March 18, 2011

President Kim's Great Misstep

To date, President Kim has maintained an extended honeymooner's popularity at Dartmouth. Even as Mr. Kim has faced increasing scrutiny from students, he has appeared as strong as ever amongst alumni. That may be about to change.

Though it has received little attention in Dartmouth's mainstream press, Mr. Kim plans on opening a new office in the financial district of Boston, Mass. Mr. Kim claims that the new space -- which will likely cost more than $300,000 per annum -- is a necessary step toward better management of the endowment.

Critics are crying foul. Joe Asch, erstwhile petition candidate for trustee, writes over on Dartblog:

Setting up premises in Boston is hardly necessary for the good management of Dartmouth’s money. The College’s leading investment maven, billionaire Chairman of the Board of Trustees Steve Mandel, does an excellent job running Lone Pine Capital from Greenwich. [...] Technology has brought us a long way from open outcry trading in a crowded stock exchange pit.

Indeed. So far, the administration has not explained precisely why telephones and teleconferencing are insufficient, or how Dartmouth has survived so long without a posh Boston office.

At any rate, one cannot question the personal convenience for Mr. Kim or his top deputies. Mr. Kim, senior vice president Steven Kadish, and chief facilities officer Linda Snyder all maintain homes in Boston. And much of Mr. Kim's personal and professional networks still center on Bean Town.

Against the backdrop of painful cuts and an economy still shaking from its flirtation with the brink, Mr. Kim's chimerical and self-indulgent scheme is particularly inept. Even clever accounting tricks, which ensure that costs associated with the new office never appear on the College balance sheet, will not halt the deluge of questions like: What else could $300,000 per year buy? Is this the best use of College finances? Whom is this office really going to benefit?

For the first time in nearly two years, Mr. Kim's critics have a winning issue. Mr. Kim is looking less magnanimous and more perfidious. If Dartmouth United can mobilize, I predict that the history books will trace Mr. Kim's fall from grace to this very maladroit move.

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