Some Thoughts on the Feasibility of the Freedom Budget

As of late, many have argued that focusing on the practicality of the Freedom Budget’s proposals is an easy way to avoid the moral issues at the core of their grievances. However, both of us here at The Review feel that the practicality of the changes recommended cannot be brushed aside as easily as some may wish.

 Before beginning their bulleted list, the authors wrote: “listed below are our collective demands that should be addressed in the Freedom Budget,” and several other times articulated that the document consisted of suggestions that must be acted upon, not moral concerns with solutions to be determined later. As such, we feel that it is not only fair, but necessary to look into the feasibility of some of these demands.

Perhaps the most glaring and costly suggestion in the Freedom Budget is the request for the Native American Studies Program, the African American Studies Program, and the Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean program to be enlarged into full departments, rather than the interdisciplinary programs they currently are.

Notwithstanding the fact that this conversion would violate the very notion of an interdisciplinary program, such a suggestion presents several more practical concerns. The budget calls for an increase in both the number of classes that are available and also the amount of funding available. At present however, none of these programs are being used to their full potential. For example, the three programs up for expansion have a total 16 combined majors, as compared to 210 majors in the Economics department alone. Admittedly, the economics major is one of the most popular at the college, but this still speaks to the issue at hand.

Graph 1

The Freedom Budget, then, advocates allocating more college resources to programs that are already struggling to make use of the resources that are already allocated to them. There seems to be no merit to the notion that the way to increase the prominence of these programs on campus is to throw more money at them. Perhaps if the courses in these departments were consistently over-enrolled, or if there were long lines of major-students clamoring for research funds, a reasonable case for the expansion of these programs could be made. But with only four major candidates in the class of 2013, it is hard to believe that a lack of funding is the issue with the African and African-American studies program (The other two programs mentioned by name follow the same general trend as AAAS).

Graph 2

While we do not think that all college classes should be provided at the whim of supply and demand, the basic principles can be reasonably applied. In this situation it seems only logical that programs which are already under-utilized would receive no actual benefit from this expansion, and would instead only drain the college’s resources further by creating more under-enrolled courses and under-utilized professors rather than focusing on maximizing the utility of the resources that already exist for these areas of study.

Additionally, the first demand of the Freedom Budget calls for the enrollment of African American, Latino, and Native American students to 10% each. As many on campus have already pointed out (including most recently in a Dartblog post) this 10% quota ignores the demographic realities of the nation, and would require the College to sacrifice admissions standards in order to it.

The document also calls for 47% post-doctoral students at Dartmouth to be students of color, in order to mirror the statistics in the undergraduate population. However, on a national scale from 2009-2010, only 23.9% of post-doctoral degrees awarded nationally went to people of color. In order to expand this percentage in Dartmouth to 47% would require a significant sacrifice in the admissions standards of these programs. Although diversity is a noble goal, it should be pursued only if it can be done without sacrificing the quality of students admitted to these programs.

Graph 3

 The authors of the budget also address repeatedly the manner in which the college handles the application and enrollment of illegal immigrants. They demand that the Admissions Office “Increase outreach to prospective qualified undocumented students.” In this criticism, the Budget authors reference a link to what they call “Harvard College Act on a Dream.” The Budget ostensibly cites the Harvard initiative as a model for the Dartmouth Administration to follow.

On first appearance, this seems to be a reasonable suggestion. However, upon doing a little research, one will find that the site they reference as a model for Dartmouth’s administrative action is actually a “student led, student run organization at Harvard College dedicated to eradicating the barriers that immigrant students face. ” It is not, in fact, an official department or office within the administration at Harvard. Although Harvard does endorse the DREAM act, the administrative model that the authors wish to emulate is non-existent and is actually a student organization with a stated policy goal on the matter of immigration. While such a student group of the same nature could be started here at the Dartmouth, to claim that the administration should follow the model of a student club is to compare apples to oranges.

The Freedom Budget also demands that “departments that do not have womyn or people of color will be considered in crisis and must take urgent and immediate action to right the injustice.” The Dartmouth Review feels otherwise. Departments should be considered in crisis only if the department fails to properly educate Dartmouth students. Increasing females and people of color among professors should be a goal, and Dartmouth should seek to recruit the best professors who are members of minority groups, but Dartmouth should never sacrifice the quality of its education to those ends. Undergraduate teaching is Dartmouth’s greatest strength. Hiring professors based on their diversity status, rather than their capabilities, is antithetical to Dartmouth’s mission. In 2011, 79% of full-time faculty members across colleges and universities in the U.S. were white. While each department should strive to increase their diversity, demographics across the country show that increasing these numbers is not the simplistic panacea that the Freedom Budget presents it as.

The authors also seek to “increase staff benefits and support.” Specifically, they want the College to “increase wage and healthcare benefits (including lowering the cost of co-pays) and to pledge to not subcontract any more jobs.” In fact, the Dartmouth staff is already paid far above market rates and increasing wages would necessitate an increase in our already sky-high tuition. If anything, staff wages and benefits should be frozen going forward. The College’s tuition is among the highest in the country, and it must do all that is possible to reduce growth in these costs.

Finally, the Freedom Budget calls for “expanding the pool of professionals of color and womyn in Student Accessibility Service, Dick’s House, and Safety and Security.” While this is a noble goal, it must be contrasted with the demographic realities of Upper Valley New Hampshire. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people of color account for only 6.4% of the population in the Upper Valley. Additionally, the jobs listed above are not the level occupation that would justify someone moving a great distance to take one.

While those responsible for the Freedom Budget will undoubtedly criticize these concerns as narrow-minded or out of touch with the moral aims of the document, we feel that the proposals in the Freedom Budget were clearly meant to be serious suggestions that the College must implement. As such, it is only fair and reasonable to address the proposals raised on practical level, and question their effectiveness and validity, rather than accept them as moral absolutes without looking into their viability.

 

— William R.F. Duncan and Samuel L. Hatcher