Inside look into the members of Dartmouth's administration

by Alex Fredman | 9/10/18 9:00am

Many students go through four years at Dartmouth with few, if any, direct interactions with members of the administration, even though many administrators work near the center of campus in Parkhurst Hall. Yet these individuals, though distant at times from students, take actions and make decisions every day that significantly affect the Dartmouth student body.

The five top administrators at the College, who supervise Dartmouth’s undergraduate experience, are the President, Provost, Dean of the College, Dean of the Faculty and Executive Vice President. Three of these individuals spoke with The Dartmouth in interviews about their roles on campus.

President of Dartmouth College

The President of the College is the school’s highest-ranking administrator overseeing all aspects of life at Dartmouth, including its graduate schools and advanced degree programs. In addition to supervising other administrators, the Office of the President directly oversees the following departments: athletics, communications, investments, visa & immigration services and office of the general counsel.

The current president is Philip J. Hanlon ’77, who came to office in 2013 after serving as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan. His predecessor, Jim Yong Kim, was named head of the World Bank by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Hanlon’s scholarly background is mathematics, and he still teaches a course in first-year calculus.

Hanlon’s tenure has been marked by significant changes at the College, including the launching of several new programs such as the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, the DEN Innovation Lab and a $3 billion capital campaign, The Call to Lead. He has also overseen the derecognition of two fraternities, Alpha Delta — of which he was a brother — and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The largest and arguably most controversial change brought by Hanlon is Moving Dartmouth Forward, a program launched in 2015 to reform student life on campus, which included the creation of a new residential housing system and the imposition of a hard alcohol ban. MDF has been met with mixed approval among the Dartmouth community. A survey of the Class of 2018 conducted by The Dartmouth from May 27 to June 4 found that 18 percent of outgoing students approved of Moving Dartmouth Forward, while 24 percent approved of Hanlon’s performance.

Provost

The Provost is the chief academic officer at the College and is the second-highest ranking administration official at Dartmouth. In addition to providing oversight of Dartmouth’s undergraduate education and its graduate programs, the Provost directs a variety of other departments, including admissions and financial aid, library services, the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, The William Jewett Center, the Hood Museum and the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

David Kotz ’86, a computer science professor at Dartmouth, is the interim provost serving until the end of October. Kotz took over as interim provost last fall when his predecessor, Carolyn Dever, stepped down from her position to become a member of the English department faculty.

As Dartmouth’s second-highest ranking administrator, the provost is often tasked with performing ad hoc duties. For example, when the town of Hanover announced that it would not give the College a permit for this fall’s Homecoming bonfire because of safety concerns, Kotz and other college officials negotiated with the town to set up a task force to explore new options.

In addition to serving as chief academic officer, the provost also plays a major role in the formulation of Dartmouth’s yearly budget. Kotz said that although the College’s 2019 fiscal year has just started, work on the 2020 budget will start soon. He added that the provost’s role in the budget project can be difficult because of a scarcity of resources to fund every proposal.

“There are a lot of great ideas and worthy causes on campus — things that would be worth funding or doing,” Kotz said. “But we don’t always have the funding or the bandwidth to take them all on.”

Joseph Helble, the current dean of the Thayer School of Engineering, will take over as provost in November. Kotz said that he has been working closely with Helble since he was appointed, and that Helble has the qualifications necessary for the job.

Dean of the College

The Dean of the College is the senior administration official overseeing all aspects of undergraduate life at Dartmouth. In addition to being in charge of undergraduate academic affairs, the Dean also directs several departments related to student life on campus such as the College health service, office of residential life, Judicial Affairs, outdoor programs, the Collis Center and the undergraduate deans.

Kathryn Lively, a sociology professor and the South House professor, was appointed interim Dean of the College on July 1. Lively, who will serve a one-year term as interim dean, replaced Rebecca Biron, who stepped down from her position to return to teaching and research in the Spanish and comparative literature departments.

Lively joined the Dartmouth faculty in 2002 and has served as the South House professor since the inception of the new housing system. In a June interview with The Dartmouth, Lively said she was initially concerned about her candidacy for the interim dean position because she remained committed to her house professorship, but that she still enthusiastically accepted the offer.

While she was Dean of the College, Biron co-chaired a task force last year exploring the possibility of expanding the College’s undergraduate student population by 10 to 25 percent, a scenario that was met with skepticism from the Dartmouth community. The College’s Board of Trustees eventually decided against expanding the enrollment.

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences oversees all faculty that teach undergraduate courses at Dartmouth. Dean Elizabeth Smith has just finished her first year in the position.

“It’s all about the faculty,” Smith said. Her responsibilities, she added, include faculty recruitment, retention, promotion and general, though not direct, oversight of curricula.

Smith is now in her 20th year at Dartmouth, having served three years as the chair of the biological sciences department and then two years as associate dean for the sciences. The Dean of Faculty has four associate deans who oversee the College’s undergraduate academic divisions: arts & humanities, sciences, social sciences and international studies & interdisciplinary programs.

Smith said that while the best part of her job is being able to work with and on behalf of the faculty, the most difficult part involves disciplinary actions against Dartmouth professors. This summer, after a months-long investigation by the College into sexual misconduct allegations, Smith recommended termination of three psychological and brain sciences professors — Todd Heatherton, Paul Whalen and William Kelley — who are now no longer associated with the College.

“It is extraordinarily rare that a recommendation is made for termination,” Smith said. “I hope I don’t have to do that again as long as I am Dean of the Faculty.”

When Smith’s predecessor, government professor Michael Mastanduno, ended his term last year, Native Studies professor N. Bruce Duthu ’80 was appointed for the position. Although his appointment was met with wide approval from the faculty, Duthu eventually declined the position after receiving criticism from some faculty and Dartmouth community members over a 2013 statement that he signed criticizing the Israeli government, suporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement.

Smith said she took this job because she loves the Dartmouth faculty and enjoys providing them with resources to fulfill their ideas. She encourages students to take advantage of what the faculty have to offer.

“It’s an incredible group of faculty that we have here, and if all you do is sit in class, you’ve missed a huge opportunity,” Smith said.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

As the College’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Rick Mills oversees a wide variety of departments including finance, human resources, facilities, operations and maintenance, campus services and Safety & Security.

Mills described his job as roughly equivalent to that of a chief operating officer, and said he spends a significant share of his time on renovating and updating Dartmouth’s facilities and working on the College’s yearly operating budget. For example, when the College considered increasing the size of undergraduate enrollment last year, Mills was responsible for analyzing whether and how a growth in population could be implemented given the state of Dartmouth’s facilities.

Mills also oversaw the creation of conceptual plans earlier this year to build new student dormitories in College Park, an undeveloped area of campus. Although the College currently faces a shortage in housing and needs to build more dormitories in order to renovate existing buildings, the College Park plan was met with resistance from members of the Dartmouth community. Particularly, the physics and astronomy department raised concerns that new dormitories would threaten nearby Shattuck Observatory, one of the oldest college astronomical observatories in the country. The College eventually shelved the plan, and Mills said that different sites are being explored for new dormitories.

Mills is a lawyer by trade and came to Dartmouth in 2013 after two decades working in administrative services, most recently as executive dean of administration at Harvard Medical School. Such a role, Mills noted, can often involve making tough decisions about who gets what when it comes to distributing finite amounts of money.

“There are never enough resources to fund all the great ideas that exist at Dartmouth,” Mills said.