November 8, 2005

Review Reviewed III

Damn good issue. Honestly.

The reporting on the Appleton-Folt fiasco and on the Hanover-Norwich talks about Tubestock and the analyses of the Homecoming Alumni elections and of Dartmouth's drinking culture are all well-written and well-thought out.

The worst I can say is that the Review seems to have all of a sudden found a new tack to criticize Jim Wright, one that misleads more than it helps.

Basically, it has been the Review's bread and butter to criticize Wright's policies as if they are a cohesive package designed to rip Dartmouth's traditions to shreds and leave us a second-rate research institution--a pinewood Harvard, without frats, without manliness, without a focus on the undergraduate experience, without school pride.

But now, in this issue's editorial, a sea change has apparently occurred in the Review's understanding of Jim Wright's psychology--rather than a calculating menace to our hallowed traditions, he's the "devil you don't know."

Well holy shit, I would think that after writing about him extensively for what is it--seven years?--they might have gotten to "know" him a bit. Rather than the bane of all beer-drinking and the king of keg-condemning, he's now a man without priorities and without a vision.
Lacking a core vision for the College, Wright resorts instead to attempting to be all things to all people, never makes a tough decision unless forced to, and reverses course whenever convenient according to the currents of campus politics.
Is he really attempting to please everyone, cuz I thought the Review was kinda pissed off at him, and not (until this issue) at his flip-floppery, but at those very policies that he has most proudly advanced.

The point they should have made was not that Wright, Folt, and Grenoble lack a clear set of priorities, but that their priorities are wrongly arranged. The fact that students' (and their donor-parents') complaints are prized above academic freedom and intellectual honesty is the problem, not Wright's putative vacillations. The Folt-Appleton deal is not evidence that the administration is trying to "please everyone;" it is manifest evidence that they are trying to please the wrong people. There was no effort "to please everyone," for it is the lack of effort to "please" or even consult with Appleton that is the ugly heart of the matter.

There is a definite policy--alumni pressure (or just plain $$$) trumps all. It is strange that the Review advocates so strongly for alumni pressure--perhaps the change in direction of their criticism of Wright is merely a way to avoid saying that alumni need to butt out a bit.

The point is not that Wright's policies are ad hoc but that they are in hock to money and therefore share little with professors or students.

This new attack on Wright et al. is confusing in its inconsistency with previous criticisms, incorrect in its logic, and leads us farther away from the problem rather than closer to it.

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