Verbum Ultimum: Remembering Our Commitments

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 1/8/13 11:00pm

The appointment of President-elect Philip Hanlon '77 signals the next chapter in a rather tumultuous period in Dartmouth's history. The past year in Hanover has been marred by a hazing scandal, an ongoing problem with sexual assault and the resignations of several female and minority members of faculty and staff. Though we commend the search process for satisfying many of the basic conditions sought by students, faculty and alumni Hanlon is an alumnus, was chosen quickly and appears committed to a long tenure in Hanover it did not fully address outstanding issues related to diversity and student input. If Hanlon is to have a successful presidency, these issues cannot continue to fall by the wayside.

First, the Presidential Search Committee deserves praise for the speed with which it found the College's new leader. Hanlon's selection and hire within eight months of Former President Jim Yong Kim's decision to leave Dartmouth for the World Bank is laudable and will assuage the uncertainty associated with Kim's departure.

On diversity, Kim broke the succession of white males who have traditionally been at the College's helm when he took office in 2009 as the Ivy League's first Asian-American president. This represented significant progress toward the inclusion of more diverse perspectives within the administration. But in Hanlon's case, we must assume that his impeccable administrative and academic qualifications, as well as the fact that he is a native son of Dartmouth, outweighed concerns that his race and background are not very different from those of his predecessors. As long as Hanlon was truly the best candidate, then the Presidential Search Committee's judgment is completely valid he appears primed for a lengthy stay at the College and has even expressed interest in continuing to teach undergraduates. However, particularly given the recent turnover in female and minority faculty and staff, we hope that the Hanlon administration will make efforts to attract and retain those members of faculty and staff who hold non-traditional viewpoints. Diversity must not be considered a second fiddle to other priorities.

At the same time, relative satisfaction with the appointment should not obscure the fact that the search process failed to emphasize student input. The Search Committee made only a handful of token efforts to solicit opinions and feedback from the student body. Even though these few sessions were not well-attended by students, the committee should have provided students with more opportunities to express what they wanted to see in a new president. This is a second area in which Hanlon can improve on the Kim administration's performance.

We offer Hanlon our congratulations and wish him the best of luck in tackling the important issues facing our College. His accomplishments in higher education speak for themselves, but he should remember that the students, faculty and alumni who will invest their time and energy alongside him will be crucial to making Dartmouth a better place. We hope and wish for Dartmouth that his tenure as our College's next president will be long and pleasant.

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