Tucker's Lord alienates some student leaders

by Tracy Landers | 5/9/02 5:00am

Stuart Lord, the Dean of the Tucker Foundation has worked at a feverish pitch since coming to Dartmouth two years ago, but some student leaders say he has had a polarizing effect on the Foundation.

Program chairs and interns who work with Lord tend to fall into one of two categories -- those who see Lord as a charismatic, positive role model, and those who take issue with his aggressive leadership style. The same characteristics that many identified as Lord's greatest strengths as a leader, other students viewed as serious weaknesses.

While all students contacted by The Dartmouth affirmed Lord's passionate commitment to the organization, there was very little middle ground on which they agreed about the dean's methods and personality.

Due to their current and future involvement with Tucker, many students chose to speak anonymously about the negative experiences they've had with Lord.

A common theme that emerged in interviews was amazement at the amount of time and energy that Lord brings to his job as dean. Often arriving early in the morning and staying past midnight to meet with students, Lord works as much as 80 hours per week.

"If I was running Tucker I wouldn't do it the way he does in terms of time commitments, but I hope I would be able to bring that level of dedication," Jeff Garrett '02 said.

Garrett, who is the Tucker Urban Summer Intern and has been involved in Tucker since Lord's arrival, said he sees Lord as a role model because of his interest in education and the fact that he is an African-American male.

The downside of Lord's high-energy style, according to several students, is a tendency to alienate students who do not share his vision of how the Tucker Foundation should recruit volunteers."Once you have office hours with Dean Lord, you don't leave without having a project to do. So he basically forces people into doing things that probably they weren't cut or suited or interested in doing," one of the male Dartmouth Community Service chairs said.

While several other chairs shared similar views, Lord had a different interpretation of his recruitment practices. He said he tried to match the passions and talents of students with programs that could accommodate their level of commitment.

Lord emphasized that one of his main goals was to make Tucker a more diverse organization, and that "there is nowhere on campus that [he] hasn't recruited students."

According to some student leaders, Lord's recruitment efforts have attracted predominantly male athletes and fraternity brothers, and that these new members have not had an entirely positive effect on the foundation.

"It is great that he's bringing in new people, but he does so by making them feel like they can do 'service' within their comfort zone ... While this sounds elitist, certain parts of Tucker strive to get students out of their comfort zones," a female student chair said.

Adam Tanney '02 and Jeff Guenette, two male athletes who work closely with Lord as civic interns, expressed different views.

"I think he's targeting athletes and members of the Greek system because they are the underrepresented groups in the Tucker Foundation," Guenette said. Guenette, Tanney and Garrett each said that they would not have been attracted to the Tucker Foundation if not for Lord's mentoring and guidance.

Lord is himself very athletic, and regularly lift weights at the gym twice a day. Three different student leaders said that they thought Lord specifically recruited athletes based on contact he had with them in the gym.

Lord directly addressed this issue, saying, "I haven't recruited anyone I work out with. My workout partners are not related to Dartmouth, they're people in the community." He continued, "I recruit by my presence" throughout the campus.

Another issue raised by the student chairs was Lord's creation of new ventures such as the Summer Education and Enrichment at Dartmouth program and the Cross-Cultural Program in Nicaragua. They said the new programs diverted the dean's time, attention and discretionary funds away from already-established programs.

"His emphasis is on creating new programs rather than paying attention to the programs that are already there, which means his leadership is not responsive to the needs of the community," another female chair said.

Guenette and other leaders expressed a different perspective concerning Lord's new projects.

"I don't think that there is a non-focus on the old projects, I just think there is a development of new projects to go along with the old projects," Guenette said.

Though several students said they didn't agree with Lord's methods, each acknowledged that the new dean has increased funds for all Tucker programs due to his enthusiastic fundraising abilities.

"His persona is a selling point for Tucker Foundation in terms of bringing in donations," Garrett said. At the same time, a male chair said that he didn't think Lord was a good "people person" because of his occasionally unprofessional treatment of his employees.

Several students mentioned an incident in which Lord reprimanded a Tucker employee in front of a group of volunteers.

Another complaint many students have mentioned is Lord's inability to remember students' names. The male chair quoted above, who has been a leader at Tucker for much of his Dartmouth career, said Lord still doesn't know his name.

Lord acknowledged his problem, saying, "I am the worst with names. If I have one sin, and I have many, it's the name thing." Laughing, Lord continued, "But when someone does something obnoxious or out of the ordinary, I'll remember their name."

"Stuart needs everyone to wear name tags," Rebecca Bliss, the Fellowships and Internships Coordinator, said.

Lord's leadership style is closely linked to his personality, which has been variously described as engaging, confrontational, dynamic, aggressive, methodical, enthusiastic and intimidating.

Dave Morse '03 captured these contradictions when he said, "both perspectives on Dean Lord are correct ... He cares and wants to make a difference with so much power that it gets in the way sometimes with the way he interacts with the people around him."

Lord said he was concerned with the fact that he is perceived to be intimidating, though he said he is frequently made aware of this fact.

"I've been told I'm intimidating since I was 10 years old. I had a trustee tell me a couple weeks ago I was intimidating," he said, going on, "I'm intimidating because I'm passionate, and what I do really matters, and I care and I'm enthusiastic. Some people just don't like that kind of energy."

Lord and several students, such as Morse, said the dean's physical size also adds to his potential to be intimidating.

"I'm not a little guy. Sometimes I have to sit laying down in my chair to hide that I'm so big," Lord said, adding that his cultural background and African-American identity also created a problem for some people.

Several of the student leaders, including Morse, said that Lord is especially intimidating to women, and that he deals better with male students.

"Tucker is disproportionately female, but Dean Lord is really surrounded by a lot of males. You see the males who are close to him getting a lot of time and special attention. These are not necessarily males who have worked themselves up through the ranks of leadership in Tucker," a female chair said.

Lord said he was aware that could be intimidating to women, which he said was a problem because he is concerned with female issues and considers himself a women's advocate.

"Behind that intimidation is a person who cares about people ... when people decide to get past that, then they realize we have a lot in common," Lord said to dispel the idea that intimidation is a threat to the effectiveness of his institution.

Lord also said, "You want me to be less passionate? You want me to lose 100 pounds or gain 200 pounds? I can't change some of those things but I am totally aware of them and am trying to work within them."

Not all, or even most, female students feel intimidated by Lord. Pamela Cogut '03, chair of the SEED program, said she has always felt comfortable in the dean's presence.

"One of the things that struck me most is that he is extremely good one-on-one with individuals," Cogut said. She said she admired the way Lord has made Tucker a more visible part of campus life.

According to several students who are personal friends of Lord, the 43-year-old dean is a self-made man who grew up in foster care, went to public school in upstate New York and earned an athletic scholarship to Texas Christian University. He went to get separate Masters degrees in divinity and theology from Princeton Seminary and worked for 13 years at DePauw University in Indiana.

About his personal motivation he said, "It's not a drive to succeed or to get things done, it's a passion to help people. The world needs a lot of people paying attention to other people."

To deal with recent student complaints, Lord instituted office hours for the first time this week. He said he didn't realize that this was a common practice among Dartmouth professors and administrators alike.

He also said he would ask the community service chairs to compose a "letter to the Foundation" during their next retreat, in which they could voice all their concerns coherently. He said he would respond to the letter in writing a week later.

Though Lord is a controversial figure on campus, most students recognize that has done good work even if they disagree with how he goes about doing it.

"As with all types of people, you have to take the good with the bad ... He's a very unusual guy," Garrett concluded.