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Letter from President James Wright

Dear Colleagues:

A few years ago, Dartmouth was named one of the world's enduring institutions. This recognition stemmed in large part from the careful balance we have achieved over more than two centuries of remaining true to our values while adapting to new conditions and circumstances as needed. In our quest to remain at the forefront of higher education, we need to focus on sustaining the quality of our academic work. This, in turn, requires a professional, well-coordinated administrative infrastructure. To maintain our edge, I described five goals for the administration:

  • Support the work of faculty and students
  • Recruit and retain talented and diverse officers and staff and encourage and support their advancement
  • Steward the resources of the institution in a prudent and responsible manner
  • Communicate effectively across the institution
  • Encourage innovation within a culture of interdependence, transparency, responsibility, and accountability

With these goals in mind, we undertook a review of our administrative structures and processes, which included inviting the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to campus for a thorough assessment. We provided them with all the data they needed as well as opportunities to meet with employees and students.

The McKinsey Report, issued in April 2006, commented positively on much at Dartmouth, including the strong sense of community and collegiality. The Report noted that the size of Dartmouth's administration was in keeping with that of other similar institutions, and that the growth in the number of employees over the previous five years was a modest 1.1 percent per annum compared to a 3 percent growth in the number of faculty in the Arts and Sciences. The McKinsey group also provided some useful insights into how we could enhance various functions.

Following up on their report, I established three working groups. I asked Provost Barry Scherr to chair a working group to review hiring and retention issues. I asked Senior Assistant to the President Sheila Culbert to chair a second group to look at internal communications and administrative culture. And, finally, Executive Vice President Adam Keller worked with Provost Scherr and their budget and planning administrative colleagues to review the annual budgeting process. I am writing today to let you know that I have accepted the working groups' recommendations and that we will move forward immediately with their implementation.

The reports are available on line.  There you will find the considerations that led to the findings of each committee and more complete accounts of the recommendations. Please read them over carefully and consider how the changes relate to your responsibilities and how you can participate in advancing our goals. Many of the changes build upon suggestions the committees heard in the open meetings they organized and what they learned from the staff survey conducted in April of 2006. Your input was critical. All of the changes will advance our administrative support for the work of faculty and students. Let me take a moment to highlight a few of the key steps that we will be taking.


Dartmouth's mission has not changed - the College provides a preeminent educational experience to its students and fosters the creation of new knowledge. We need to reaffirm this mission and our values. Following conversations this year with groups of students, faculty, administrators, staff, and alumni, I have drafted a revised statement that I will share with the community very soon for comments.

Annual Planning and Budgeting

We will make some changes to the annual planning and budgeting process to ensure that divisions and departments tie their budgets more clearly to institutional priorities. Provost Scherr and EVP Keller meet regularly with the Arts and Sciences Faculty Committee on Priorities and the Student Budget Advisory Committee to gather their input on budget matters. 

Managerial Responsibility

Managers will have more responsibility and more opportunities to take initiatives - and they will be more consistently assessed relative to their accomplishments in advancing institutional priorities. 

Hiring and Retention

We will streamline the hiring process and will hold managers accountable for hiring and retaining a strong and diverse staff. It is essential that Dartmouth continue to seek innovative ways in a competitive environment to hire the very best employees that it can in every part of the College.

Ombuds Office

We will establish an Ombuds Office to provide answers and advice to a range of questions, to confidentially counsel employees regarding workplace complaints and concerns, and to mediate disputes. The Ombuds office here, as at our peer institutions, will provide a neutral, confidential, and informal resource for all non-faculty employees. The Ombudsperson will report directly to me and will work outside the formal grievance procedures.

Review of Committee Structure

I will ask chairs of administrative committees to review their committees including their charge, membership, and reporting structure - to ensure that we maximize their effectiveness.

Professional Development

While a number of offices on campus do an outstanding job of providing educational and professional opportunities for their employees, as an institution we would like to do more in this regard. We will provide more such opportunities for employees at all levels and in all areas of the College through both the Office of Human Resources and divisional opportunities. 

I would like to thank the many people who either served on one of the committees or who participated in the process of generating these recommendations. I have also asked the chairs of these committees, Barry Scherr, Adam Keller, and Sheila Culbert along with General Counsel Robert Donin, and Dean of the Tucker Foundation and Interim Vice President for Institutional Diversity Stuart Lord to serve as an ongoing implementation committee to work over the next several months to ensure that the recommendations outlined in the report are embraced fully. The committee will meet regularly with the Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action as well as the Chief Human Resource Officer to implement the changes relating to hiring. They will also provide regular reports to the community regarding the implementation of the changes. Some changes are effective immediately, others will take some time. More information on implementation is available through the website.

Change is often difficult. But one of the lessons of Dartmouth's own history is the need to show initiative in adapting to new conditions and new realities. I am confident that we can embrace the recommendations made in these reports as we all seek to maintain Dartmouth's preeminence among institutions of higher learning. Dartmouth depends so much on the good will, professionalism, and dedication of its employees. This is more than an excellent institution - it is a wonderful community. Each of these qualities enhances the other.  Dartmouth is by far the better because all of its members share in a sense of pride, of belonging, and of personal commitment and responsibility. We would not be the place we are without you. So I thank you for that commitment, and I look forward to working with you as we implement the recommendations contained in these reports.

Last updated: 01/31/07