Zywicki’s Clarification

Joe Malchow just received a letter from Trustee Todd Zywicki ’88 detailing his regrets over the speech he made at the John William Pope Center in October.

UPDATE: I was just informed by Malchow that he was only one of many who received the letter and that he was not intended as the sole platform of release.

To The Dartmouth Community:

Last month I addressed a conference sponsored by the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy on the topic of “Building Excellence into American Higher Education.” In reviewing the oral transcript I recognize that my extemporaneous remarks were in some instances more controversial than I intended, especially when taken out of context, and I want to review them in this letter.

[. . .]

Presented with an opportunity to edit or clarify my remarks prior to general publication there are three specific passages that I would have changed or would have explained myself more carefully.

First, I adopted by implicit reference Dartmouth Emeritus Professor Jeffrey Hart’s prior characterization of former Dartmouth President James Freedman as an “evil man.” Professor Hart’s appellation was based on several troubling events that occurred during President Freedman’s tenure. Most notably, President Freedman used baseless and inflammatory charges of anti-Semitism and racism to try to discredit a student newspaper that had lampooned him and to stir up hatred against his critics for political gain. The paper was cleared of any such taint by Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith after extensive investigation, and the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission found no evidence of categorical discrimination.

[. . .]

Second, in identifying the difficulties facing any efforts to reform the university (and here I was not referring to Dartmouth but to higher education in general), I stated that those who control universities today do not believe in God or country but in the institution of the university itself and the values found therein. That anti-American sentiment and hostility toward people of faith is present in some corners of the modern academy is evident. My intent here, however, was not to enter into a debate about patriotism or religion but to analogize the overzealousness of the beliefs of some members of the academy today with the intensity of feelings sometimes brought by others to their faith or to their love of country, and the unhealthy intolerance such sentiments imbue in “true believers” of any stripe. Thus, I did not mean for that passage to be taken literally, but I realize that they could be misunderstood when read out of context.

Third, I described the current climate on university campuses (again, I plainly was not referring to Dartmouth but higher education in general) as resembling the Spanish Inquisition in its imposition and enforcement of a rigid new intellectual orthodoxy. This comparison was an obvious exaggeration. But intellectual orthodoxies, whether ancient or modern, are inimical to the educational process. This orthodoxy is both real, as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers learned, and dangerous, as the Duke lacrosse team learned.

Read the whole letter.