Behind the Administrative Curtain

Former DSO conductor Anthony Princiotti was among the latest of Dartmouth's recent high-profile staff dismissals.

Former DSO conductor Anthony Princiotti was among the latest of Dartmouth’s recent high-profile staff dismissals.

Dartmouth’s status as a private institution allows the college a large amount of freedom in the decisions it makes and the rules it implements. This means that the college has control over what student body knows when it comes to administrative activity. However, with the increasing number of staff terminations, the student body needs to pay more attention to the administration’s decisions and at least demand a worthy explanation to justify their actions. First efforts must be focused on the Hop, the supposed haven for the arts at Dartmouth.

The trend of terminations shrouded in mystery began in the Spring of 2014. In April, Gregg Fairbrothers, founder of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) and adjunct professor at Tuck, was informed that he had been terminated from his position at the DEN and his contract to teach would not been renewed. Fairbrothers set up the DEN in 2001 under the office of the Provost and served at the head until spring of last year. No stranger to business, Fairbrothers ‘74 came back to the Upper Valley in 1999 after a successful stent in the oil and exploration industry. The DEN serves as a sort of incubator for entrepreneurs with Dartmouth connections, helping them find ways of turning their ideas into businesses and nonprofit organizations. Fairbrothers serves on the boards of several companies and even turned his course curriculum into a book entitled From Idea to Success.

With so much to offer the school in terms of experience, one would begin to wonder how the administration could both terminate Fairbrothers’s professorship and position as head of the DEN. He was even responsible for the initial funding for the DEN, believing it an integral component of Dartmouth and envisioning an environment where any idea has the potential to transform into a successful business. Before DEN, Dartmouth students and faculty were on their own when it came to entrepreneurial pursuits, but the DEN provided campus with the resources necessary to fine-tune an idea and get in touch with people who could make it possible.

Fairbrothers has chosen not to comment on his abrupt dismissal, but he agrees with the general sentiment among his students and colleagues: academic politics is to blame. These students and colleagues were distraught enough by Fairbrothers’ termination that they created the website “www.keepgregg.com” to voice their qualms with the administration’s decision. One prospective student, Will from Massachusetts, writes, “I am an incoming student who does not want to see one of the MBA program’s most desirable assets leave for ‘political reasons.’ At least give the community more clarity!” Meanwhile, one of his previous students, Renata, testifies to his teaching, stating, “Gregg has taught me more about business than I could have ever hoped to learn in 2 years.”

Did Fairbrothers overstep his boundaries as professor with his involvement in the DEN? His termination occurred as the College attempts to capitalize on the ideas and innovations that come as a product of research and scholarship on campus. If speculation about the dismissal is indeed true, then it would seem childish and selfish of the administration to engage in such petty academic politics when the repercussions include losing one of the College’s most valued assets. However, there could be information about the Fairbrothers termination that could suggest otherwise. Regardless of whether it was politics or some other reason, the student body deserves transparency in such matters regarding a man who was vital to the robust entrepreneurial culture at Dartmouth.

A year after Fairbrothers’ dismissal from the school, we come upon yet another issue of transparency involving Michael R. Taylor, the former director and chief curator of the Hood Museum. In March of this year, Taylor allegedly “stood down to pursue other career opportunities,” as the Office of the Provost puts it. The curator was replaced by his deputy director Juliette Bianco ’94, who has been with the Hood since 1998 and will serve as interim director. However, Taylor’s dismissal comes at an important time for the Hood. The museum is in the middle of $50 million fundraising campaign implemented in order to double the size of its display area as well as add three classrooms to expand the educational reach of the Hood.

The renovation can be attributed to President Hanlon’s efforts to increase experiential learning on campus, especially by repurposing resources already available to the College such as the Hood. The renovation is scheduled to begin in 2016, already having raised $28 million of the proposed $50 million. The rapid pace of the campaign thus far can in part be attributed to an anonymous $10 million dollar donation to the Hood over the summer, the largest in the museum’s history. With the Board of Trustees approving $8.5 million in spending already, the Hood’s major plans for expansion are making director of the museum a vital position. Perhaps Taylor’s past actions or misuse of funds caused the administration to reconsider his status as director. With recent financial blunders such as the renovation of the Hanover Inn, surely sound financial management is fresh on the minds of administrators, causing them to examine those involved in the Hood renovation with more scrutiny.

In light of whatever led to Taylor’s dismissal, his time as head curator will not go unnoticed. Taylor brought to the Hood a wealth of experience, having worked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1997, where he specialized in the curation of modern art. Along with making well informed acquisitions and brilliantly displaying exhibitions, Taylor even wrote a book on the surrealist painter Marel Duchamp entitled Marcel Duchamp: Etant Donnés. This impressive background allowed Taylor to curate an impressive variety of exhibits during his time as director of the Hood. Taylor’s contributions to the artistic culture of the College will not go unnoticed, despite his mysterious dismissal. Any conjecture for his absence is surely speculation at this point, but it is undeniable that his departure has left a huge position to fill at a paramount time in the history of the Hood. We wait to see who the College will choose to lead the museum in its time of need.

The pattern of strange, unexplained firings continued with Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra (DSO) conductor Anthony Princiotti’s resignation. Princiotti graduated from The Juilliard School with a Bachelor’s in Music in 1980, has played in the Apple Hill Chamber Players, a New Hampshire-based ensemble, and has served as the musical director and conductor of the Brandeis Symphony Orchestra, assistant conductor of the National Repertory Orchestra, and director of instrumental music and conductor at Amherst College. The highlight of Princiotti’s career, however, was serving as the music director and conductor of the DSO, which he did for 23 years before his resignation.

Throughout his time at Dartmouth, Anthony Princiotti transformed the DSO from a lackluster group of students that met less than once a week and had to hire guest musicians to cover up students at concerts to a respected and serious powerhouse on campus. The students under Princiotti grew to take great pride in the organization.

A member of the DSO had this to say about his conductor’s reassignment:

He was a pretty charismatic conductor of orchestra, pretty well liked, and so it was a surprise to us to receive this email in the middle of the summer basically saying that we was going to leave the orchestra. They didn’t say anything else; it was just vague. He’s usually a very talkative, very open guy. He will get randomly inspired while walking through the Hop and send us an email saying what he was thinking. He talked a lot about the pieces we were playing and what he found out while reading the biographies, so it was a surprise to us that he would leave without telling us … the reason why. One of our theories was that he was fired for disagreeing with the Hop’s approach. He wasn’t very diplomatic with the Hop people, often having disagreements with them.

Something here does not add up. This man took the DSO to new heights, was well liked by his musicians, and was well respected in the musical community. In fact, our source also said that Princiotti “had big plans for this school year and was very excited about coming back to try and challenge us with new and more complicated pieces.” Clearly, the last time the conductor spoke to students, he gave no inclination that he would be leaving over the summer. While this resignation came as a shock to the musicians, I am sure that that it was even more of a shock to Princiotti. As much as we tried, we only hit red tape when digging around for more answers about this dismissal; the student’s best guesses are as good as ours. Our only hypothesis, supported by members of the orchestra, was that he was fired because of politic disagreements at the Hop, but even that is only plausible at best.

The last in the line of unexplained administrative dismissals is Maria Laskaris, the former dean of admissions for eight years. She was moved to the newly created position of special assistant to the provost for arts and innovation. Laskaris seems well prepared for her new position, due to her artistic inclinations as a student here at Dartmouth. Her resume includes working in the costume shop for four years, as well as her involvement in the Dartmouth Glee Club, of which she was business manager for two years.

However, after her 28 year run in the admissions department, one would hope that a more fulfilling role would await Laskaris at the end of her work as dean of admissions. Laskaris’ underwhelming eight year term in the position could be a reasonable reason for her termination from the position. However, with her less-than-exemplary admissions record, we can assume that Laskaris was probably looking for jobs elsewhere when the decision was made.

It is impossible for us to try and draw conclusions out of these messes, but we can note that a pattern is emerging. People are being let go from the college or relocated to lesser positions without notice. People like Gregg Fairbrothers and Anthony Princiotti are being forced out of organizations that they built and shaped while their students are being left in the dark. We are calling for more transparency. The students care that administrators are letting these employees go with hesitation. In this situation, the least the College could do would be to let us peek behind the curtain by providing an explanation. Until then, we students will remain curiously wondering just how these people disappeared.

  • fribble

    The College tells no one anything.
    It is a closed shop.
    Of lies.