A Student-Oriented Focus
To the Editor:
I attend Dartmouth College (that's right, Dartmouth College, not Dartmouth University), and I am very aware of the fact that Dartmouth is proud of this distinction. When I came here as a prospective, this was hammered into my brain to no end. "We are considered a college and not a university because of our unrivaled commitment to undergraduates." This was one of the primary reasons for my choice to come here. And as my first year at Dartmouth comes to a close, I would say that, for the most part, Dartmouth deserves the title "college." I could never have imagined how warm and enthusiastic the professors would be the moment I first walked into their offices. They all, every single one, have taken great interest and responsibility in my development far beyond the call of duty. Or maybe not. Maybe such dedication and enthusiasm is not beyond the call of duty at Dartmouth. Maybe this is why Dartmouth is a college and not a university.
Despite the positive digressions above, however, my primary reason for writing is frustration, frustration with the fact that the best professor I've encountered thus far in my Dartmouth career, who is currently on the tenure track, may not get it for all the wrong reasons. I repeat, this person is the best professor I've encountered thus far at Dartmouth, and he or she may not get tenure. Going back to my above statement, yes, the professors here are amazing, and yes, their commitment to students is equally amazing. But I ask you, how can the great tenure-track professors at Dartmouth College be committed to the students if they're not allowed to stay? How could this professor have made me know that I was at the right college for ME, right from day one, if the he or she hadn't even been here? Of course, it couldn't have happened, and I thank my lucky stars frequently that the tenure decision for this person has not yet arrived. But if he or she is not granted tenure, then what of the class of 2014? Why should those students 10 years my junior not have the same exposure to this wonderful professor that I have had?
My point is this: non-student-oriented facets of a professor's duties should not be the primary factor determining whether or not tenure is granted. As I said before, I came to Dartmouth because of the great professors and their commitment to the students (i.e. because Dartmouth is a college), and that, I trust, is exactly why brilliant students will continue to come to Dartmouth in the future -- that is, unless the best professors are let go because they didn't get their quotas of papers published, or because they weren't invited to speak at a sufficient number of symposiums. Dartmouth must hang on to these gems if it intends to retain its prestigious distinction as a college with "unrivaled commitment to the undergraduates." How, if we are so centered around student-professor relations, can we afford to let the best professors go? I maintain that Dartmouth should put more emphasis on student evaluations and recommendations when pondering tenure grants and denials. After all, in a recent conversation about tenure, the aforementioned stated that it would be hard to decide from which students to ask recommendations. "There are simply too many who would write me rave reviews. How do I choose?" If that statement doesn't merit tenure, but publications do, then how long will it be before reclusive, research-oriented professors replace the pedagogical geniuses with whom we lucky students are now able to study? I ask you, students of Dartmouth, did you come here to learn from writers or professors?