presidential primaries, as head of the International Monetary Fund. Sarkozy wasn't forced to appoint Socialists because of some power arrangement deal or the like. He apparently did it because he felt they were most qualified, something that is truly remarkable.

Although I don't know much about France's domestic situation, he seems to be doing good work. Though my natural inclination is to support the labor or socialist candidate in foreign elections, France is so far to the left of the United States in terms of socialization. Does their economy work? Doubtful. So what Sarkozy wants to do domestically is extremely sensible.

In the end, Sarkozy is fundamentally a Clintonite or a Blairite, a believer that he can dramaticly rewrite France's political environment. What I truly admired about Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown, and Tony Blair (in the early days) was their ability to free people from their assumptions about government and politics. It is this quality that I also see in Barack Obama and Mike Bloomberg. They all bring a revolutionary spirit. I'm from New York City, and I have been constantly impressed by the Bloomberg administration. Even when Bloomberg makes mistakes, he shows a verve that Giuliani only had for locking up homeless people. He has completely changed the way New Yorkers think about the potential for city governance.

And so that is what I see in Nicolas Sarkozy, a man set out to change France and the world. Once again, I might have misread this complex character, but I certainly hope not. As he said in the above quote, Sarkozy believes that our countries' ideas are "destined to illuminate the world." That is a powerful thought.

McLaughlin Suites

I just moved in my new room in Thomas, which is one of the new dorms in the McLaughlin Cluster. It's a suite, one of the best rooms on campus. Although I'm a junior, I got "pulled in" by a rising senior who had, I think, the 13th best number in the housing lottery. We have 5 single bedrooms, a pretty large common area with space for 2 sofas and a couple chairs (including a nice bean bag chair that came with the room) and one and a half bathrooms. The individual rooms actually aren't huge (100 sq. ft.) but they're nothing to complain about.

I lived in the Senior Apartments last year (don't ask how I get so lucky) which was actually a bit bigger and had a kitchen. But the Thomas suite is a million times nicer, because it's brand new and lacks the horrid sixties-era feel that plagues the Senior Apartments. They did a really nice job in terms of design and decor (except for the bedrooms, which are shaped awkwardly for the bed and desk).

The rest of the building is amazing. Thomas is connected directly to Goldstein and Byrne II, and it's basically one big building. There's an elevator, a giant common space (Occum Commons) with a baby grand piano, and other little things that make it really nice. And they finally learned from the East Wheelock Cluster that putting the bathroom sinks in the hallways was a bad idea (if you haven't seen it, it's quite a sight). I lived in one of the super-tiny L-shaped doubles in Wheeler during my freshman year, where there was a basically no room to walk once you put all the furniture in, so I guess I feel unrepentant about my current luck.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Crady in the Times

Tom Crady, the incoming Dean of the College, was quoted in The New York Times today in an article about parents redoing their children's rooms once they leave for college:
But Tom Crady, vice president for student services at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, is sympathetic about the anxieties of homesick freshmen, particularly those who "come home Thanksgiving and realize their room is gone." Parents, he said, "should probably include their son or daughter in a decision like that."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tuck Retakes #1 Spot in the Wall Street Journal Rankings

The Wall Street Journal today published its annual ranking of business schools, with Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business ranked number 1. Last year, Tuck came in second to Michigan, which fell to the seventh spot in the new rankings. The Journal had this to say about Tuck:
Tuck received its highest ratings this year for its "well-rounded" students, their personal integrity, interpersonal and communications skills, and teamwork abilities.
The rankings are based on a survey of MBA recruiters. In order, the rest of the top ten were Berkeley, Columbia, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, UNC-Chapel Hill, Michigan, Yale, Chicago, and Virginia.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Association of Alumni Statememt

The leaders of the Association of Alumni posted a statement on their blog opposing the changes to trustee composition.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Coverage in the Times

In tomorrow's The New York Times, there will be an article about the changes in the composition of the Board of Trustees.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Die is Cast

The Board of Trustees voted tonight to increase the number of trustees from 18 to 26, with all eight of the additional seats being charter trustees - selected by the board. Here is a link to the report.

Several minutes ago, a letter from Ed Haldeman was sent out over blitz to (presumably) everybody at Dartmouth:


Dear Members of the Dartmouth Community,

Earlier today, the Dartmouth Board of Trustees took several steps to strengthen the College's governance. Given the intense debate about this issue in recent months, I wanted to write to you as soon as possible to tell you what we've done and why.

Let me start by saying Dartmouth has never been stronger than it is today. It's one of the most selective institutions in the country. Our commitment to teaching has never been stronger and student satisfaction is at record highs. The student-to-faculty ratio now stands at 8:1. We have expanded the faculty by 15 percent since 2000 and maintained competitive faculty compensation, reflecting the College's sharp focus on its academic programs. Once current building plans are completed, we will have invested $1.1 billion in new and renovated state-of-the-art facilities since 1998.

Like its peers, however, the College confronts new challenges. We are facing increasing competition for the finest students and the best faculty as well as for the financial resources needed to support the College. And, we operate in an increasingly complex and highly regulated environment. Having the strongest possible governance is a critical factor to ensuring Dartmouth's continued success in the years ahead.

The changes we are making preserve alumni democracy at Dartmouth by keeping eight alumni-nominated trustees. They expand the Board with eight additional charter trustees, adding alumni to meet the needs of the College. And, they address the destructive politicization of trustee campaigns that have hurt Dartmouth. These changes represent a balancing of competing interests. They are true to Dartmouth's founding principles. And, they will ensure that, moving forward, the College has a strong, effective, and independent governing body.

Over the past three months, the Board's Governance Committee conducted a thorough review of this issue. We carefully considered input from many alumni, current and former trustees, faculty, parents, students, and other members of the Dartmouth community. We consulted with experts in college and non-profit governance and carefully evaluated practices among 30 leading colleges and universities. And, we developed a report to the full Board, which I encourage you to read for yourself at

After reviewing the Governance Committee's recommendations - and after much thought and deliberation - the Board of Trustees concluded that Dartmouth should strengthen its governance by taking steps to:

* Expand the Board by Adding More Alumni to Better Meet the Needs of the College: We are expanding the Board from 18 to 26 to ensure it has the broad range of backgrounds, skills, expertise, and fundraising capabilities needed to steward an institution of Dartmouth's scope and complexity. Dartmouth has been at a competitive disadvantage to its peers, with one of the smallest Boards of any comparable institution. We have had 18 members on our Board, versus an average of 42 trustees at peer schools and an average of 34 at other liberal arts colleges. We also are giving the Board more flexibility to select trustees who offer the specific talents and experiences that the College needs, which elections don't ensure. We will accomplish both of these goals by adding eight new charter trustee seats to the Board.

* Preserve Alumni Democracy by Retaining Alumni Trustee Elections: We are maintaining alumni trustee elections at their current level and preserving the ability of alumni to petition onto the ballot. Dartmouth currently has the highest proportion of alumni-nominated trustees of any peer institution and is one of the few schools that allows alumni to petition directly onto the ballot. The Board believes that this gives Dartmouth's alumni an important direct voice in our governance and fosters greater alumni involvement in the College. Dartmouth will continue to have one of the most democratic trustee election processes of any college in the country.

* Simplify the Alumni Nomination Process: Dartmouth's trustee elections have become increasingly politicized, costly, and divisive. It's not the results of these elections that are the problem, but the process itself. So we are charging the Alumni Council and the Association of Alumni to develop and implement a process for selecting alumni trustee nominees that preserves elections, maintains petition access to the ballot, and adopts a one-vote, majority-rule election process.

* Improve Direct Board Engagement with Alumni and Other Stakeholders: A larger group of trustees representing even more diverse backgrounds will help us enhance Board engagement with key areas of the College including academic affairs, student life, and alumni relations. We are therefore creating new Board committees focused on each of these three critical areas. This will facilitate greater interaction and communication with individuals in each of these three areas.

While we will continue to have eight trustees nominated directly by alumni, a significant number of seats on the Board, I know some will ask why we didn't simply expand the Board through an equal number of charter and alumni trustee seats. Given the divisiveness of recent elections we did not believe that having more elections would be good for Dartmouth. We also believe that the Board needs more trustees selected for the specific talents and experiences they can offer the College - which elections can't guarantee. We will still have more alumni-nominated trustees than most other schools and the opportunity for regular contested elections. But we think this is the best balancing of Dartmouth's interests.

I know there are strongly held views on all sides of this issue. And I respect that many of those views are driven above all by a desire to do what is best for Dartmouth and its students. But some of the recent rhetoric in this debate has become so harsh and divisive it is now doing harm to Dartmouth. I want to urge everyone who cares about Dartmouth to debate this issue in a reasonable and respectful way. As President Wright has said, there is far more that unites us - as friends, faculty, students, and loyal alumni of the College on the Hill - than divides us. Above all, we have a shared love of and dedication to Dartmouth.

One thing that has made Dartmouth an enduring and successful institution is that its history has always been one of adapting to meet new challenges and needs, while still preserving what is unique and special about Dartmouth. That is why a board originally composed of twelve New England men, half of them members of the clergy, today consists of eighteen men and women from many parts of the country and walks of life. That is why Trustees who once served for life now serve four-year terms. And, that is why elections once open only to "graduates... of at least five years standing" are now open to all alumni.

In these and many other respects, Dartmouth's Board has made fundamental changes to its governance structure and procedures throughout the College's history. The changes we're making today are no different. They are driven by what is best for Dartmouth and its students, and what is necessary to ensure the College continues to meet the new challenges it faces in the 21st century.

I love Dartmouth. I honestly believe there is nowhere else in the world quite like this great College. We need to protect Dartmouth and ensure it continues to prosper for future generations of students. I, and the entire Board, are intensely focused on helping Dartmouth to continue building its world-class academic program. That is what drives us forward. And, I look forward to continuing to work with all of you - alumni, faculty, students and parents - to build on Dartmouth's unique and pre-eminent place in American higher education.


Ed Haldeman
Chair, Dartmouth College Board of Trustees
The Dartmouth has also put an article about it up on their website. Yesterday, The Dartmouth's board wrote an editorial supporting changes to the Board of Trustees' structure.

This morning, The New York Times published an article about the governance review on the front page of its National Report section.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Wall Street Journal Chimes In, Talks with Rodgers

The Wall Street Journal published two articles about the Board of Trustees' governance review today, an editorial in support of the 1891 agreement and a profile of trustee T.J. Rodgers by Joseph Rago '05.

Rago's interview with Rodgers is a quite illuminating glimpse into the trustee's mind. Rago describes Rodgers as being ultimately independent-minded, not the conservative that he is often depicted to be. Rodgers recasts the trustee struggle away from the typical partisan model: "This is not a conservative-liberal conflict. This is a libertarian-totalitarian conflict." Rodgers reflects on accusations that the current process is divisive: "If 'divisive' means there are issues and we debate the issues and move forward according to a consensus, then divisive equals democracy, and democracy is good. The alternative, which I fear is what the administration and [Board of Trustees Chairman] Ed Haldeman are after right now, is a politburo - one-party rule."

Rodgers gets to the heart of the debate. Divisiveness is often necessary in politics and governance, because debate and conflict is often necessary in the search for solutions and consensus. The Board of Trustees is not around to merely rubber-stamp the administration's goals and select a new president every decade. The Board should be actively thinking about the college - and making decisions, and the alumni should be thinking about the Board - and electing some of its members. Divisiveness is exactly what Tim Andreadis '07 was accused of when he was elected Student Body President last year. Although I have issues with his administration - I resigned from it - divisiveness was never the problem. Instead, he changed the way students think about Dartmouth, made them consider new issues, and we are ultimately for the better. And the same is true about the petition trustees. They have challenged the views of students, alumni, and administrators, pushing us to think harder about the issues at hand, and we are also better for it. This is what democracy is all about. So let the elections continue.