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Friday, May 13, 2005
Memo to Peter and Todd

James Panero, following up on an essay by Roger Kimball in the latest New Criterion, is hailing Robinson and Zywicki's victory as "one more battle won in the effort to retake the universities." I'm a little skeptical of the military metaphor. As I've said previously, I don't think Dartmouth is in dire straits; and I certainly don't think it needs to be "retaken." We aren't Crusaders and Dartmouth isn't Jerusalem. In fact, I think conflict and open hostility between the new trustees and the administration or faculty is a bad thing. Conservative stalwarts may recollect with fondness the battles the Review waged against official Dartmouth in the 1980s, and may look forward to such skirmishes in the years to come, but I don't. I don't want my professors protesting on the Green; I want them in the classroom, teaching students. This is not to say that I'm against the trustees criticizing the faculty or administration. Some degree of criticism is necessary, because some things -- like tuition fees for instance -- need to be looked at. The question is how.

Crucially -- and I hope this isn't a radical suggestion -- Todd and Peter need to dispense with, or at least find alternatives to, the staged meetings between trustees and Dartmouth students that take place every once in a while at the Top of the Hop. Like the proverbial prince who disguised himself so that he could wander the streets of his kingdom and learn about his citizens, they ought to make the effort to get to know Dartmouth's students, administrators, and faculty in more informal settings (disguises probably aren't necessary). Most importantly, they must meet those who may not be immediately inclined to trust them. Susan Ackerman may have had her mind made up about conservatives before she was even born, but I know that there are reasonable people out there, liberal though they instinctively may be, who will listen to them. It will be a challenge for Peter and Todd to sway these people, and they will encounter hostility along the way, but I'm confident they're capable of it.