Bach: Common Sense

by Jinsung Bach | 9/8/16 11:13pm

The 2016 Senior Survey reveals a wide disapproval with the administration’s responsiveness to student concerns: 75 percent of its respondents stated they are either “generally dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.” I have no doubt that a dozen hands in Parkhurst reached up to scratch their heads at this news, mystified by the poor reception to their munificence. I am just as certain that they shrugged it off as a mere fluke of statistics, so convinced of their own righteousness that they refused to accept the word of lowly students. What they failed to understand then, and still fail to understand now, is the bitter frustration that fuels these numbers.

The fact is that the administration’s current state of affairs can sustain itself no longer. Its catastrophic ineptitude speaks for itself when they continue to support a half-baked housing system nobody desired or asked for, wasting valuable money in a mealy-mouthed attempt to supplant Greek houses. Nor does it fare well for our education that our faculty is among the most poorly compensated among our peer schools. Precious resources are squandered on hollow programs that pay lip service to diversity and safety but deliver on neither, while administrative bloat continues to astound us with its careless extravagance. We have lost our status as the Ivy League institution with the best undergraduate teaching, a casualty of the unsustainable rise in admissions rates. In exchange for our grief, the administration would have us pay even greater tuition fees – a reminder that their incompetence is funded out of our own pocketbooks.

It is unfair to students that their families should bear the financial brunt of these disastrous policies. It is just as unfair to the members of our faculty, who have given so much on behalf of the College, to suffer a leadership that does not care for their welfare. Intolerable as the status quo may be, more intolerable still is inaction. The time has come for the faculty to register a vote of no confidence in College President Phil Hanlon.

From the Moving Dartmouth Forward policy initiative to the constant attacks upon our cherished Greek houses, the administration refuses to accept any responsibility for its own failed policies. When such policies have done so little to improve the College’s public image, and done so much to turn even the most loyal of alumni against it, is it not worthwhile to concede the endeavor and pursue something more productive? “No,” the administration seems to say. “We care only for presenting a façade to the masses, a gilded image to hide the rot beneath. We care only about social justice and good appearances, even though our own policies can’t give us even those!”

Nor does Hanlon have any valid strategy for the College’s academic future. In his search for a new Dean of Faculty, he has emphasized not integrity, not academic excellence, not even talent. Hanlon’s Dartmouth would instead see prestige rewarded on the basis of race and gender, to the exclusion of almost everything else. This is truly a tremendous step backwards for a society that has pledged to judge others not on the color of one’s skin, but the content of one’s character. Academic integrity has been slighted in favor of a desperate, flailing attempt to convince the world that Dartmouth is not a racist institution. Even in that regard, for all of Hanlon’s pandering, the world remains thoroughly unconvinced.

Hanlon and his administration care little for the quality of education at our beloved College. What have any of them to show for three years of dawdling? Theirs is an agenda of misguided principles wholly contrary to the school’s interests, accepting no input from an increasingly aggrieved school. For such dedicated service, the 2014 IRS Form 990 for the College discloses that Hanlon was paid a sum of $1,124,289 in that year alone! Surely, no price is too small for such undying devotion, especially when paid out of the pockets of honest students and their families.

Perhaps all these grievances, inexcusable as they are, could still be forgiven if our president and his administration gave the slightest impression that they were listening. Instead, they have pursued business as usual, clasping their hands about their ears and ignoring the withering criticism about them. Time and time again, Hanlon’s hollow emails to campus have betrayed his disconnect from where things truly stand. Even his own blog reveals how little he cares, insisting we ought to care more about his vacation in the Arctic than the very real problems our school faces right now. Hanlon and his administration have proven their blindness to the very people they were meant to serve, and thus the time is right for their replacement.

It is true that other members of the administration, as well as the Board of Trustees, are as complicit in these failures as Hanlon. Nonetheless, for now we must focus upon Hanlon because of his unique responsibilities as the College president. He is the face of the administration and the originator of many of its initiatives, and so he must shoulder the cost of their failures. These failures begin with his leadership, and so any meaningful change must begin there as well.

I will not be so naïve as to promise that a vote of no confidence would bring forth returns immediately, or that any meaningful action will be taken soon afterwards. Nonetheless, the statement must be made inescapably clear that we will not stand idly by as our own leaders tear our beloved College down. A precedent must be set for a leadership that will truly serve the College in its best capacity and mend the damage to our school’s pride.

I conclude with this parodic rearrangement of Thomas Paine’s words from long ago:

In Parkhurst a president hath little more to do than to make false promises and pursue frivolities- which in plain terms, is to impoverish the school and set it together by the ears. A pretty business indeed for a man to be allowed over one million dollars a year for, and worshipped into the bargain! Of more worth is one honest student to society and in the sight of the College, than all the suited ruffians that ever lived.