Verbum Ultimum: A New Direction

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 3/29/12 10:00pm

It has been only three years since Dr. Jim Yong Kim was selected as Dartmouth's 17th president, a three-year tenure that has seen a dramatic decline in popular opinion. Kim's lifelong dedication to social justice and his commitment to increasing Dartmouth's presence on the world stage was initially met with a flurry of excitement throughout the Dartmouth community, which welcomed the announcement of his presidency in 2009. This same global focus certainly played a role in his nomination for the World Bank presidency.

Kim assumed the College presidency at a time when Dartmouth faced great challenges, including an unprecedented $100-million budget gap and a frustrated alumni base. Given the magnitude of these challenges, Kim did an impressive job both stabilizing the College's finances and alleviating community discontent, despite opposition to some of his specific policies and projects.

A big-picture thinker, Kim came to Dartmouth with the vision of encouraging our community to think globally and address the great challenges facing the world. He sought to give Dartmouth a truly global presence; his emphasis on expanding research, particularly in the field of health care delivery, was a key component of advancing this vision.

Although we acknowledge that Kim successfully managed the major challenges that the College faced when he arrived, the greatest issues currently plaguing the College are drastically different from those of three years ago. Student life issues such as hazing, sexual assault and high-risk drinking have surged in relevance and visibility during Kim's tenure, and his administration has proven inadequate in addressing these crucial student concerns. The College now has the opportunity to refocus its priorities as it searches for a new president. Although we recognize the importance of maintaining Kim's big-picture goals for Dartmouth, we hope that the presidential search committee will focus more on the pressing, current issues facing student life when it finalizes its selection after Kim's almost certain confirmation as World Bank president. Successfully addressing these issues requires a College president who is keen to interact regularly with the entire student body and listen to its concerns and ideas, not one who simply slashes budgets and concentrates on reputation behind an opaque veil of bureaucracy.

Dartmouth has always taken great pride in its close and connected community. The culture of Dartmouth and the problems it faces are unique and take time to understand three years is simply not enough time to forge a president's necessary bonds with the Dartmouth community. For this reason, we hope that the Board of Trustees will emphasize the importance of longevity in choosing the College's next president. Addressing our college's particular student life issues is difficult for any administration. It is crucial, therefore, that the Board selects an 18th president that is both familiar with the College's unique challenges and able to commit to a long tenure at Dartmouth. Perhaps then will Dartmouth's president be able to achieve the necessary balance between thinking globally and locally.

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