Verbum Ultimum: Leadership and Service
The search for the next dean of the Tucker Foundation has stalled, pending recommendations by a task force on the foundation's mission, structure and leadership. We would like to raise concerns about the transparency and purpose of this process. While we are enthusiastic that President Phil Hanlon is pushing Tucker to define its goals and missions in light of revoking the Right Rev. James Tengatenga's appointment over the summer, we advise caution. We hope that the task force will more actively consider student input, reflect on how Tucker makes the College better as an institution of higher education and combine these insights into a coherent search profile.
On a very basic level, we are alarmed that the Tucker task force does not currently include an undergraduate student. Despite promises from business professor and task force chair John Vogel that students will be included in future committee meetings, the lack of a student task force member is a glaring mistake. How else can the task force fully engage students who are involved with Tucker? Particularly after a failed search that ended with the hiring of a controversial candidate and complaints about transparency, it seems obvious that student input should be more highly valued this time around. If the goal of the search process is to identify candidates who can reach more students through Tucker's work, then the task force needs someone who knows the student side of the foundation best.
Our second consideration takes a broader view of Tucker's function as a component of the Dartmouth experience. No one would debate that institutions like Tucker, along with the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Dickey Center for International Understanding, contribute something vital to this campus. But how can a new dean improve Tucker's contributions while pushing past the usual buzzwords like "faculty-student interaction," "interdisciplinary study" or "global leadership?" We commend Vogel for acknowledging the challenge of breaking Tucker's broad mandate down to size. He aptly recognizes the challenge of integrating Tucker's founding mission to promote the moral and spiritual work of the College into its programs today. In doing so, the task force needs to more clearly and fully articulate the value that Tucker adds to student life; this must go beyond a simple mission statement.
Finally, what might student input and more careful consideration of purpose tell us about who should lead Tucker? The task force review should at least identify student concerns and plot out the path forward. Indeed, it would be unfortunate to see this conversation drag on without making the actual search process any easier. We encourage the task force to create a master plan for the foundation and then find a candidate who can turn that vision into reality. Between Tengatenga's dismissal and wider administrative turnover, finding the right fit is both an imperative and a challenge. We hope that the task force considers these factors as it aims to redefine the Tucker Foundation.