Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Financial Aid Changes

Dartmouth announced changes today to its financial aid policies:
1. Free tuition for students who come from families with annual incomes below $75,000
2. Replacing loans with scholarships
3. Need-blind admissions for international students
4. Junior leave term with no earnings expectation

Monday, January 14, 2008

Beta & AZD

So, Beta Theta Pi (or the now local version of it) is coming back to campus next fall and Alpha Xi Delta, which has been renting Beta's house for the last ten years, is now homeless.

I have no problem with the general notion of Beta's re-recognition, and certainly not with the desire of its alumni to see it return, but the college's handling of the situation has been terrible.

The administration's decision to reinstate Beta violates two major policies of the college. First, there are clear rules for the recognition of Greek organizations:
The following recognition policies and process apply to all new or returning organizations…Returning organizations are those who 1) once existed at Dartmouth and closed for non-disciplinary reasons; or 2) once existed at Dartmouth but as the result of disciplinary action were closed for a period of time with the opportunity to return at a future date clearly articulated as part of the disciplinary action.

Second, the college does not allow new or returning Greek organizations to receive recognition without a national affiliation. After being de-recognized at Dartmouth, Beta national revoked the chapter's charter. Today, Beta national is dry and so if Dartmouth Beta wants to rejoin, presumably they would need to follow those rules. The college is allowing Beta to be re-recognized therefore in clear violation of its rules mandating that fraternities be nationally affiliated. The Dartmouth article had the following:
Sipple [co-chairman of the Beta Board of Trustees] said that while the alumni group’s ultimate goal is to rejoin with Beta national, they are prepared to work with future members to determine if affiliation with a different national organization would better suit the needs of the group. It is College policy to only allow the addition of national fraternities and sororities to campus.
Does anybody believe this? Clearly, Dartmouth's Beta chapter is not going to go dry. And if they affiliate with another national, what really would be the point of re-recognition? They won't be Beta anymore. I would bet anybody that in ten years time Beta remains unaffiliated.

But what is the real problem with the administration breaking their own rules? First, CFS policies represent a sort of unofficial contract between the college and Greek organizations. If a house breaks them, they face probation and de-recognition. It is therefore very hypocritical for Dean Redman to claim that there is no problem with the college's disregard for their policies.

Furthermore, two years ago, a group of women organized in the hopes of forming a seventh sorority, what today is now thriving as Alpha Phi. They petitioned the college to allow it to form temporarily as a local sorority, promising to affiliate with a national as soon as an acceptable national organization was found. The same administrators who waived the rules for Beta this week refused to do so for the women. And this came at a time when a seventh sorority was desperately needed. The college is willing to be flexible with its rules for its disgraced fraternity but not to do so for the group of women who were well-intentioned and addressing a greater campus need. The lack of consistency - and integrity - with these decisions is appalling.

We all know it's about the money of course. But shouldn't the college stand on principles?

Hart on Obama

Longtime Dartmouth Review contributor and former college professor Jeffrey Hart wrote an op-ed in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the inspirational qualities of Barack Obama. Perhaps more than any article I have read before, Professor Hart captures exactly what it is that fueled Obama's sudden rise to the top of national politics. Predicting an Obama presidency, he is also unrestrained in his praise:

Barack Obama is inspirational but he also possesses good political judgment. This provides a factual basis for his inspirational call for hope.

For example, when he was in the Illinois legislature in the Fall of 2002 when President Bush was trying to sell the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama reasoned as follows:

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, of undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses in the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaida. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars...

William F. Buckley Jr. many years ago defined conservatism as "the politics of reality." With his realism about Iraq, Mr. Obama to that extent qualifies as a conservative.
Thanks to Dartlog.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

No Decision Yet

The Dartmouth has a "web update" article up about today's hearing regarding the Association of Alumni's lawsuit. The Grafton County Superior Court judge decided to take the case under advisement and says he will issue a ruling soon.

Student Check-In

Dartmouth has a bizarre "check-in" system for students. Basically, at the beginning of each term, students need to go to "Bannerstudent," a centralized website for information like course schedules and the like, and officially register that they are here for the term. But for the check-in, there are two deadlines. In this term for example, the actual deadline for checking in is January 15, but if you don't do it before January 9, students are fined $50.

What's really annoying, however, is that the Upperclass Deans only send out an email reminding students about checking in after the deadline. Couldn't they send out the email before students get fined $50? Of course not, that wouldn't be beneficial for the college fine money-making operation. Each term, the college must surely be making tens of thousands of dollars off of this, clearly exploiting students in the process. There is absolutely no reasonable explanation for why students should be fined in this case. And it's reflective of a much larger problem. The college uses fines far too frequently. For example, last winter (during all the ice and snow, and salt) I was almost fined for leaving my shoes by the door of my dorm room - and they weren't even in front of the door, they were underneath a closet-like area for jackets. The same extends to parking fines. While the typical fine in the town of Hanover is $20, fines on Dartmouth property are typically $50 or $100, and Safety & Security tickets student cars aggressively.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Dartmouth's Handling of Drug Infractions

Following up his articles about Dartmouth's alcohol policy, Joseph Asch '78 wrote an opinion article about Dartmouth's policy regarding drugs. According to Asch, whenever Safety & Security find drugs, even in the smallest quantities, they alert the Hanover Police about it, who then have the ability to use a search warrant to discover the name of the student who possessed them. This differs from Dartmouth's policy during the Freedman administration which was to only notify the police if the quantity of drugs was large enough that drug trafficking was suspected. Asch concludes:

What could the Wright administration possibly be thinking?

Education should be the College’s goal, not delivering students to the local police and cutting off their financial aid. Can’t the administration find its way to an understanding that certain controlled substances in small quantities constitute a victimless offense by Dartmouth undergraduates? Couldn’t Safety and Security simply oblige students to destroy offending contraband and confiscate any drug paraphernalia that officers might find in the course of their rounds?

Of course I am not advocating that students descend into the hell of reefer madness. But why does the Wright administration come down so hard on students for an activity that is benevolently accepted at every other school in the Ivy League?

Dartmouth presents itself as acting in loco parentis. Well, we should ask just what kind of parents report their own children for a marijuana cigarette butt and a couple of pipes? And what kind of college administration, as its first reflex, turns its students over to the police and jeopardizes their present and future education?

I agree with Asch. Dartmouth has Standards of Conduct and a Committee on Standards to adjudicate offenses. Relying solely on internal measures should be appropriate in cases which involve minor quantities of drugs, just as Dartmouth does not call in the Hanover Police to arrest students every time Safety & Security come across a student who has been drinking. Whenever possible, Dartmouth should strive to have its students not be arrested.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Obama at Dartmouth

Some photos from this morning's Obama rally in Alumni Gym...

The gym was packed, the crowd enthusiastic, and Obama endlessly charismatic. The doors for the event were slated to open at 7:45 am, not the best time for students for sure, but the line to get in was stretching around the tennis courts by 7:25. I got to stand on the bleachers along the side of the gym, holding up and waving signs as part of profile-view backdrop for Obama. Michelle Obama introduced her husband; she is a notably excellent speaker. As Senator Obama entered the gym, he shook hands with a bunch of people. As he approached the audience barrier, a pacifier from a little kid flew in the air and landed out his feet. Nonplussed, he picked it up and handed it back to the kid's mother. Obama's speech was passionate and persuasive, and well delivered. Towards the end of his address, a student in the crowd fainted, which brought the event to a standstill for quite some time until a stretcher was brought in to remove the student. Within seconds of her fainting, before any of the paramedics or police or secret service arrived on the scene, Obama passed his bottle of water to the students around her. He calmed down the crowd and then stood silently and attentively until the student was taken out. He then resumed his remarks and slowly rebuilt the audience's enthusiasm.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Day Before the Primary

Right now, Dartmouth is abuzz about tomorrow's New Hampshire primary. Candidates are making last minute visits to Dartmouth. Obama is coming to Alumni Gym at 7:45 am, Bill Clinton will be at the Hop at 4:45 pm tonight, McCain was at the Hop today at noon, and Richardson was at Hanover High School on Sunday. Larry David is even stopping by my dorm tonight in support of Barack Obama.

Campaigns are doing all they can to get out the vote. A little while ago while I was sleeping, Obama volunteers, trailed by a BBC radio crew, came to my dorm suite and tried to get my roommate to vote for Obama. My room is like a little microcosm of political debate. I'm voting for Obama, while my other roommates are voting for Richardson, Clinton, Huckabee, with a fifth roommate still deciding between Clinton and Obama. The Huckabee supporter and I start talking about politics and the possible outcomes for the primaries until we suddenly realize that we disagree about every single possible issue. Despite the straw poll of my room, I think that the campus is overwhelming for Obama. Given that Dartmouth students make up about half the population of Hanover, it will be interesting to see how the town votes.

I decided to support Obama from his initial candidacy exploration. It's not that I do not like Hillary Clinton - she is my senator and I think she does an excellent job - but as the pundits have been suggesting, I was struck by the message of change that he brought. Like it or not, Clinton would represent a continuation of her husband's presidency. Obama, on the other hand, would represent a new era of the Democratic Party. His ability to inspire makes him the next Kennedy of this election, not unlike Bill Clinton back in 1992.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Zywicki on the Student Life Initiative

I was doing some background research on the history of the Student Life Initiative, looking through the Dartmouth Review's archives (since last spring, The Dartmouth's archives are unfortunately gone), when I came across an old quote from future trustee Todd Zywicki in a January 2000 article about the administration's approach to social life:

Some are alarmed at the broad mandate for control of students' lives that an enforced Principle of Community would give the College. One example of an infraction that the new judicial system would punish, the report says, is last year's 'ghetto party,' a fraternity party that had a theme some students found offensive. The scope of the new 'unified College-wide judiciary system,' then, would include supervision of expressive conduct, including speech. The Principle of Community also seems to apply to casual interpersonal relations and political beliefs, especially beliefs about the educational value of 'diversity' and affirmative action.

'This is brainwashing, pure and simple,' says Todd Zywicki '88, Assistant Professor of Law at George Mason University. 'They want to ensure that students think in the way they desire. This report is an astounding social engineering document and its aim is the re-education of students once they get to Dartmouth. The College doesn't like that it doesn't know what goes on behind the closed doors of a fraternity. They want pervasive supervision of students.'

The dismantling of fraternities and sororities at Dartmouth would mean the end of student-controlled social spaces and the regulation of student social lives by the Dartmouth administration. In this way, campus critics argue, the Social Life Initiative represents the infantilization of students at Dartmouth...

'Greek organizations are Burke's 'little platoons' that link atomized students to the history and legacy of Dartmouth, and act as the mediating institutions that Tocqueville talked about,' says Zywicki. 'Fraternities provide a comfort zone for students to consider and debate uncleansed ideas. That's why Dartmouth wants them broken into atomized pieces, the better to remold them into the new Dartmouth mindset.'

I also found this section of the article really interesting:

Whatever the particular merits of the Greek system, Dartmouth's move to tightly regulate the social lives of students on and off-campus signals the adoption of the in loco parentis role that universities abandoned in the 1960s and 70s in response to student protests. 'Students don't rebel against adult guidance in the way they did 30 years ago,' President Wright told The New York Times last March. Wright's Dartmouth is leading universities in returning to the pre-1960s mission of defining students values—in his case, 'based on Dartmouth's Principle of Community and on adherence to norms of civil behavior.'

It's clearly a break from the past. 'I graduated from college in 1968 and the whole point of going to college then was to get institutions and parents out of my life,' Harry Lewis, Dean of Harvard College, said in the same March 3 Times article. 'I worry about the narrowing impact that such a well-supervised college experience might offer... There is something troubling about students working so hard to fulfill the dreams of others. It makes it harder for them to discover something of their own, get excited and pursue it.'

Zywicki's concerns about the judicial enforcement of the Principle of Community, which did not end up happening, are right on the money. The Principle are incredibly subjective:

The life and work of a Dartmouth student should be based on integrity, responsibility and consideration. In all activities each student is expected to be sensitive to and respectful of the rights and interests of others and to be personally honest. He or she should be appreciative of the diversity of the community as providing an opportunity for learning and moral growth.
The SLI report actually suggested hauling organizations in front of the what became the Organizational Adjudication Committee for failing to provide "moral growth" and for not being "sensitive" and "respectful". Trying to enforce these wishy-washy moral standards would have been a parallel to the House Un-American Activities Committees. Although Dartmouth has stated that the Principle of Community are not judicially enforceable, during the Zeta Psi fiasco this apparently took place anyway, according to a 2001 TDR article:

Dean Redman argued to me, in person, that he was able to punish Psi Upsilon for violating the Principle of Community. Yes, that selfsame Principle of Community that the Student Handbook notes 'in itself is not adjudicable'. The vehicle for this was a requirement of the Minimum Standards that says fraternities and sororities are obliged to incorporate the spirit of the Principle of Community into their charters. Thus, Dean Redman claimed the ability to punish them for violating the spirit Principle of Community. In essence, he is punishing them on the basis of a speech code that applies to 40% of the College's undergraduate population, but not to the other 60%. If these students were not Greeks, their speech would not be punishable (ignoring, for the moment, Redman's asinine views on harassment).

Although the Minimum Standards of that era are gone, the current 89-page CFS handbook does state that Greek organizations must, as a requirement for recognition, "ensure that its conduct, purpose, and activities are consistent with the mission of Dartmouth College and the Dartmouth College Principle of Community," which does seem to contradict the statement that the Principle are not adjudicable.

The entire concept of the Principle of Community is very questionable. Without a doubt, the presence of any racism, sexism, or homophobia at Dartmouth is a serious problem. But these problems cannot be solved by a three sentence edict from the Board of Trustees. Unlike its peers - the Standards of Conduct, the Academic Honor Principle, and the statement on Freedom of Expression and Dissent - the Principle are overwhelmingly vague, leaving it a danger to Greek organizations when its adherence becomes a condition for recognition. Around Dartmouth, it gets placed on the walls of offices and reception rooms. It becomes the justification for every social life recommendation, every decision, every program. It represents the epitome of 21st century quasi-corporate politically-correct head-in-the-sand thinking - the belief that mission statements and the like actually matter, and that decisions should be based around them. Any belief that the Principle of Community have made Dartmouth a more inclusive place is absurd. Dartmouth has become more inclusive because the world is becoming more inclusive and because students are actively seeking to make Dartmouth more inclusive. Certainly, administrators have been making a difference in improving diversity (the fine folks of the Student Life Department, for example), but the belief that Dartmouth can be socially re-engineered from up high with disregard for the things that students care about (i.e. the Greek system) is flat-out misguided. Dartmouth's improved inclusiveness has not occurred because the trustees published a statement twenty-eight years ago or because they aimed a wrecking ball at the Greek system nine years ago.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Anti-Giuliani Event at Dartmouth

The New Yorker's scathing profile of Rudy Giuliani in its January 7 issue contains an interesting reference to anti-Giuliani event at Dartmouth, which I hadn't previously heard about:

Around the time that Giuliani travelled to New Hampshire to make his case to the Letizios and their neighbors, members of the 9/11 Firefighters and Families travelled to New Hampshire to try to undermine it. The group, which consists of relatives of some of the people who died in the World Trade Center attack, rented a basement room at Dartmouth College, and sent out invitations to the local press. A half dozen reporters showed up, along with some firefighters from nearby companies and a few curious members of the Dartmouth staff. The first person to speak was Sally Regenhard, who carried a photograph of her son, Christian, a probationary firefighter who had been on the job for just six months at the time of the disaster.

“He was a person who loved life,” Regenhard said, her voice breaking. “He loved his country. On 9/11, his dreams, and our dreams for him, ended. After 9/11, we started to find out about why my son and other firefighters met a brutal and needless death. We started to find out about things like the radios and the lack of unified command structure. We were shocked. We were heartbroken. But we were very determined that our children, our loved ones, had to have a legacy. And that had to be a legacy of truth.

“Our group does not endorse any political candidate,” she went on. “Our group represents registered Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, and Right to Life Party members. We’re here because we need to point out the mistakes that occurred in New York City on 9/11, because we want people to know the truth about Rudy Giuliani running for President on a false hero issue.”

Also, the New Yorker's excellent (and frightening) Giuliani quiz.