The Danger of Stagnancy: Part II

On October 10, President Hanlon sent an email to the entire Dartmouth community announcing Carolyn Dever’s decision to step down from Provost and to return to teaching once the fall term concludes on November 22. He describes how “Carolyn has had a major impact on Dartmouth, elevating the academic profile of the institution as she led an effort to improve campus diversity and inclusivity–particularly on behalf of the faculty; championing academic initiatives; and recruiting deans and other key leaders… she has played a lead role in the development of strategic priorities and specific initiatives for Dartmouth’s future, chaired the budget committee, and assisted in building financial strength across the institution.”

His words sing lofty praise for an administrator who has indeed done much more harm than good. Having been at Dartmouth throughout most of Dever’s time as Provost, I struggle to find any examples of her elevating the academic profile (our undergraduate teaching ranking is no longer number one), improving diversity or inclusivity (beyond simple, meaningless statistics), championing academic initiatives (…Bueller?) or recruiting deans (the appointment of N. Bruce Duthu was a massive failure). Strategic priorities for Dartmouth’s future – or in other words, the house system – may be one item on her list of accomplishments. However, from the view of any reasonable observer, the house system can hardly be considered a success. Introductory events with free food and house-branded gear (the costs of which must have been obscene) cannot be considered accurate metrics. The first weekend of the term, all of the dining halls on campus were closed, so in essence, students were forced to attend these events in order to eat dinner. I would imagine this is the kind of ‘strategic initiative’ Dever spearheaded: falsely-padded events which make for faux metrics of success to onlookers who are unaware of students’ feelings about the house system, all in a ploy to fit the administration’s agenda. Fake news, indeed.

At this point, no successor to Dever has been named, so the position remains vacant, unlike the post of Dean of the Faculty, which was filled by former biological sciences professor Elizabeth Smith on July 1. The ripples of the Duthu debacle of the spring of 2017 are still felt on campus; The Review continues to draw criticism from the role it played in the controversy. For all his lack of qualifications and controversial opinions, Duthu’s failure to ever disavow his support for BDS – an action which would have really been quite simple – is what ultimately did him in. In a place where academic freedom is held paramount, any attack on academic freedom ought to be shut down. In the end, it was clear that N. Bruce Duthu was simply a poor choice for the position of Dean of the Faculty. President Hanlon should never have appointed someone with such controversial views; it would have spared the College of a PR nightmare and also not have driven the wedge between the right and left on campus ever deeper.

It seems increasingly clear that people simply do not want to be a part of Hanlon’s sinking ship – one which continues to be barraged by all sides, and is helmed by the most incompetent leader since George McClellan. Where the College’s administration steps, controversy soon follows. Earlier this term, Mark Bray, a visiting scholar at the College’s thankfully-now-defunct Gender Research Institute and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, drew significant ire when he condoned and even defended the use of violence by left-wing protesters. In his Dartblog post on the topic, Brian Chen ’17 sums up the issues of Bray’s views quite well: “Ironically, Bray’s views are protected by the ideals of academic freedom and free speech that he opposes. So long as he does not directly incite violence, the First Amendment safeguards his right to make these statements. But by endorsing violent acts against people holding positions that are detestable to many of us, he has only ceded the moral high ground to a constellation of racist and bigoted groups.”

It was to my shock, however, that President Hanlon actually came out against Bray’s position, writing that “Recent statements made by Lecturer in History Mark Bray supporting violent protest do not represent the views of Dartmouth.” But my shock grew even more when, in a bizarre turn of events, Hanlon’s seemingly benign statement became the subject of a letter from over a hundred faculty members condemning Hanlon’s condemnation. Their (somewhat justifiable) complaint, however, was that Hanlon never reached out to Bray before issuing the statement, proving once again that Hanlon’s management is nothing more than poor at best – and at worst, dangerous.

First Lady Rosalynn Carter once said that “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” It seems quite clear to me: President Hanlon has no idea where he wants to go, and seems completely unwilling to ask and see where anyone wants to go – and he most certainly has no clue where anyone ought to be. Perhaps it is time that the College had a new leader – after all, it’s been quite a while since we’ve had a good one.