February 22, 2007

Dean of the College article

The Daily D got a big scoop this morning: they revealed the names of three of the four finalists for the position of Dean of the College.

Actually, it isn't that big of a scoop. Sure, they published the names well before the search committee was ready to release them but I'm not sure any students actually care.

We should, though. Revealing those names constitutes a complete breach of confidentiality—confidentiality which is absolutely crucial in a job search like this.

If I'm employed at, say, Bowdoin and would like to make a move up to, say, Dartmouth, I probably am not eager for Bowdoin to know I'm dissatisfied and am looking for a job elsewhere. If I'm trying to get a jump on my job search because my contract will be up in a year or two, I probably don't want Bowdoin to know I'm not planning on renewing. I might get fired or demoted; I might be given less funding or staff; I might just get a lot of angry looks from other faculty. But none of that has to happen, nor should it.

Because of The D's actions, the candidates who are still at other institutions are open to all of that. And the other, who got a mug-shot-looking picture on the front page of the paper, probably doesn't want her recent employment history being floated about in a college newspaper. Additionally, since the information passed to The D is incomplete, the article will only invite poorly-informed speculation.

So Dartmouth College looks like an institution that can't protect its job applicants from getting their names waved around the internet. I bet that will encourage people to send us their resumes, especially well-qualified candidates who have a much wider field to apply to. Why bother with a College which has a confidentiality problem when you have your pick anyway?
Not only that, but who wants to work at a college with a student newspaper which will post mugshot-quality pictures of you if they think it'll get them a scoop?

The search for the Dean of the College isn't the only one going on; Dartmouth is looking to replace the Dean of OPAL and the Dean of Admissions. I hope we still get good applicants despite this action.


  1. Anonymous5:28 PM

    good comment

  2. Anonymous2:52 AM

    Seal, what has happened to you? Despite the low quality of the Free Press, don't you believe in any ideals of journalism? Sure, you can criticize The D for over-sensationalizing a story that isn't that exciting, but to say that these names shouldn't be printed is ludicrous. Have you lost any logical common sense? The whole point of releasing the names is to provide transparency in an otherwise very secretive administration. Most likely these candidates' current workplaces know that Dartmouth is considering them, and there action of coming to Dartmouth is newsworthy itself. I love how the "Free Press" know thinks the press should be a closed institution subject to the whims of administrative confidentiality policies. students have a right to know who their future dean might be.

    criticize the presentation, not the purpose of the story.

  3. I'm certainly not calling out The D because they did something that will harm the administration. I'm calling them out because they acted selfishly and purposelessly and in a manner that is likely to negatively affect students for years to come.

    And no, the press doesn't need to reveal every secret just because someone is being secretive. That's not transparency, that's persecution. If a story does more harm than it is possibly worth, I think it is a frivolous and irresponsible choice.

    Let me put this in terms that might be more meaningful to you:
    Most fraternities (and you know how much I like fraternities) have semi-secret rituals, induction games, handshakes, homoerotic antics, whatever. Were I to publish an article in the DFP just detailing all of them, I would probably be accused of journalistic impropriety. And rightly so.

    Or senior societies. I personally have full lists of a couple of them. They are by their very nature not transparent—does my journalistic calling to turn the obscure into light demand that I publish them in the next copy of the DFP? I should hope not.

    The point is, you're not arguing from a principle of journalistic integrity but from simple expedience. But if you want to accuse me of playing the administration's patsy, go ahead. I did more than most students to deep-six the alumni constitution change. I'm not saying that as a boast, but rather to point out that I do not blindly support the policies of the administration. You, on the other hand, are blind and inconsistent in your zeal against them.

  4. Most likely these candidates' current workplaces know that Dartmouth is considering them, and there [sic] action of coming to Dartmouth is newsworthy itself.

    A) You don't really know that
    B) I pointed out that this article will likely affect future searches--a College which can't protect its confidential matters is not a College I'd want to work at
    C) The D doesn't really operate on standards of newsworthiness. You should know that by now if you read their publication.

  5. Anonymous12:30 PM

    As with any of these "leaks," the fault lies with the leaker, not with the newspaper. The D has no responsibility to help a Bowdoin administrator hide his tracks.

    The fault lies with the Search Committee. Basically point B.

    I feel like the D is a smarmy excuse of a newspaper, but it shouldn't hold a notion "what's good for the College" over the notion of trying to be a good newspaper.

    Seal, if you published the secrets of the frats and secret societies, it wouldn't be a breach of "journalistic ethics" unless you learned them because either (a) you were a member, or (b) you promised to keep them secret when you learned them. If a journalist publishes "secret" information that falls into his lap because the organization can't keep its "secrets" confidential, he's just doing what journalists do.

    Of course the fraternities would hate you for publicizing their homo-erotic antics, but that's a different question altogether.

  6. Perhaps you don't understand what ethics are--it's not "he's just doing what journalists do," it's doing what journalists should do.

    I well know journalists naturally have a scoop-at-all-costs mentality; ethics comes in when they check that mentality momentarily and consider whether the scoop is worth reporting. This wasn't, and printing it was a failure of judgment.

  7. In sports, a coach has to get permission from his team to interview with another team for another position. Are you sure academic administration isn't the same way? Wasn't it well known that our last Dean was thinking about Swarthmore before he actually decided to leave?

    And is it even legal to fire or demote someone because they considered quitting?

  8. 12:30 anonymous2:35 PM

    Right, but this isn't exactly the same thing as publishing explosive recipes, outing someone in the witness protection program, publishing the name of a rape victim, or alerting kidnappers to where the police are looking for them.

    Journalists are self-serving whores first and do-gooders second. Usually they rely on their whoring to serve the greater good in the aggregate. "Ethics" come into play only when the reasons against publishing something are much stronger than the reasons for. Here, I'd say they're both pretty minor.

  9. Nathan--not really. They don't have to inform their home institution. The NFL isn't academia. Secondly, I don't think there is a national (or even New Hampshire) law protecting employees from being fired for that. At least I've never heard of one. If there is, I would be very surprised.

    Anonymous, I don't see the harm done as minor. I've talked with people who have been on committees like these, and they are very worried. Secondly, as I reported in my article on the DFP (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~thepress/read.php?id=1320), the woman employed by SpencerStuart stressed the need for confidentiality. She does this for a living and does a very good job at it. I'm sure she wasn't just being overly careful.

  10. Anonymous12:28 PM

    Some dude from the D responds to a similar op-ed in by Carlos Mejia, and calls out the douchebaggery for what it is...


  11. Paul Heintz reduced to "some dude from the D?"

    Hahahahahahahahaha. Hilarious. That didn't take long.

  12. Anonymous10:31 PM

    Maybe newspaper reporters in the context of small college have some obligations to be more careful about invading privacy because they live with their fellow students in close proximity. Student journalists do not exist in close proximity to the class of 2020. Why do current student journalists owe something to them?

    The Dartmouth adminstration will be here then, but we will not.