Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cue the Imperial March

In the new issue of The Dartmouth Review, Jeffrey Hart discusses the entanglements between Freedman and the Review. I wasn't around, I don't know what really happened, so I can't judge. But it seems to me that any Dartmouth president who covets the Harvard job must be doing something wrong.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ever-reliable (?) Hart does say, in one sentence, that the Harvard job was "long his ambition," and the Review in the eighties assumed the same thing, without much evidence other than the fact that he'd gone to Harvard.

Did Freedman ever say he was really trying to become President of Harvard? And, all things considered, would that really be such a bad ambition for a Dartmouth President to harbor? College presidents these days are just a floating pool of potential hires: you pick one and hope it works out, and there is no school (not even Harvard) that can assume its president won't graduate to something bigger. Dartmouth should be wary of settling for someone who set his sights no higher than a top-ten school.

David Nachman said...

I thought the Freedman wanting Harvard thing was common knowledge.

I don't believe our college presidents should be a floating pool of potential hires. Freedman was the only president previously unassociated with Dartmouth. It's important for a president to have a strong understanding and a strong belief in what makes Dartmouth what it is.

Dartmouth and Harvard are very different schools, and I think the ideal leadership needed to run each is very different. Compare to the corporate world - the same person probably wouldn't be the best choice to run Google and Walmart.

Anonymous said...

Or Apple and MicroSoft.

What is a top-ten school anyway? One that plays football in the mid-west?

And what is "bigger" than Harvard? The UC System?

Anonymous said...

You write, "I don't believe our college presidents should be a floating pool of potential hires. Freedman was the only president previously unassociated with Dartmouth. It's important for a president to have a strong understanding and a strong belief in what makes Dartmouth what it is."

Well, what is Dartmouth? I bet your interpretation of the school's identity is different from a lot of your fellow students' interpretations. What's to say that a potential hire for president can't have a different interpretation? It's narrow-minded perceptions of Dartmouth's identity that can only hurt the school in the long run.

David Nachman said...

Anon 7:31:

You do raise some good points, but I think if you spoke to a random group of current Dartmouth students you would find some consensus on the question of "what is Dartmouth." Among colleges and universities, our size is quite unique, and this places us in excellent position to focus on teaching while also supporting first-rate research. A very interesting student-conducted study from my SA Academic Affairs predecessors can be found online:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Eassembly/reports/academic_direction.html

I think the report does a good job of exploring the issue from an academic perspective.

Dartmouth has certainly changed over the years (in good ways), but I think change is preferable when it happens organically, at the student level. I think it would be a mistake for a new president or dean to come to Dartmouth with some generic notion of what a good academic institution looks like and try to apply that to Dartmouth.

Joe Asch '79 said...

Freedman interviewed for the Harvard job, and several Dartmouth profs were interviewed by Harvard regarding Freedman's performance as the College's president.

I spoke to one of the Dartmouth profs about his interview in Cambridge.

David Nachman said...

The link in the post above got cut off. It's:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/%7Eassembly/
reports/academic_direction.html

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

David: Thank you for the reference and the link to this report, repeated here.

Alumni want to know "what students think". Yet here was a comprehensive student report that did not get a lot of visibility. It merits at least as much awareness as the trustee governance report. Perhaps it should be mailed to every alumnus/a.

A few of its recommendations have been adopted. Its warning for the future still needs to be heeded.

Anonymous said...

David, whether we like it or not, presidential hires are a floating national pool. There is a fluid market for potential college presidents out there, and even when Dartmouth takes someone connected with the school (Wright, whom we should like on the basis of this criterion) it is still swimming in the pool.

Just because Freedman was offered a chance to interview for the Harvard job does not mean it was his great ambition at Dartmouth to take that job, or that he took the Dartmouth job as a stepping-stone (which is the implication, and which other administrators admittedly do). Freedman undoubtedly wanted the job, otherwise he wouldn't have interviewed for it, but that ambition (really, the desire to go someplace better-paying and more prestigious -- who could blame him?) shouldn't be allowed to taint his dedication to Dartmouth. Freedman's presidency as a whole should not be characterized as a time in which he tried to become the Harvard president, even if he did respond to an invitation to interview there.

"Top ten" refers to USNews rankings.

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

David: Thank you for putting up the link to that Student Assembly report. I am curious if you can report on what happended to it. What was the response of the Administration? Was it made visible to trustees, and did they ever interact with the student committee that made the recommendations? (It certainly merited such visibility, as students want their voice to be heard.) Was it ever endorsed by the Alumni Council's standing committee on Academic Affairs? Or was it allowed to fall unnoticed into the dustbin of Dartmouth history after the lead students graduated?

David Nachman said...

I'm not sure how the report was distributed at the time or what was its initial outcome.

This year's SA executive board (of which I'm a member) rediscovered the report and we feel that it is very strong. The report was discussed at a recent meeting between the SA executive board and the Dean of the Faculty and her staff. They had previously seen the document and they generally feel that compared to its peers, Dartmouth places a far greater emphasis on faculty teaching. So, they agree with the report that teaching is something that should be emphasized at Dartmouth, but they disagree that there is not enough emphasis currently.

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

David: I will be curious if you and the SA board pursue some of the specific recommendations of the report. Some, such as having a Center for (Teaching and) Learning have been implemented. Others, such as having a more formal method of faculty evaluation for their teaching (e.g. peer reviews) to my knowledge have not been.

Keep us posted, will you. You should also inquire of the Alumni Council committee on academics, and perhaps the brand new committee established by the trustees. I know they both want to hear from students.