Meir Kohn: Administration = Ministry of Truth

Also in the Daily D this morning is a great op-ed piece from Meir Kohn, an economics professor at Dartmouth. Known across campus as one of the most difficult, yet absolutely rewarding, professors at Dartmouth. Here’s what he was to say:

Governance is not a problem peculiar to Dartmouth. All large organizations — business corporations and government agencies as well as nonprofits like Dartmouth — are run by managers or administrators. Human nature being what it is, these managers or administrators tend to use the power delegated to them for their own advantage. Instead of simply performing the functions with which they are charged, they divert their efforts and the organization’s resources to furthering their own interests. This is not because they are bad people; it is because they are perfectly normal people and so have difficulty resisting temptation. The problem of governance is the problem of limiting such undesirable behavior.

[. . .]

It is not that administrative misbehavior is unusually bad at Dartmouth. What is unusual is the ability of Dartmouth alumni to elect to the board some trustees not hand-picked by the administration. This peculiarity offered a potential mechanism of governance, and a number of alumni were sufficiently public-spirited to try to turn this potential into reality. It is hardly surprising that the administration did not welcome this initiative. With remarkable brutality, the administration and its friends on the board have acted to neutralize it. Contrary to the pronouncements of the Ministry of Truth, the board did not vote to strengthen governance at Dartmouth: it voted to prevent it. With this avenue cut off, we remain without any effective mechanism of governance. There is therefore no constraint on the potential misbehavior of this or any future administration.

The complete essay is available here.