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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Wright places College in higher ed. spectrum

Dean of the Faculty James Wright delivered his annual address to the faculty of the arts and sciences yesterday afternoon, describing Dartmouth's place among institutions of American higher education and the benefits of the Will to Excel capital campaign.

Wright said there is a spectrum of colleges and institutions in the country.

They "range from small teaching colleges to large research universities," Wright said. "The spectrum is not a hierarchy, though."

Wright said a teaching college puts an emphasis on teaching its undergraduate students and instilling in them a breadth of knowledge in many disciplines.

The faculty of a teaching college "is equally recognized," Wright said. "Merit is recognized but given no preferential treatment."

A research university concentrates "on emphasizing research activities and graduate students," Wright said. Those institutions have a "faculty meritocracy" where "the research of some members of the faculty is far more important than others."

"Dartmouth tries to blend the best of a teaching college and a research university," Wright said. "Beginning with President [of the College] John Dickey we have recruited more research-oriented faculty."

"Dartmouth is now considered a national university," he said.

Wright said he thinks Dartmouth has changed since he became a member of the faculty 27 years ago.

"We have changed in structure," he said. "But we have done so without compromising our traditional practices."

Wright reported to the faculty that the College has been more successful in applying for and receiving grant money and recruiting faculty in recent years.

He said Dartmouth has a significantly smaller arts and sciences faculty than the 13 other schools the College was compared to in a study conducted by the National Research Council.

Wright said the implications are the College needs to "seek to identify ways to compete aggressively" and be more explicit in goals and prudent in decisions."

Wright also spoke about the balance between scholarship and classroom work necessary for tenure.

"Dartmouth has formulated a balance of teaching and research," Wright said. "Dartmouth wants comparable excellence in both."

"It is critical to note that the strength in research has not come at the expense of teaching," he said.

Wright said he aims to improve the quality of education at the College without changing its nature. He said students come to the College because of its reputation as a quality learning experience and excellent faculty.

Wright also spoke about the effects of the successful Will to Excel fundraising program.

"My top priority was to be able to stop cutting back the faculty's budget," he said.

Wright said he was happy the successful fundraising campaign allowed the College to expand, endow and secure many of the activities previously subjected to budget cuts.

He said the money also will go to fund renovations for classrooms all around campus, in particular three 'smart' classrooms in Dartmouth Hall, Silsby Hall and Fairchild Hall.

"We now have the money to pay for replacement of instructional equipment, keep doing renovations and pay students for work done while completing their culminating experience," he said.

Wright said there will be a need to assess enrollment patterns after the graduation of the Classes of 1998 or 1999 to evaluate the new degree requirements that go into effect with the Class of 1998.

Wright also spoke about finding new ways to encourage and support senior faculty members.

"Being awarded tenure should not be a concluding event," he said.

"I want to identify and recognize those who are examples of excellence rather than try to catch a few who are not," he said. "We expect to have an opportunity to recognize those who excel in the classroom and we recognize we haven't been doing an adequate job of that."

In order to recognize those teachers that stand out in the classroom, a new kind of questionnaire will be handed out to seniors at the end of Winter term. This new form will take into account that some professors teach large and popular classes while others tend to have smaller and higher level courses.