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The Dartmouth
February 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Klein Should Gain Better Understanding of College Governance and Apologize to Wright

To the Editor:

It is regrettable that Aaron Klein, '98 will not learn from people far better informed than he is about Former Dean of Faculty, Former Acting President and currently Provost James Wright. And, even more basically, about the structure of the College's governance. Doubtless he means well. But he's got the data wrong.

In his reply to his critics ["When Two Wright's Still Make a Wrong," Oct. 30] he stubbornly defends his Oct. 15 column ["Faculty Politics Adulterate Appointment Process"] as merely a mild and fairminded call for faculty procedures to be followed. Granted that point--recognized by all now--that if faculty procedures had been followed to the letter, this tangle of unfortunate events would not have happened.

But Klein's Oct. 15 column went far beyond that unremarkable thesis. If he thinks that his comments were fairminded and mild, he needs to reread what he wrote. To wit:

  1. He granted pro forma that President Freedman might have "wanted to reward Wright for what he considered a good reign as Dean of Faculty." But then he could not resist adding speculatively that "perhaps he [President Freedman] had some completely ulterior purpose, either good or bad." An unnamed "completely ulterior purpose"? Mr. Klein should know that professional journalists have a term for this sort of assertion: the cheapshot blind item.

  2. He then adds that some faculty leaders may have started the petition in favor of Acting Provost Wright because they "truly thought that Wright was doing a great job." On the other hand, he adds--and here comes a, clever NY Post tabloid touch--"probably [sic] they are trying to cover their backs just in case Wright becomes [permanent] Provost." Does his read like fairminded, carefully considered journalism?

  3. Finally, Klein dismisses the proWright petition signed by more than 60 percent of us on the Faculty as just "a load of bull". He suggests rather crudely that faculty members signed the petition out of fear of some possible future retaliation by Professor Wright against those who were not his "friends." On the contrary, we signed it gladly. Klein's claim is false and insulting.

But it also helpfully reveals basic problems with him as a commentator on the College. He seems not to understand the difference between a Dean of Faculty and a Provost. A Dean of Faculty does have authority -- within specified limits -- over the curricular side of the College: departments, programs and faculty. But Dean Wright stepped down from that post this past June. A Provost, Acting or Permanent, has no curricular authority. His or her province is the supervision of the extracurricular structures of the College: Baker Library, the Hop, the Hood Museum, sports facilities and the like.

Professor Wright is not a person who retaliates. But even if, contrary to his nature, he wished to do so, he could not influence any longer the realm of the Dean of Faculty. No Provost can. Klein should get himself clued in on this. And then offer Professor Wright an apology.