Dear Dr. Kim

by Phil Aubart | 4/3/09 2:25am

Now that the 17th President of our fine institution has been selected and introduced to the community, we need to take advantage of the great opportunity for change accompanies this occasion. Think about it, we have the chance to influence a man who has no ties to Dartmouth College, and who does not have a lot of predispositions on key issues such as the makeup of the Board of Trustees. He has not spent the last 11 years promoting administrative bloat. Thus, Kim will start with a blank slate with regard to budget cuts, and can truly focus on making Dartmouth the best college it can be. President Wright, alas, seemed to get a little caught up in creating a university. Unfortunately President-elect Kim has a nice little history with Harvard, but it looks good on the resume, I suppose, and we all have our faults.

Therefore, ideally to provoke discussion and then action, I would like to offer my ideas on what President-elect Kim should do -- particularly in contrast to what President Wright has done.

First off, I want to remind President-elect Kim of a fact that drew many of us to choose Dartmouth over other schools. Dartmouth is a college and not a university. I understand that President-elect Kim is very fond of research and of graduate schools. However, I urge him to remember that Dartmouth is first and foremost committed to the excellent undergraduate education it still offers -- or at least it should be. My main concern is that he will grow Dartmouth into a little, second-rate Harvard. I firmly believe that our two options are to remain a first-rate college or to become a second-rate research institution.

This is not to say that I do not see the value of research in an undergraduate education. I have many friends who have served as research assistants, and I myself was able to work one-on-one with a professor helping him with his research. I applaud these opportunities, but I do not think support of research should in any way come at the detriment of the undergraduate education.

We should support our medical, business and engineering schools. They are some of the finest in the country. But we should not form new graduate schools or encourage professors to spend more time researching and less time teaching. Dartmouth is a fully sustainable institution the way it is. Last I checked, we had no deficit in qualified applicants.

Second, I encourage President-elect Kim to address the staffing concerns in our most popular departments -- something the Wright administration has failed to do. I understand that the College doesn't hire professors in response to uncharacteristic spikes in majors. However, government and economics have long been two of the favored majors of Dartmouth students, and are still sorely lacking in courses for the number of interested students. We're not talking about hiring more professors because of a one-year spike in astronomy majors.

Third, in this period of budget cuts, I encourage President-elect Kim to take a hard look at the size and largesse of the administrative positions, and to actually implement the suggestions of the famed McKinsey report that was subsequently ignored by the administration that commissioned it. What I'm specifically referring to are the recommendations on administrative size and efficiency, and the elimination of bureaucratic bloat.

Finally, President-elect Kim, please restore parity to the Board of Trustees. You have said you didn't know much about the situation. If you restore parity, many alumni will love you and there will be no more threats of (or actual) lawsuits. After all, the original lawsuit would have been immediately withdrawn had the College simply restored parity. Oh, and while you're at it, perhaps you could suggest allowing for a student trustee candidate. After all, we're the ones who are truly most affected by the Board -- so we might as well have a say.

I look forward to writing more columns in the coming months about how you are wisely following my suggestions. I'd hate to write an assessment that would make you dislike me as well.