Wright Says Dartmouth in ‘Great Shape’

President Wright last week told Florida alumni that “the College is in great shape,” and rattled off the usual laundry list of successes: increased applications, new construction and so forth. He then defended the College against accusations of large class size, explaining that students will normally take one or two small classes (out of the 30 or more needed to graduate), implying that there’s no problem at all. Wright also addressed the question of poor athletics, saying he’s “tired of losing” at football. He added that some other sports teams are doing well, including the men’s basketball team, which finally had a .500 season in the Ivies (10-17 overall).

Wright began his speech, as he is prone to do, referencing the Booz Allen Hamilton report that declared Dartmouth one of “the world’s most enduring institutions.” As before, Wright ignored most of the actual text of the Booz Allen Hamilton report. The report does not praise Dartmouth as it is today, but rather its successes until the 1970s–notably absent from the report are references to Presidents McLaughlin, Freedman and Wright. Booz Allen Hamilton cited in particular the College’s anti-administration revolt of 150 years ago:

[Dartmouth] demonstrated how an academic institution could reform itself of dry rot. Fed up with a curmudgeon president who thwarted good will efforts to raise the educational level of the institution, Dartmouth’s constituencies (undergraduates, alumni, faculty, etc.) prepared a bill of particulars and summoned the president to answer the charges of neglect. Faced with this earnest consensus of informed critics who were loyal to the college, the derelict president resigned. … What made this self-reform especially remarkable is that it took place precisely during the decades when advocates of the creation of new, large universities were predicting the death of the liberal arts college. Not only did Dartmouth College defy those odds, it dared to create a special institution that did not follow the conventional wisdom of university building that dominated the era.

This, perhaps, is the message students and alumni should take from the BAH article: that students and alumni can tear out the “dry rot” of the administration and prevent Dartmouth from becoming just another university.

Update: I fixed the permalink and added a clarification about the BAH report.