Academic report released to criticism

by Liz Gannes | 11/14/00 6:00am

The faculty responded with criticism to the preliminary report of the provost's "Academic Plan" at a general meeting yesterday.

The report is a broad outline of perceived challenges the College faces looking to the future, and ways in which it may overcome these potential obstacles.

Its topics range greatly from how to attract faculty to Dartmouth's rural setting and comparatively small student body to understanding the global misconceptions associated with the use of the very word "college."

The report outlines changes to the College's physical infrastructure such as the construction of more beds and the expansion of Thayer and Collis Halls, and the need to reevaluate graduate programs.

The report includes the most specific plans for change in the area of "faculty preeminence" -- enumerating 11 precise reforms to "recruit, retain and support outstanding teacher-scholars."

This is also the area which generated the most heat by those faculty members in attendance.

Faculty speakers acknowledged their support for the spirit of the plan, but argued with its language and direction, much of which puts financial resources at center stage.

In an interview with The Dartmouth, Provost Susan Prager, who drafted the report, said "The idea is to go through a process which begins to shape some sense of very broad direction which will direct Dartmouth's next broad fundraising campaign.

"We need to stay sharply focused on how we can, over time, build a truly excellent faculty, and from that will grow the continuation of a superb student body," she continued.

Physics Professor Jay Lawrence told The Dartmouth he found the premise that fundraising is directly correlated to the ability to hire professors -- which he said the presentation suggested -- disturbing.

"It's a shame that the need for more faculty should rely on the capital campaign," he said.

Especially active in the discussion was humanities and English professor Donald Pease, who delivered a spirited oratory on the possibility of a long-term ideological shift towards "consumerist and quantitative" objectives that could result from the "collapse of the distinction between liberal arts and graduate schools."

Additional comments regarded, for example, a perception of haste in the plan's discussion, the dismissal of the utility and opinions of adjunct professors, and the repetition of the term "diversity" compared to the near racial-homogeneity of the faculty.

Many faculty members were concerned about how their feedback would be incorporated into revised versions of the report.

Wright committed to a follow-up meeting, but cautioned against interpretation of the plan as "a reorganization of values."

He said, "the document is an effort to talk about themes -- to bring together a lot of people and a lot of priorities," and assured the faculty that "the strength of the academic program is critical as we go forward."

The meeting also included a report on the update of the "College Master Plan" -- including explanation of maps of possibilities for the redesign and expansion of the campus -- by Associate Provost Margaret Dyer Chamberlain and Campus Master Planner Lo-Yi Chan.