Skip to main content

Office of the President Emeritus
Hinman Box 6166
Hanover, NH 03755
Phone: (603) 646-0016
Fax: (603) 646-0015
Email: james.wright@dartmouth.edu

Tenth Annual Report to the General Faculty by President James Wright

 

President Wright
President Wright delivers his tenth annual report to the general faculty (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

October 8, 2007

It is my privilege to join you here for the purpose of providing my annual report on the state of the college. I was surprised to realize that this is the tenth time I have done this!

The occasion of my tenth report provides an opportunity to look back, the instinct of a historian-but it is a crucial time to look ahead, the job description of a president.  But before I reflect briefly on the path we have traveled and describe our ambitions going forward, current circumstances require a few comments on one issue.

As you know, in September the Board of Trustees approved a number of governance changes as a result of a comprehensive review conducted over the summer, which included receiving a great deal of feedback from alumni, faculty, students, and others. The Board decided to expand the Board by increasing the number of Charter seats, to establish some new guidelines for alumni nomination of trustees, and to expand the Board committee structure to include committees on academic affairs, student life, and alumni affairs. They believed that these steps were essential in order to continue to strengthen Dartmouth. I fully support their actions.

Much of the debate since then has been predictable, even understandable. I know and respect many alumni who disagree with the Board action. I have less understanding of those who have fought this debate in the national media over the summer, holding this good school up as a divided place that is unsure of its direction. I have trouble understanding those who seek to tie the College up in the courts now. I particularly regret the efforts of some to engage students in this controversy. Dartmouth students should enjoy being students and I am confident that they are capable of making up their own minds about the quality of their experience.  They always have been!

It is crucial for everyone to understand that Dartmouth is not divided in our values and sense of purpose and we are quite certain of who we are and what we aim to be. As President, my focus is on your work, on our ability to recruit and to sustain faculty, on our ability to continue to recruit here the best students in the country and provide them an exceptional experience, and to protect and to always seek to enhance the intellectual and fiscal strength of the College.

In preparation for this meeting I reread the previous nine annual reports I had presented to you. Over the years I have emphasized our goal of recruiting and supporting an exceptional faculty who are committed to teaching and my commitment to a culture that encourages interdisciplinary work through our programs and at the boundaries of departments and schools. I have annually described diversity as a historic commitment and as a critical element in our learning environment. And I have regularly emphasized the out of classroom experience as part of the learning culture here. The mission statement with the core values and legacy that we developed last year pull all of these elements together. At their September meeting the Board affirmed their support for the work of the faculty, for the synergy at Dartmouth between research and teaching and for the intellectual value of the graduate programs. And two weeks ago I reaffirmed the College's commitment to the diversity of the community.

Over the last nine years we have advanced our goals through underlining our budget priorities, through the early results of the capital campaign, and through the commitment made by you and by many colleagues, students, alumni/ae, and friends. We have been consistent in our ambitions and resolute in accomplishing them.

Let me summarize briefly some of what we have done together.

Faculty growth:

The FTE of A&S faculty has grown from 380 to 430 over the past decade. In terms of authorized tenure-track positions the numbers have gone from 352 to 411. This has allowed us to reduce the student-faculty ratio down to 8 to 1 today. This is the US News and World Report calculation and according to them we have come down from 12:1 in 1997-98. This is at best a marginally useful comparative metric-for it is also a misleading one. It calculates the ratio based on total teaching faculty and total student enrollment. There is little doubt that among the schools with whom we compete, Dartmouth would be a leader in terms of faculty in the undergraduate classroom.

The Professional school faculties have also grown. Tuck has increased from 37 faculty lines to 55 and Dean Danos expects to add a few more. Thayer has increased from 33 to 38 and again would like to continue to grow a little more. DMS also has increased its faculty significantly.

Even more important than this pattern of growth is the quality of the Dartmouth faculty. We continue to attract our first choice of faculty and we will continue to work hard to do this as well as to then retain them. I can affirm as one who sits on all tenure, promotion, and reappointment cases, that Dartmouth faculty excel as teachers and scholars-professional colleagues in the field and the Dartmouth students consistently affirm these things. 

Faculty compensation:

While we have added faculty we have also paid attention to faculty support and compensation. We have increased the Arts and Sciences start up budget from under $1 million to over $5 million today, and we have met the compensation goals established by the Committee on the Faculty for the Arts and Sciences. Compensation for Thayer, Tuck and DMS is also competitive with their peer institutions.

Significantly increasing the size of the faculty and simultaneously improving our average compensation relative to our competitors has been a complicated and expensive task-and it has been an essential one.

Admissions:

Karl Furstenberg retired in June after 17 years as Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid-he did a tremendous job, and I am confident that Maria Laskaris will continue to build upon this even as she puts her own mark on this crucial office. Over the last nine years the applicant pool increased significantly from 10,600 to over 14,000 today. Selectivity has increased as the acceptance rate went from 21 percent to 16 percent. Students of color increased from 20 percent to over 30 percent. The number of international students increased from around 4 percent to almost 9 percent today. The percentage of students on financial aid increased from 42 percent to 48 percent and the dollars spent on financial aid have doubled from $24.5 million in 1998 to over $50 million today. On three separate occasions we have enhanced the financial aid packages.

The Academic Experience:

The academic experience has also become stronger. Classes under 20 have increased from 57 percent of all classes offered to 65 percent. We have increased the number of opportunities for undergraduates to work individually with faculty across the institution and I am always impressed with the numbers of undergraduates who work with faculty at the professional schools. This is one of Dartmouth's distinctive strengths. Last year students received 1,000 credits for independent study or comparable projects.

We have exceptional students-national surveys reveal that out of their peer group they have a greater interest in a solid general education and are less interested in education simply as a means to make more money.

There is a wonderful synergy here-high academic expectations define the students who come here and in a recent survey of non-tenured, tenure track faculty, the quality of the students was at the top of the reasons these faculty identified for being satisfied at Dartmouth. This is the essence of the strength of the Dartmouth experience.

Student satisfaction with all aspects of their experience has increased. You should be particularly proud at the 98 percent of students who say they are satisfied with the accessibility of the faculty. Overall satisfaction with the Dartmouth experience increased from 89 percent to 91 percent.

We do have some challenges here. Advising is one of them. This was an issue that was pulled out in our last reaccreditation process and we made some changes in the way we organized advising. We moved the office to the Dean of the Faculty area and Dean Cecelia Gaposkin assumed responsibility for the office. She has done a terrific job and we have seen some improvements in this area-but we need to do more still. And we need to look at our major advising.

We also continue to have enrollment pressures in some departments, most notably Economics and Government. Dean Folt has added lines in both departments. Indeed, Economics has grown by 50 percent over the past decade and Government by 25 percent. Nonetheless, enrollment pressures continue and we need to think about how to address them.

Facilities:

We have seen a significant expansion of the physical campus with the addition of several buildings and the renovation of others. By the time we finish the currently planned buildings we will have spent over $1 billion dollars on the campus.

The new facilities include eight residence halls and two commons, large scale residence hall renovation, the MacLean Engineering Sciences Center, Kemeny Hall and the Haldeman Academic Centers, the expansion of Wilder, the renovation of Silsby, Berry Library and Carson Hall, the addition of Whittemore at the Tuck School as well as the Living and Learning center, and the Rubin building at DMS. In addition to Whittemore Hall, we added graduate students housing along Park Street and at Sachem Village. We have new faculty housing on Park and Wheelock Streets. New athletic facilities include the construction of the Floren Varsity Field-house and the Burnham Soccer Facility as well as renovations to the Alumni Gymnasium and Memorial Field and Track.

We are aggressively moving ahead with planning and design for the Visual Arts Center on Lebanon Street and hope to commence work on enabling projects for this new home for Studio Art and Film studies in 2008.

The Life Sciences Building, about which I will have some additional comments below, is also in the late stages of permitting. We hope to commence work on the foundations for this later this fall if all of the permits are approved on schedule. We are moving ahead the planning for the Koop Complex at the Medical Center which will provide space for translational research and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

Work on the Class of  '53 Commons up at the McLaughlin Cluster, will begin pending final approvals and completion of plans. We are also advancing our work on the dining hall that will replace Thayer hall.

And finally, work continues on Rivercrest, Sachem Village, and South Block, which together will provide more housing options for graduate students and employees. The work at Rivercrest, where we will build 280 units of employee rental and for-sale housing in a variety of unit types including single family homes, townhouses, duplexes and apartments, will begin next summer. This past summer, we completed 125 rental units at Sachem Village for graduate students, and once that project is finished next summer will have a total number of 255. And on South Block, we have added 12 units of housing for faculty and graduate students and will add an additional 27 units, including approximately 10 units to replace existing Visiting Professor apartments.

Capital campaign:

Much of this has been enabled by the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience. Carrie Pelzel and her colleagues have done a terrific job of meeting an aggressive fundraising goal. The Campaign is on track and has raised  approximately $919 million to date.

We have had some wonderful recent gifts that advance our goals-the Peter and Susan Williamson gift to the medical school was such a generous investment in the future of the medical school. All of us take pride in having such a remarkable faculty colleague as Peter Williamson.

And I am delighted to be able to announce today that the Class of 1978 Reunion Giving Committee, made up of Bill Daniel, Elissa VonHeill Hylton, Steve Mandel, and Barbara Dau Southwell, has committed to meeting two goals by the time of their 30th reunion next June.  Now we need to understand that the Class of '78 broke all previous reunion records in 2003 when they raised over $14 million for their 25th reunion. They have agreed to do this again! They have committed to raise the $40 million necessary to name the College's new Life Sciences building and contribute at least $3 million in unrestricted gifts supporting the student experience. This current commitment raises the bar for class gifts to an unbelievable height. I am so pleased that we will be able to name the Life Sciences building for the Class of 1978.

The Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center aims to be a national model of sustainable design, expected to consume one-half of the energy of the best-performing laboratories currently in use in the United States.

At 174,500-square-feet, the facility will have spaces devoted to undergraduate- and graduate-level teaching and research, including classrooms, teaching laboratories, and faculty laboratories and offices for the department of biology. Among its notable features: a 6000-square-foot greenhouse, a 200-seat auditorium, a two-story atrium for "science in sight" gallery displays, and a third-floor "sorghum and grasses green roof" to help keep the building cool, a storm water management system that will reuse 1 million gallons of rain water annually, extensive daylighting, and state of the art energy management system. Pending approval from the Hanover Planning Board, the foundation work will begin in November. Occupancy is planned for March 2010.

I am also pleased to announce that with the approval of the Board and of the original donor to the program, we are going to be able to honor someone who made a great difference in the intellectual life of Dartmouth  and to continue to support one of his enduring programs, I am honored to announce that the Presidential Scholars Program will be renamed the James Freedman Presidential scholars program. This remarkably successful program has 210 participants from the Class of 2009 - double our initial assumptions.

Perhaps this discussion of the Freedman Presidential Scholars program, which brings together some of our finest students and our faculty in creative collaboration, is a good point to simply pause and say that the State of the College is excellent.  But it is also a point to start poking into the future. We are not yet finished and I would like to share with you a few initiatives that I seek to advance during the remainder of my service as president.

I do take seriously the obligation that we share to advance the mission of Dartmouth and of underlining our core values. I take seriously the need always to build upon the qualities and programs that define and distinguish the Dartmouth experience. These start with our academic strength and a culture that encourages student and faculty collaboration.

In 1998 when I needed to identify three areas of Dartmouth for self-study and outside review during our reaccrediation process, I decided to focus on those things that we thought of as fundamental to Dartmouth: undergraduate research opportunities, internationalism/globalism, and computation. These still mark us-as do qualities such as access, diversity, teamwork, leadership, and responsibility.  And we are enriched by a scale which permits and a culture which encourages work across intellectual boundaries.   Let us consider ways to enhance these, to lead with strength.

Academic strength:

I would start, as always, by committing to underline and advance the core strength of Dartmouth:  faculty who are defining their fields and who have a passion for sharing their intellectual passion with their students. We will continue to grow the faculty but this needs to advance some clear strategic goals.

Because Dartmouth stands out among our competitors in the undergraduate courses taught by faculty, we need to continue growth and aim to increase the percentage of classes under 20 to 70% of all classes. We do need to focus on student access to courses, but as I have said in this forum before, faculty expansion needs to be about strategic intellectual growth and not just on meeting current enrollment patterns. I would encourage Dean Folt and her colleagues to work with faculty to determine a strategic plan for growth. As always, we need to focus on quality in allocating hires-and we need to engage new and emerging fields and build upon interdisciplinary opportunities. I believe we can take fuller advantage of graduate school faculty teaching undergraduates and I am particularly interested in an initiative that Provost Scherr and Deans Danos and Folt have been discussing regarding Tuck school faculty offering courses. And we need to move ahead with our programs in writing and rhetoric. The Faculty committee working on this and the deans have some strong initiatives in place that we can advance. 

Dartmouth has some exceptional programs in the graduate schools. We will never be of the size and scale of most of our competitors in these programs but we can build upon a model of excellence in the graduate schools as well as in the Arts and Sciences. Dean Danos is moving ahead with a strategic planning process to define where Tuck will be in 2012. Dean Helble has worked to develop a culture of innovation at Thayer. And Stephen Spielberg is working on plans around a new institute of health policy and clinical practice. I would invite the deans and the faculty in the graduate schools as well as Arts and Sciences to initiate a process to define those areas where Dartmouth can either continue or can assert international leadership.

As we continue to grow the faculty, we need to keep focused on our compensation goals-I want us now to seek to exceed the median for our comparison schools. We need to find ways to better support startup needs, ongoing faculty research and teaching initiatives, and to develop a plan to enhance the Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund.  In recognition of the growth in size and strength of the faculty, Provost Scherr and I have agreed to Dean Folt's request that we increase the number of senior faculty grants that we award. This has been increasingly competitive in recent years so we will fund three more senior fellowships to be designated by the CAP this year for use in 2008-09. I am also interested in finding ways to advance the initiatives that the Committee on the Faculty has been discussing having to do with opportunities for spouses and partners, with parental leave benefits, and with support for home purchases.

Sophomore summer:

This is a well-established program that is unique to Dartmouth. But we have not taken advantage of the opportunity. I aspire to make this a showcase of what Dartmouth can do.  For over thirty years it has evolved but it has not been strategically and intellectually managed by the faculty and the administration.

I propose a basic conversation about what we might do with this opportunity-we have a class in residence just after they have declared their majors and at a time when there are fewer extracurricular demands on them. 

Students by all accounts enjoy the summer terms-and we want them to continue to enjoy it.  But let the enjoyment be expanded and enriched: for example, could we schedule classes differently, including three week intensive units? Could we provide for three course credit courses-providing for intensive work in a field of study?  Could we take fuller advantage of professional school faculty teaching in summer courses? Could we include during the summer a focus on themes that address the great issues of the day and provide opportunities for students to consider how they can develop as leaders? Can we find ways to integrate around some common themes the remarkable resources of the Hopkins Center, the Hood Museum, the Dickey Endowment, the Rockefeller Center, the Ethics Institute, the Humanities Center, the Montgomery Endowment, the Tucker Foundation? Can we utilize during the summer the experiences that our alumni/ae can bring back to the campus, providing opportunities to bridge theory and practice.

I have asked Dean Folt to work with the faculty to develop initiatives that build upon the unique opportunity we have to share the richness of learning and the responsibility of the learned. We will proceed to raise funds that will secure these initiatives.

Access:

The range and richness of our student body is a core strength of Dartmouth. I am energized and sustained by students and their energy, creativity, and accomplishments-outside as well as inside the classroom.  This strength is advanced because of the range and diversity that we see here due to our financial aid programs.

I would like to enhance these in order that they also can underline and advance some  core strengths of Dartmouth. I would like to identify resources that will enable us to do several related things:  move to need blind admissions for international students; provide for one leave term where there are no earning expectations so that financial aid students will have the same options as non financial aid students to take on internships or other opportunities that do not provide consequential compensation; provide that for financial aid students going on Dartmouth off campus programs the incremental expenses will be covered by scholarship rather than by loan. These three initiatives all aim at advancing our goals in internationalism/globalism and in making certain that all of our students can take advantage of activities that are at the center of the Dartmouth experience. Finally I would like us to find ways to reduce significantly the loan expectations for financial aid students.  This makes us even more accessible-and it makes post-graduation options more possible for all of our students.

Diversity:

This theme is woven through all of the initiatives described above, as it is woven through those things that make Dartmouth the exceptional place it is and seeks to be.  But we need to make explicit the challenge and the opportunity we have. Dartmouth is a remarkably rich community with a remarkably rich legacy-and not only do we not take full enough advantage of this, we too often allow it to be marginalized. We all share in the benefits of having here a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff.  Consequently we all share in assuring that we continue to seek a diverse community and that all of us engage in welcoming all who join us.

Let me close by thanking all of you for all you do to enrich the experience here-and for making my work so rewarding. I would also like to extend a special salute to my colleagues in the administration and staff. Dartmouth is blessed with an administration and staff that cares deeply about the College, about the experience of the students, and about the work of the faculty. They work extremely hard and imaginatively to provide support for a community that has become larger, richer, more complicated, to sustain a growing infrastructure, and to control costs. All of this happens in a world that is more complex and in an environment marked by regulations and by reports. I regret immensely that some critics abstract these colleagues as "administrators," as a pejorative description that is used as obstacle or antithesis to what we are about. You know better than this. Try being what we are about without them. This old faculty member is proud to be in the company of the staff and officers of the college. As I am pleased to be here today in your good company. The state of the college is strong-thanks to all of you who make it so.

Last Updated: 8/21/08