Presidential candidates remain unclear

by Taylor Malmsheimer | 11/7/12 11:00pm

Although professors would not speculate about specific candidates for the College's 18th president, most said that the new president should focus on the College's social atmosphere, specifically binge drinking, sexual assault and hazing. Professors also said they hope the next president will focus on undergraduate education and have a long-term commitment to the College. During a Spring term Student Assembly meeting, Presidential Search Committee chair Bill Helman '80 said that the committee planned to select the College's new president by the end of the calendar year.

English professor Ivy Schweitzer said that the president should prioritize educating and inspiring students who can make an impact on the world.

"I think [former President Jim Yong] Kim left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths about the corporatization of the institution," she said. "We seem to pay more attention to how the endowment is doing, how comparable our salaries are and basically the bottom line, as opposed to making sure we're creating a community of inquiry."

Biology professor Roger Sloboda said that the College's next president should strive to make the College an innovator in higher education.

"They should be someone willing to try new things and take chances to see if there's a better way of doing things," he said. "That's what a great university does. Dartmouth seems to always follow, rather than lead in higher education."

Schweitzer said that the new president should invite students and faculty to "reimagine" the College's social atmosphere. The College's academic curriculum is inherently connected to its social scene, an idea that has not received enough attention from past presidents, she said.

"Under the last two presidents, faculty were increasingly discouraged from commenting and having an opinion about the social curriculum at Dartmouth, and I think that's a mistake," Schweitzer said.

Education professor emeritus Andrew Garrod and English professor Jeff Sharlet both said that the new president must focus on the social aspect of the College. Garrod said that although Kim implemented some policies regarding social issues, binge drinking and sexual assault have still not been adequately addressed.

Sharlet said he thinks that most faculty and students want a president who will address the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.

The president will need to deal with social issues, such as hazing and sexual assault, that are often perpetuated and exacerbated by the Greek system, Schweitzer said.

"We have this kind of negative legacy from Kim about bystanders and the idea that we can't do anything about it and can't change the culture," she said. "The president will have to deal with that because it just has to be changed on campus."

Sloboda said that the incoming president should have a long-term commitment to the College and be present and available to students on campus, a sentiment echoed by students.

Patrick Campbell '15 said he would like to see a president that is interested in remaining at the College for about a decade.

"Having a president who finds the time to interact on a personal basis with the student body is important," he said. "Being accessible and not in an ivory tower all the time is also important."

Garrod said that there are contradictory interests at play regarding the selection of the next president choosing a candidate who elevates the College's national reputation and is valued by trustees and alumni, or choosing a candidate who focuses on teaching and is valued by students.

The incoming president will need to understand the complexities of the College, according to English professor Donald Pease. The relationship between the undergraduate, graduate and professional aspects of the College is important for the president to recognize, he said.

"It's important to understand the inseparability, rather than the unity, of undergraduate and graduate education," Pease said.

Schweitzer said that the new president will need to find a balance between various academic aspects of the College, including arts and sciences, research and teaching and professional development.

Most professors said they think the next president would likely come from outside the Dartmouth community, and most professors hope to see a president with experience in academia rather than administration. Sloboda said that only a president with an academic background can appreciate the views of faculty and students.

Schweitzer said that the president should be someone who has worked in higher education outside of Dartmouth, bringing a fresh perspective to the College.

"What's good about Dartmouth is that we're so loyal and tightly knit, but that's also in some sense the disadvantage," she said. "It's hard to see outside the structures we create."

The Presidential Search Committee, which consists of trustees, professors, alumni and one student representative, has released no information regarding potential candidates for the presidency.

Campbell said that while he does not feel informed about the search process, he understands the need for privacy when interviewing candidates.

Julie Campbell '13 said she feels uninformed about the process and questioned the choice to include only one student representative on the committee.

"With only one student, I think it's impossible to represent 4,000 people," Julie Campbell said.

Helman declined to comment on the ongoing search.