Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Wright at the General Faculty

The Dartmouth has an article today about President Wright's address yesterday at the general faculty meeting. The article focused largely on Wright's suggestion that the college experiment with sophomore summer to utilize the unique opportunity to focus learning towards one class of students at the midpoint of their time at Dartmouth. Here's how The Dartmouth described the suggested changes:
Wright suggested four changes that he said would increase depth and breadth of study: scheduling classes in intensive blocks of three weeks rather than nine or 10, making courses worth three credits rather than one, having professional school professors teach some undergraduate classes and better integrating the Hopkins Center, Tucker Foundation and other campus centers in thematic learning programs.
I just finished sophomore summer, and thought I had a good time, what really struck me was how similar it was to a typical term. There's so much hype about it, but at the end of the day, it's just normal classes. President Wright's suggestion that the college think outside the box with the summer makes a lot of sense.

I'm particularly excited about the professional school suggestion, and I heard from a friend in attendance that Wright mentioned integrating Tuck courses or professors in particularly. I have long believed that it's a real shame that the college does not offer undergraduates anyway to take advantage of Tuck, except for the summer Bridge program which is open to non-Dartmouth undergrads. Ideally, I see Tuck professors teaching two or three introductory level business courses for undergraduates. While I am a strong supporter of a liberal arts education, the criticism about it is that it fails to provide undergrads with direct real world skills. Allowing undergraduates to take several business courses would strengthen their educations without undermining the overall liberal arts emphasis. Furthermore, it would probably make Dartmouth undergrads more attractive to the corporate world by allowing them to gain Tuck experience. After all, it's often said that Penn only does so well in the U.S. News rankings because of the aftereffects of Wharton. While I don't advocate a Tuck undergraduate program, why not share some of the benefits of a great business school?

Update: Here's a link to President Wright's speech


Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

Those of us who defend the participation level of alumni in selecting trustees are often miscast as always being "anti-Wright".

The President's proposals for an out-of-the-box approach to summer term have some real potential and merit serious consideration.

It is a bit disappointing that only 150 faculty members attended "their" meeting. Looks like a 25/1 ratio for 4,400 undergraduates.

John Bruce said...

The question is whether Wright and the Trustees will be too preoccupied with the lawsuit (which they brought on themselves) to do much of anything. Judging from the hysteria at the Association of Alumni blog, it's finally sinking in on Board loyalists that the AoA has sued, and their case is not frivolous.

Assuming millions in legal fees going to Sullivan and Cromwell in coming years, plus the distraction of the suit, where will the money and focus come from to implement changes?

I think Wright at this point is trying to act as if nothing is happening. This is not how normal people react to legal action. We'll see what happens.

Anonymous said...

"It is a bit disappointing that only 150 faculty members attended "their" meeting. Looks like a 25/1 ratio for 4,400 undergraduates."

Careful, Tim. That was 150 faculty AND spectators. The D did not tell us how many faculty members were there.

Oftentimes faculty meetings don't achieve a quorum of 40 members, which I take as a comment on the lack of debate allowed by the administration.

Truth Be Told said...

Congrats to Jim for his thoughts on doing something original and special with sophomore summer. Finally an idea from JW to change the academic life of students for the better.

After more than nine years, it was about time that he did more than engage in self-back-patting.

Note: this idea came out of the blue. There has been no committee work on this or anything more done that what Wright said. But at least it is a sign of some movement.

Anonymous said...

Poor JW,

Early in his tenure, the Dentzer-led Board forced him to attack fraternities. The faculty forced him to downplay athletics. The activists demanded political correctness over free speech. The bureacracy pushed for growth, as such organizations inevitably do. And in response to all that, petition trustees and alumni pushed back.

Perhaps this is finally JW showing leadership to push for something independently. Hurrah.

Anonymous said...

What's special about sophomore summer is the fact that it is a genuine term and not a mediocre "summer school" that most institutions have, a collection of discounted light two- and three-week sessions where students focus on one subject at a time because they failed it during the real school year.

Anonymous said...

"The question is whether Wright and the Trustees will be too preoccupied with the lawsuit (which they brought on themselves)."

That's not the question, and they didn't bring it on themselves -- it's entirely the fault of the six radicals trying to lead the Association.

What makes you think the lawsuit so terrifies Dartmouth? If the college were to lose, it would be stuck with the same board formation it has now. Big whoop.

John Bruce said...

So if it's a big whoop to have the same board as it now has, you're sugesting the change isn't that big, and the board could have lived with things as they are. So why the risk of a multimillion dollar lawsuit? Why not just leave things as they are and save a lot of money and aggravation?

dartbored said...

JW is showing us that he is a tough marine. Meanwhile, his supporters are hysterical over at the AoA blog. I'm going to relax for awhile.

Nathan S. Empsall said...

Truth Be Told, I'm no Wright backer, but I think it's unfair to say he's done nothing but patting himself on the back for nine years. Say what you will about the SLI, it was a substantive proposal. And the many new buildings across campus - McLauglin Cluster, Tuck Mall Cluster, Kemeny/Haldeman classrooms, Tuck housing, renocations to older dorms - are nothing to sneeze at.

John Bruce said...

In fact, I start jury duty tomorrow. I sorta hope I get a trial that lasts a couple of weeks so I can focus on something else!

Truth Be told said...

Nathan S. Empsall: SLI and buildings are peripheral to the college's academic program, which is what the College is all about. It is it his area that Wright has been non-existent as a leader.

He let the speech department die; Human Biology did not get funded; the DEP writing program was not renewed; foreign study programs continue to lose popularity...

What Wright actions can anyone point to in the realm of teaching that made any difference?

Anonymous said...

"Why not just leave things as they are and save a lot of money and aggravation?"

The board could have done that. But they didn't have to. Because they make their own decisions and don't have to listen to you.

Anonymous said...

David, do you think the anonymous backers of the Association's lawsuit are related to the anonymous backers of the CSDC advertising campaign? How long do you think Smith can remain a trustee?

Consider these developments:

The email the Association recently sent out was sent from a server at Hosting Matters in Florida under a false Dartmouth email address. The Association blames the apparent fraud on a student but will not reveal his name. College discipline may be pending.

The Power Line blog, run by alumni, is also hosted by Hosting Matters and receives technical assistance from Joe Malchow.

Stephen Smith's campaign website is also hosted by Hosting Matters. Smith said he hired a young person to create the site.

The CSDC's anonymous website, which uses photos and layouts from Smith's website and listed him as a contact, also resides at Hosting Matters. Its flamboyant writing resembles that of Joe Malchow, who posted the AoA's spoof email a few hours after it was sent.

transparency said...

The lawsuit is part of the "culture war" and part of the tradition of the Olin Foundation's conservative economics-based attempt to influence a wide variety of institutions.

Consider these connections:

Financial backers of the Review include the William H. Donner Foundation (minor) and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation (major, including funds for the lawsuits in the late 1980s). Both foundations have also funded the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (directed by Gregory Fossedal, a Review founder); the Hoover Institution (where Fossedal and Trustee Robinson have been fellows or research fellows); ACTA (whose board member William Tell was the lead plaintiff in multiple suits against Dartmouth in the early 1990s); the Federalist Society (for whose journal Stephen Smith wrote that anti-evolution article and in which Trustee Zywicki is active); the George Mason University Foundation (whose conservative law school Smith and Zywicki have instructed, the latter as an Olin Professor); and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (which published the book about the Review that Review editor and later board member James Panero edited with Stefan Beck).

Donner also funded the “Ernest Martin Hopkins Institute,” whose directors have included Fossedal; George Champion (a Review director); William R. Modahl (an ACTA Leadership Council member); and William Grace (an ACTA Donors Working Group member).

Bradley also funded FIRE (see Rodgers’s speech codes) and the Foundation for Cultural Review, Inc. (publisher of the New Criterion, which is run by Panero and written for by Beck).

The Hanover Institute is run by a former Review advisor and shares at least one funder with it. The Hanover Institute directorate overlaps with that of the Association and is now raising money for it. Here's betting that Bradley and Donner have been asked for cash too.

John Bruce said...

Well, let me see. How about the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, more than half of whom are extremely wealthy people. Since money is fungible, we may assume that their multimillion-dollar donations to the College are funding the other side of the dispute, and always have. Sandy McCulloch, for instance, Board chair during the 1980s, is the heir to a Rhode Island textile fortune -- an industry that hasn't enjoyed a reputation for enlightened labor relations. In general, you don't get or stay that rich by teaching Sunday school.

In fact, the average Board member strikes me as hypocritical and unpleasant, endorsing all kinds of goo-goo policies for everyone else, but quite happy with the enormous privileges that accrue to themselves and their peers.

transparency said...

According to the Executive Intelligence Review, which seems to be a Lyndon Larouche vehicle, ACTA held a meeting on October 6, 2006 at Harvard that was attended by:

-Frank Gado
-John MacGovern
-Joe Malchow
-William B. Modahl
-William K. Tell, Jr.

Other attendees included Adam Kissel, who is affiliated with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute; Anne Neal, the ACTA president; and James Pierson, executive director of the John M. Olin Foundation.

ACTA has officially stated that it is not funneling money to CSDC ("We did not subsidize this ad, nor have we supplied any financial support to the Dartmouth effort. We simply shared our expertise with concerned alumni.")

transparency said...

Review director George Champion (and Donald Rumsfeld, for whose 1987 presidential campaign MacGovern had worked) contributed to John MacGovern's races for the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

transparency said...

EIR says Frank Gado was the "Vice Chairman of the Union Gov. Comm." at the October, 2006 meeting at Harvard.

Union College's faculty governance committee is not in the Gado biography or on the web. Gado was already retired from Union College and living in White River Junction by November 2005 and he was courses for ILEAD in Hanover 6 months before going to Harvard.
The faculty of Union College probably knows whether Frank Gado was allowed to represent it at a conference after he retired.

Truth Be Told said...

As Christopher Hitchens often points out, "guilt by association" is an old Stalinist tactic that enables an accuser to avoid dealing with the substance of an opponent's arguments.

"Transparency" seems to think that if you can show that someone was once in a room with a... gasp.... conservative, then there is no need to engage that person intellectually.

Shame on “Transparency” for small-mindedness and shallowness. Let's get back to debating why Dartmouth College is drifting, good faculty are leaving, the administration has had no new blood for a decade, and why Wright spends all his time trying to stamp out justified and widespread dissent.

Anonymous said...

Who said anything about "guilt"? The best predictor of funding for the law suit is past funding for affiliated groups.

Anonymous said...

It's not miscasting anti-board alumni to call them "anti-Wright." Most of them are. Look at Joe Asch. Look at MacGovern's screed raising money to attack the board. He's terrified of Wright.

Anonymous said...

Wright IS the Board.

He picked 'em from his seat on the Governance Committee (the folks who pick Charter Trustees), and he knew them well before that from years of fundraising.

This whole thing is about Wright. Once he is gone, the whole situation will calm down.

Anonymous said...

Wright "is" the board. Ha ha ha. The board has 18 people on it. All but 2 were elected by majority vote, not handpicked by anyone. Even the nominating committee that Wright's on has several members (3? 4?) and is not dominated by him.

The board dominates Wright, not the other way around. It hired him, it can fire him, it directs him, tells him what to do, oversees his performance. Do you think Chairman Haldeman, a Harvard Law grad, is afraid to tell Jim what to do?

You realize, of course, that Dartmouth's next president will be a woman? Do you expect to like her more than you like Wright?