Presidential Search: Who’s Next?

By J.P. Harrington

What do we need in our next president? The best place to begin is with the clear failures of this president – and how best to remedy the mess he left us in. The first clear qualification for the next president is a simple one, but important, particularly since it seemed to have been ignored in the selection of Dr. Kim. Our next president needs to want to be the president of the College.

It seems shocking that I have to even state what should be obvious – but after the past three years, it needed to be said. How many times did I see Dr. Kim walking around campus in three years? Never. Even when I attended a lunch with Dr. Kim and about ten other students, I was struck not by his care for Dartmouth nor by his intellect, but instead by his lack of engagement with the students. His face dull, Dr. Kim uttered a few platitudes about change, never forgetting to tout his seemingly interminable list of committees meant to eventually bring change, but never truly engaged with the students. The other students passionately clamored for reform, for understanding, for changing the Greek system, but all they got was a half-hearted politically vague promise for some sort of eventual reform. Perhaps another committee.

Yet, when I would later see president Kim at a fundraiser in my home state of Colorado, I could barely recognize him. His face was beaming. It was a smile a minute as he gripped the hands of potential donors and parents and extolled the liberal arts system. The speech was brilliant – everything I wanted to hear from the president of my college. The problem was: I’d heard it all before. It was the same promises and fancy phrases of his matriculation speech. Nothing had changed in over a year.

This time, the trustees need to select a candidate that truly wants to be President of Dartmouth College. Not just president of some prestigious school that can catapault him to an international position. Not just president for three years and then the next job title. No, we need someone who is devoted to Dartmouth. And that’s why we need an alum. We need someone who has been to Dartmouth, loves Dartmouth and bleeds green. Not crimson or brown.

There are many arguments for a president who is a Dartmouth alum, but the two most pressing are our culture and our prestige. Dartmouth has a unique culture. Even the most humble among us must agree upon that. We’re isolated in the middle of New Hampshire, we’re insular, and we even have our own language. Who doesn’t remember going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas break only to discover that words like ‘A-side’ or ‘grim’ or ‘facetime’ were about as foreign to our old friends as that obscure foreign language we had just decided to study in college? That culture, beloved as it is by us, is different from the generic collegial culture. We need someone who understands and embraces that difference. As odd as it may have appeared in attack pieces published in leftwing news sources of debatable merit, our culture is ours – and we still love it. We need someone who will defend it as ardently as we students do. Someone who experienced that culture firsthand.

And while we’re on the topic of the current press surrounding our college on a hill, it’s necessary to stress that we can’t select another prestige-seeking candidate. We are currently in the midst of a firestorm of public opinion – that much is obvious. While now is neither the time nor the place to comment on that specific issue, it is clear that we need a president who is willing to withstand the public pressure to force some sort of unnecessary, irrational, and impractical supposed solution upon the student body. If we’re not careful, the dreaded Student Life Initiative may rise from the grave to stumble over to Webster Avenue. That’s why the next President of Dartmouth College needs to be an alum. An alum who loves this college more than themselves or their future career will stand firm to public opinion and choose the correct path forward. Not the correct path forward for themselves, but for the College.

But what exactly is that path forward? Well, allow me to make a few proposals. We need a president with business acumen. Someone who has run a real business efficiently, as opposed to a series of non-profits or even worse, other educational institutions. Why? Dartmouth needs to be set on a firm footing financially. We’ve still only made about 85% of the cuts that Kim introduced and DDS needs to be reformed substantially. We’ve allowed the SEIU to dictate the meal plans of students which has resulted in a system with less meal times, less good food, and less choice. Not to mention higher prices. As students attempt to flee the meal plan, expect an exodus off-campus that will threaten our precious culture and a corresponding decline in food quality as less and less students buy into the system. We need someone who can come in and allow free competition. More small vendors like KAF. A return to the a la carte system. An increase in efficiency – and the courage to fight unions for the benefit of students. Perhaps someone with experience in the world that works, to borrow a phrase from former Speaker of the House Gingrich, can understand that we the students are the College’s consumers. And the consumer is always right.

Finally, we also need a president who embraces the fact that Dartmouth is a college. We don’t call ourselves the College on the hill for nothing. Dartmouth isn’t a university and never should be. Our most recent president seemed to forget that at times. While he extolled the liberal arts system with his mouth, both his hands were pushing Dartmouth in a very distinct direction. In all my life, I’ve never heard of something that sounded so distinctly non-liberal artsy as The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. In fact, I’m not entirely certain I would ever have heard of such a so-called field if it had not been for Dr. Kim. At least he taught me one thing in three years. Despite the joking attitude I have maintained towards this rather ridiculous expansion of the College’s offerings, it is a serious and troubling point.

Dartmouth is the last remaining bastion in the Ivy League of a liberal arts education. It’s what makes us difference. Small classes, interaction with professors, and interdisciplinary learning. We can’t compete with Harvard or Columbia in terms of research. And we shouldn’t. We offer a completely different product – and we need a President who can understand that. Perhaps someone who has been involved in a business can understand that we need to remain in our wheelhouse.

So, which alums could possibly fulfill this dual role of CEO and president of a liberal arts college? I can propose three: Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, and Dinesh D’Souza.

Let’s begin with Mr. Paulson, the former Treasury Secretary and CEO of Goldman Sachs. Now on the face of it, I’m convinced that a certain contingent at the College will immediately begin protests at the very mention of Paulson’s name for the position. No doubt, these small, but loud protests would draw from the Occupy Dartmouth movement along with a few other centers of liberal ideology around campus, perhaps even the semi-dormant People’s Coalition. While I can at the very least praise the Occupiers for their longevity and devotion to their cause, I unfortunately cannot do the same for their abilities at fact-checking, debate or even making a logical argument. In a no-doubt vain hope to stave off the unwashed masses that would carry signs at these protests, I would just like to tout a few pieces of his record.

First of all, Paulson would embrace the liberal arts atmosphere of the College. Contrary to popular belief, Paulson wasn’t an Economics major. Instead, he was an English major – who later became the head of Goldman Sachs. Now, if that doesn’t speak worlds about the value of a liberal arts education, I don’t know what does. At the same time, Paulson was also a very successful offensive lineman who would win an All-American honorable mention (along with an All-Ivy and All-East award). Perhaps he could bring a much-need touch of experience to our lagging football team? At the same time, Paulson was a member of the Greek system and wouldn’t rush to end it merely to gain points with the loud, but marginal cohort of anti-Greeks on campus. Not to mention that Paulson would bring a much-need dollop of prestige to the College. His acceptance of the Presidency would reinforce the fact that we have a devoted alumni base – that every Dartmouth student loves Dartmouth and that even in its time of trouble, our most famous alumni will still step forward.

The same could be said of current Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. It’s known that he will not remain a member of the Obama administration – and so we must wonder what his future plans are. While he lacks Paulson’s business experience, Geithner has spent a great deal of time in the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve and could strengthen our economics department. At the same time, Geithner himself is a Government and Asian Studies double major. Again, another alumni who strongly believes in liberal arts – and without the baggage of working under George W. Bush or at Goldman Sachs, his selection would brook less protest from the Occupiers, etc.

Now, let’s turn to my last and no doubt, most controversial nomination: Dinesh D’Souza. He’s an English major who has published several best-selling books, has experience leading educational institutions, and has demonstrated his devotion to Dartmouth, continually returning to provide lectures. The firebrand academic, who is often more cool-headed than his opponents would prefer to acknowledge, has much more experience in the education sector than either Paulson or Geithner. D’Souza is a former editor of The Dartmouth Review, a former ad- visor to the Reagan administration, and at the moment the President of a private college at The King’s College in New York City. This small college focuses on liberal arts almost exclusively, offering majors in PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Education) and MCA (Media, Culture and the Arts). D’Souza would have learned at King’s not only how to build a college around the study of liberal arts, but how to balance a budget without the massive amounts of resources of Dartmouth College. Nominating D’Souza would no doubt lead to protests among those who did not share his political philosophy – but that shouldn’t disqualify him as a candidate. In fact, aren’t colleges supposed to present all sides and theories to encourage thoughtful debate?

So, we have several choices from our alumni who could lead the College in a new direction away from the bureaucratic, university, and disengaged approach of Dr. Kim. All three of them care about the College. They all three have relevant experience and would bring a hint of prestige to our currently troubled school. Finally, we can be assured that none of them will bow to the popular press and attempt to impose radical, unnecessary, and ridiculous change on the student body simply to silence a PR nightmare or garner political approval for their next job. We need someone who is a loyal son of old Dartmouth and who will love her till death.