The Dartmouth Observer

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Friday, September 06, 2002
Thoughts on Dartmouth College: Forever New - A Strategic Vision for Tomorrow by President James Wright

The section I would like to focus on is the one entitled "Diversity:"

1. "Diversity, in all its variations, is central to the Dartmouth experience." In all its variations? You sure? How many times is anything but racial diversity referred to explicitly in the lines that follow? Also, does diversity include people who don't think diversity is central to the Dartmouth experience? What about academic excellence?

2. "We must encourage and sustain an environment that welcomes and embraces all students, faculty, and staff." Is it just me, or does this state the obvious? Also, if an environment is all warm and welcoming, is it diverse?

3. "Dartmouth’s commitment to diversity goes back to our founding charter." A clever but ultimately futile attempt at linking social engineering to tradition? I'm not familiar with our founding charter, but I highly doubt the term "diversity" was used anywhere in it - definitely not in the contemporary sense. I wonder what Eleazar Wheelock would have said. Or Daniel Webster. Or Dr. Seuss...

4. "The Class of 2006 is the most diverse class in Dartmouth history." How praiseworthy is this? I would be more gratified to hear about the actual academic and non-academic accomplishments of the class. What are the actual figures, and more importantly, how were they achieved?

5. "We are also gratified by significant recent gains in the hiring and retention of faculty and staff of color." Why should the College be gratified simply because it is hiring more colored people? How capable are these new recruits? And doesn't this come across as rather shallow and patronizing?

6. "A diverse campus is about more than admitting students of color or recruiting a diverse faculty and administration. It is about creating a climate on campus that is welcoming to all and that encourages our students to respect difference and to learn from each other." The words that would be welcome here are "free" and "speech." Does "creating a climate" sound Orwellian or what? Also, how important is respecting difference relative to say, learning how to write well? The two are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Where does sound criticism become disrespecting difference?

7. "The more diverse the student body, the richer the learning environment." A statement that everyone seems to be taking as gospel truth. Has it become dogma? If what we are talking about here is real diversity - Republicans, pro-lifers, Zionists, dead white males included - then the statement gains more credibility. But I have no sign so far of Dartmouth's administration acknowledging these marginalized, oppressed groups. Finally, consider replacing "diverse" with "intelligent" or "intellectual"...

8. "We must continually assess our hiring and retention of minority faculty and staff..." Why minority faculty/staff and not all faculty/staff? Does being a minority grant one special privileges? I thought we were supposed to welcome and embrace all people (regardless of race, religion, gender, etc.)?

9. "We must consider more aggressive recruitment of senior level scholars of diverse backgrounds..." Does "diverse backgrounds" mean even less than "diversity"? If a person's a great teacher and scholar, who cares if he's from New York or Idaho?

10. "We must support faculty efforts to assess the ways in which issues relating to diversity can be more fully integrated into the curriculum and their teaching." Vague, nebulous. Should the Biology department diversify its curriculum (e.g. "The Biology of Race," "Famous Latino Biologists," etc.), or should it seek to improve its standards of teaching? I'm all for more diversity in the English departments, if that means studying writers in English alongside writers who didn't write in English but whose influence on English Literature is immense (Homer, Plato, Dante, Kafka, Flaubert, to name a few).

I'll stop here.