U. of Chicago president visits campus

by Regis Ahern | 11/8/99 6:00am

As chair of the reaccreditation committee that visited the College two weeks ago, Hugo Sonnenschein -- president of the University of Chicago -- praised Dartmouth's intimate college community as well as its increasingly-respected role as a national research university.

In an interview with The Dartmouth this week, Sonnenschein said he was impressed with the faculty's commitment to its students as well as the strength of the physical layout of the campus.

Sonnenschein was at the College from October 24 to 27 as part of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges' reaccreditation process, which takes place every ten years in order to determine whether or not an institution is fit for academic education.

Dartmouth has never failed to be reaccredited.

While on campus, Sonnenschein -- who was a renowned economist before becoming the president of the U. of Chicago in 1992 -- met with President James Wright, students, faculty and staff to get a wide and diverse picture of the school.

"It is a pleasure to visit Dartmouth. It is a wonderful college/university. One expects that there will be great appreciation for what Dartmouth is able to do," Sonnenschein said.

"The dual mission of Dartmouth is to try and be the very best of both a university and a college," Sonnenschein said. And to that end, Sonnenschein said that Dartmouth is succeeding.

In terms of a university, Sonnenschein pointed to the research opportunities that exist at Dartmouth, as well as the library and other facilities.

"Dartmouth is outstanding as a research university, and in the research that it emphasizes," said Sonnenschein.

As a college, Sonnenschein commented on the attention paid to students and the ability of Dartmouth to teach them.

"There were remarks by our committee on the strength of the faculty and their devotion to Dartmouth," Sonnenschein said.

"There is a very strong sense of what the place wants to be. There is a wonderful sense of community, and everyone is very conscious of the location," Sonnenschein said, "There is great pride among the members of the community."

He also noted that Dartmouth's physical plant was excellent, and provided the necessary resources for students and faculty alike.

Sonnenschein declined to comment on the Social and Residential Life Initiative at Dartmouth, saying he was not qualified to make any sort of judgement.

"Our areas of special study did not bring us into particular contact with the Greek system, or student life aspects," he said.

Sonnenschein -- who has been president of the U. of Chicago for seven years --is also known for developing a well-known economic theory entitled the Debreu-Sonnenschein-Mantel (DSM) theorem relating to supply and demand economics.

In addition, he was one of a group of college and university presidents that helped to advise President Bill Clinton on issues of financing higher education.

Under Sonnenschein, the U. of Chicago has embarked upon a $650 million campaign to improve the university's facilities.

Joining Sonnenschein on the eight-member visiting committee were faculty from other top colleges and institutions across the country, including Stanford, Princeton, Yale and Amherst.

"Because of the quality of Dartmouth College, people were selected from very strong colleges and universities," Sonnenschein said.

"It is a balance of people with college and university experience. Interestingly, we were all from private colleges or universities. We bring a variety of backgrounds. They are looking for a variety of expertise," Sonnenschein said.

Although the committee has not yet completed the final reports, they expect to have them completed within the coming weeks. Once it is finalized, the report will be shared with both the NEASC and Dartmouth. It is customary for Dartmouth to make the report public.

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