Official Campaign Email Plugs Strong Dartmouth

Alumni Trustee candidate Gregg Engles ’79, one of the four nominated by the Alumni Council, has sent his first campaign email. Notably, at the end of the message, he specifically directs readers to the website of Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth, a College-linked group opposed to petition candidates Peter Robinson ’79 and Todd Zywicki ’88.

Engles touches on what have become the major issues of the campaign: the College’s undergraduate focus; athletics; academic diversity; and free speech. His paragraphs on academic diversity and free speech are particularly noteworthy.

His email (edited slightly for readability, emphasis added, missing links in original text):

Date: Fri, 25 Mar 2005 12:04:26 -0600
From: Association of Alumni
Subject: First Candidate Email – Gregg Engles ’79

According to procedures set forth by the Balloting Committee, each candidate for alumni trustee may choose to send up to two emails to the alumni body during the balloting period. This email is the first such communication from Gregg Engles ’79.

Comments made by the candidates in these e-mail communications represent their individual perspectives on different issues pertaining to the trustee elections. They have not been edited by the College or the Balloting Committee of the Association of Alumni. While the Committee may contact candidates to discuss any concerns it may have about the accuracy of the text of the email, the candidates have the final decision as to the content of their messages.

Dear Fellow Alumni:

My name is Gregg Engles, Class of 1979, and I’m a candidate in the current election for the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees. Unlike any Trustee election I can recall, it looks like this election is going to be contested, substantive, maybe even contentious. That’s a good thing. The Board of Trustees is the College’s governing body. It defines and articulates Dartmouth’s mission, hires its leaders, allocates its resources. This election is important. As Alumni, you ought to understand where the candidates stand, and it’s important that you vote.

This year’s write-in candidates have been described as “insurgents” while the Alumni Council candidates have been portrayed as hand picked shills for the administration (http://www.weeklystandard.com/). I don’t believe either characterization is accurate or fair. It certainly isn’t for me. I believe all of this year’s candidates are on the ballot because of their love for Dartmouth and their belief that they can help her fulfill her historic role as America’s finest undergraduate institution and training ground for leaders throughout American society. That’s certainly why I’m a candidate. But the candidates’ positions on the issues are different, as are their abilities to represent your point of view and make changes constructively.

For my personal biography and a broad discussion of my views on Dartmouth and important issues she faces, please click on the following link: (link to Dartmouth Alumni Trustee Candidate information). In addition to the matters addressed in my official statements, there are a few issues emerging as central themes of this election, and you should fully understand my position on them.

Dartmouth’s Focus on Undergraduate Education.

It is a universally held truth for Dartmouth Alumni that the College is, and should remain, the finest undergraduate institution in the nation. Its focus should be undergraduate education. It’s ‘fightin’ words,’ as we say in Texas, to mention Dartmouth and “University” in the same paragraph. “Research” evokes almost as visceral a reaction.

I believe firmly that Dartmouth’s core strength is its undergraduate program, and that’s where we should focus our energy and resources. But if we are to ‘rededicate Dartmouth to its mission of undergraduate education,’ what exactly does that mean for Tuck, Thayer and the Medical School, or for Dartmouth’s other graduate programs, particularly in the sciences? To be clear, all of Dartmouth’s PhD programs are in the sciences)? Some of the rhetoric around this issue would suggest that we should do away with graduate schools and programs,or at least greatly deemphasize them, lest we become a “University.”

From where I sit, that would be a mistake. The territory of small, exclusive,purely undergraduate colleges is occupied by the likes of Amherst and Williams. When I think about institutions that might overtake Dartmouth in providing the finest undergraduate education in America, it’s not those institutions. And it is less so today than when I enrolled at Dartmouth. Their engineering students can’t possibly have the quality experience Dartmouth’s have, because Thayer’s cutting edge professors, supported and attracted by the opportunity to teach and research at Thayer, aren’t there. The Life Sciences is perhaps the most promising area for the advancement of humankind in the next century. Would anyone seriously argue that Dartmouth undergraduates interested in those areas would have a better experience, taught by a more able faculty, if Dartmouth didn’t invest in the Medical School or its life sciences graduate programs?

So what does ‘focus on undergraduate education’ mean? It means directing resources first to undergraduate education. It means investing in research and graduate programs only where to do doing so materially enhances the undergraduate experience. It means attracting to Dartmouth exceptional faculty that want to teach undergraduates. That must be a necessary condition to join the faculty and for tenure. It means devoting enough resources to ensure that the faculty is adequate in number, and students have ready access to them.

But make no mistake, an important acriterion by which the faculty will be judged to be exceptional, by students and alumni alike, will be the quality and notoriety of what they write and the research they do. So we must provide the resource and environment to attract an exceptional faculty, and that means supporting the research and writing that made the faculty exceptional to begin with. To do so is central to Dartmouth’s mission to provide the finest undergraduate education.

The Need to Maintain Dartmouth as a Balanced Place.

Dartmouth has traditionally produced a disproportionate share of leaders in American life – graduates distinctively capable of tackling the issues of their time. I don’t believe that is just because of academics. Part of the reason is that both in and out of the classroom, the College helped its undergraduates to develop a balanced perspective on life. There are three areas in which that balance seems to be slipping, and Dartmouth needs to correct them.

Outside the Classroom Activities, Particularly Athletics.

Athletics at Dartmouth have long contributed to the character and well roundedness of its students. As traditions go, its one of Dartmouth’s important ones. Despite the success of some Dartmouth teams, there is reason to believe that the administration does not appreciate the importance of collegiate sports in developing exceptional graduates, or as some fear, other non-academic pursuits, for that matter. One only has to recall the attempted termination of the swimming and diving program and the Dean of Admission’s Furstenburg’s completely antagonistic views on the merits of football (and presumably football players) to suspect that this administration implicitly intends to continue deemphasizing sports on campus. And if football can be seen as antithetical to the academic mission of Dartmouth, why not the Outing Club? Actions speak loudly, and I believe the College’s actions should support activities outside the classroom that have historically contributed to building the character of her graduates.

Orthodoxy of Thought on Campus.

‘Group think’ can be corrosi
ve. It breeds prejudice, intolerance, and a lack of critical thinking. I fear we have a bit of group think going on in Hanover in the administration and the faculty, and it is bad for the College. The faculty selects and weeds out their own in the hiring and tenure process. They tend to support their own as they move into the administration. The process reinforces and concentrates, often silently, certain attitudes and philosophical tendencies in the institution. At some point those attitudes become so much the norm that one feels free to say that football is antithetical to the academic mission of “colleges such as ours” about the most storied football program in the Ivy League, or to stifle points of view that the group ‘knows’ are incorrect. No one even notices when a poll shows Ivy League professors support one political point of view by 84% to 16 % (link to academia.org website).

My comment has nothing to do with the scholarly credentials of Dartmouth’s faculty. Rather, it deals with an inbreeding strong enough in certain dimensions that I believe the College is losing its ability to educate its students in a balanced way about the most important issues of our time. I received my law degree from Yale Law School, which has quite a liberal reputation. But when I was there, many of the lions of the faculty were conservatives, and the Law School continues to recruit and retain them. Because whether you’re liberal or conservative, the issues can’t be fully vetted, nor positions or thoughts honed, if you have no worthy advocate on the other side with whom to match wits. Of course, with no one to make the opposing argument, there’s little chance you might explore an issue deeply, or even change your mind. I feel Dartmouth is losing its balance in this regard. As a Trustee I would work hard to convince the faculty, the administration, the institution as a whole that it should be restored.

Free Speech.

My concerns about free speech on campus are closely related to my concerns about orthodoxy of thought. Because when a group becomes so convinced that its views are correct, and effective voices in the group do not rise up to question the group’s orthodoxy, it becomes very easy to stifle opposing points of view.

Certain reactions to the Dartmouth Review and statements regarding the Student Life Initiative are examples, I believe, of where some members of the Dartmouth community just ‘knew’ they were right. I don’t want to debate the merits of these episodes. There are always two sides to the issues. And that’s just the point. If the institution, implicitly or explicitly, stifles one side of the debate, we often won’t get to the right answer on the merits. In the classroom, and the societal conversations among students and the faculty, the result can be even worse, because we often won’t get to the debate at all.

Why Me.

Dartmouth is a complex, large institution with many different constituencies and important issues to it must tackle. There isn’t one philosophical point of view that will yield the answers to all of the issues Dartmouth faces. Leading Dartmouth will require a thoughtful, practical approach to the issues at hand. I started my own company in 1993 and have built it into an organization with $10 billion in revenue and 30,000 employees. I understand what it means to lead such an institution. I haven’t been teaching or writing about it, I’ve been doing it for over a decade. I know the importance of a clear mission and strong leadership. I know how to work with diverse groups, how to listen, understand, compromise, and where necessary, not to compromise. I would bring all of my experience to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, in an effort to help Dartmouth fulfill its role as America’s finest undergraduate institution. I would appreciate your support for my candidacy in this year’s election to the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees.

For my personal biography and a broad discussion of my views on Dartmouth and important issues she faces, please click on the following link:
www.strongdartmouth.org/index.php?r=5
http://alumni.dartmouth.edu/trustee/engles.html

The link to ASD, while perhaps innocent, could give the impression that he endorses the views of the organization or that the group mantains the official College campaign website. Given ASD’s documented ties to the College, this is not necessarily far from the truth.

Regardless, if the establishment’s own candidates are debating the merits of the campus orthodoxy, they must be just a bit worried.