An Inappropriate Attack

by Peter Ulric Tse | 11/15/04 6:00am

To the Editor:

I was saddened to read Jon Appleton's Wednesday op-ed piece criticizing our new faculty dean, Carol Folt, in a largely ad hominem manner ("Dean of Faculty Gets an F," The Dartmouth, November 10). I supported Michael Gazzaniga's goals for improving quality at Dartmouth, and was also angered by his ouster. However, both sides in that struggle need to bury the hatchet now and put the greater good of Dartmouth above any possible feelings of bitterness or desires for revenge. Dartmouth has an unnecessarily divided faculty, and a period of healing has been in order since the rift over Gazzaniga's departure. I have been pleasantly surprised by the degree of healing that has taken place under Folt's few months of leadership. I hope Appleton's critique remains an isolated attack, and not the start of more attacks that reopen old wounds. Shooting holes in the other end of the boat sinks both ends.

In 1980, as a freshman here, I attended an inspiring talk by College President John Kemeny in which he laid out a vision of Dartmouth's future. He envisioned Dartmouth as a university that united excellent teaching with world-class research laboratories and graduate programs in any department that wanted one. He saw teaching and research as mutually enhancing, not mutually detrimental. His model was, I suspect, his own undergraduate institution: Princeton. Since Kemeny's time, Dartmouth has successfully realized Kemeny's vision to the point where Dartmouth is now a university in all but name. In 1980 Dartmouth was the king of the colleges, the best of the pile that included Amherst and Swarthmore. Now it has become closer to Princeton, while holding on to the best of what it means to be an undergraduate college. But Dartmouth is still in transition, part Princeton and part Amherst. I see the resentments between faculty members in the different divisions as most fundamentally a conflict of vision over what we want Dartmouth to be. If Dartmouth is going down in the rankings, it is because we have not fully committed to the ideal of becoming a world-class research/teaching university and because, in relative terms, other universities, once well behind us, such as Duke, Brown, NYU, Vanderbilt and Wash U, have made a complete commitment to this ideal and have climbed the ranks year by year, displacing us downward. Despite lower rankings, Dartmouth is a much stronger and better institution than it was when I was an undergraduate here. I think Kemeny realized that his efforts would take a couple of generations to complete, and that he would not live to see the fruits of his efforts. Once Dartmouth unites behind a common vision and decides what it wants to be, I am confident that the rankings will improve. I feel that Kemeny's vision is the right one for Dartmouth. I also feel that there is no going back to a romanticized college on the hill. The 21st century belongs to research dedicated to unifying all of human knowledge so that eventually the divisions we have now will seem arbitrary.

The divisions should not be divided for another reason. In order to be an educated person, one must have a deep understanding of what is in nature (science), and what is and ought to be in society (the social sciences) and in human beings (the humanities). The sciences and humanities are both essential to a full education. All of us share a common mission of educating ourselves and our students with the goal of liberating minds. The conference that Appleton blames on Folt was in fact initiated by Gazzaniga, and discussed exactly the problem of how best to liberate minds through education. The consensus (and Carol Folt attended, while Jon Appleton did not) was that the humanities and sciences can and must cooperate to liberate minds, and that the two are mutually beneficial.

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