College interacts sparingly with N.H.

by Rachel Osterman | 10/9/02 5:00am

Dartmouth's alma mater touts the granite of New Hampshire. The governor of the Granite State has an ex officio seat on Dartmouth's Board of Trustees. The New Hampshire cold is something that College students proudly endure.

And yet Dartmouth and its home state have almost nothing to do with each other.

Officials from the state and the College almost never meet. New Hampshire almost never requests the kind of research it asks of professors at, say, the University of New Hampshire. And the kind of internship programs between the state and other New Hampshire schools don't exist for Dartmouth students.

"Dartmouth really doesn't have a relationship with New Hampshire," Provost Barry Scherr said. "I go to a lot of overseer meetings, and I almost never see state officials there."

Much of that lack of relationship has to do with funding -- Dartmouth doesn't receive any from Concord.

In states where private universities do receive state aid, all institutions are virtually required to keep in touch with the legislature and other state agencies. In New York, for example, Albany is on the minds of administrators at Columbia, New York University and almost all private colleges.

Officials attribute the disconnect between Dartmouth and New Hampshire's government to a lack of initiative on the state's part as well as Dartmouth's.

"Sometimes in state government, we keep doing the same things without sitting down and pausing," said Gene Chandler, Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. "There may be ways we could help each other, with courses, training, internships. It's something to think about."

Chandler added that he doesn't regard Dartmouth as "a bad neighbor" and "that we are proud to have this great institution here."

Scherr agreed that the College could also do more with the state.

"I could see more examples of us providing the expertise and the initial ideas," he said. "I could imagine other development projects that could go forward, especially things that help the economy of the state."

Dartmouth's non-relationship with New Hampshire is particularly strange since the College -- through its land grants -- is one of the largest landowners in the Granite State. But property taxes in New Hampshire are administered locally, which means the College doesn't directly pay anything into state coffers.

Even Governor Jeanne Shaheen never attends the Board of Trustee meetings to which she is nominally invited , as the ex officio position is more a remnant of Dartmouth's 18th century charter than a contemporary expectation.

Not only does Dartmouth's upper administration rarely have contact with the state government, but no Dartmouth offices do either. Dartmouth's Tucker Foundation purposefully avoids affiliation with state social service agencies.

"We don't have affiliations directly with state agencies because our primary objective is to promote leadership and moral imagination in students through the medium of community service," Director of Community Services Jan Tarjan said.

The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is the exception to the rule. The hospital, which is affiliated with but is not part of Dartmouth College, does receive money from the state.

For example DHMC's "Let No Woman Be Overlooked" breast and cervical cancer program is funded through a state grant under the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. The DHMC also works with hospitals throughout the state in clinics, referral services and professional training.

Another exception is a new biotech nology incubator project that Dartmouth has been involved in and that, if developed, could help bring some small companies into the area. The project started as a state initiative less than a year ago.

The project's organizers "decided to support a site near Dartmouth, and partly because of that we set up a small committee here to start talking to a couple of groups that we would be interested in," Scherr said.

As part of the collaboration, Dartmouth has promised to provide office space at Centerra Park if the project gets enough state funding to start.

There may also be something ephemeral at work in Dartmouth's scant relationship with the state, said Dartmouth's Vice President for Public Affairs Bill Walker.

Dartmouth, he said, rarely identifies with New Hampshire.

"Dartmouth is defined by its people," Walker said. "We have students and faculty from all over the country and the world. The identity is in the people, not the state. Though there is a sense of New England pride."