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Address to the Arts & Sciences Faculty

October 15, 2018

Welcome, everyone, the term is well underway – we’ve welcomed another outstanding class of first-year students, as well as a number of highly respected and accomplished new faculty colleagues. Of course, it isn’t just the new people who are firing on all cylinders – over the last two years we’ve seen historic levels of well-deserved recognition of Dartmouth faculty, especially those within Arts and Sciences. Our staff members continue to go above and beyond, supporting the academic work of our institution in so many crucial ways. And over the last couple of years, our alumni and parents have just dazzled us with their commitments of time, energy, ideas and yes, treasure. Now five years plus back on campus, after a 38-year hiatus, I can say I have never been more impressed with the energy, the talent, the commitment of the Dartmouth community, or more excited about the possibilities for our beloved institution in the years ahead. I think it’s a very exciting moment.

Faculty, of course, are at the core of everything Dartmouth does and we could not achieve the successes I just mentioned without the hard work and dedication of the people in this room – the faculty of Arts and Sciences. All of you excel at your academic work, but I want to take a moment to recognize the many of you who have given your time and energy in service capacities – just above and beyond your teaching, mentoring and research work - to help advance the College.

So, let me begin by thanking those of you who have served on the standing Arts and Sciences Committees. These committees are the official voice of Arts and Science faculty in governance issues, and so they play a crucial role in the success of our institution.

Over the past year, these committees, I can say honestly, have been an incredible resource for me and I know for the entire Senior Leadership group. I’ve had the opportunity to get together twice over the last few months with the FCC - once last spring to discuss long-term priorities and one this September to think about the work ahead for this year. I met the COI last week, I’m scheduled to meet the CPr, and in fact all four Divisional Committees, later this term. As I told the FCC in September, I welcome the opportunity to meet with any of the standing Arts and Sciences committees, so please invite me.

Beyond the standing committees, many of you have served on Councils, or ad hoc search committees or task forces, and let me thank also the many faculty who have already helped us with the Campaign and donor events over the last year. Looking to the year ahead, we are in full throttle on the fund-raising front and so we’ll be asking more of you to help us achieve the ambitious goals of our Campaign.

And finally, let me give a special thanks to the Review Committee and CAFR – we have relied on your wisdom in unprecedented ways over the last year.

I don’t want to forget, either, the faculty who are playing administrative roles. Let me thank the chairs and directors who have complicated, often thankless, jobs but ones that are just so meaningful. The Associate Deans of course, and the Dean of the Faculty – faculty members who are willing to devote full-time effort to making Arts and Sciences as good as it can be.

And, lastly, please join me in a special shout-out to Dave Kotz who has accomplished so much and been such a source of wisdom to me and all of us in his Interim Provost role. And also, a welcome to Joe Helble who will begin his work as Provost at the end of this month.

Let me also remind you that I will be delivering my annual State of the College address at the upcoming meeting of the General Faculty. At that time, I’ll be talking about the trajectory of the last five years and the long-term path ahead, as well as the work for this year. But today, I do want to look ahead at those comments and mention a couple of matters that I think are of particular urgency.

First, the allegations and findings of faculty misconduct have been a wake-up call, compelling us to do better. This is not a moment to dwell on the past or place blame, but rather, it’s a time to look forward, together. This work will fall to all of us: the President, the Provost, the Deans, the Chairs and Directors, the Arts and Sciences Committees, and all of you on the faculty, you will be part of charting this future.

I can report on some steps that are currently already underway:

  • The Presidential Steering Committee on Sexual Misconduct was convened in January. This group was led by Leslie Henderson of the Geisel Dean’s office and enlisted faculty from all schools as well as staff members from the most closely involved offices.
  • The Steering Committee reviewed best practices from our peers, conducted listening sessions with our campus community, and identified key parameters for our consideration in formulating proactive policies and training plans.
  • The Committee delivered its report to our leadership team earlier this summer.

Now, one important aspect of the report was the recommendation that we adopt a single policy for all community members, regardless of your status, while acknowledging that different procedures will apply appropriately to different groups.

As we work to figure out how to make that concept, a single policy, a reality we will be consulting with all of you on the parameters of the solution.

As a point of departure, rather than us as a whole try to develop a policy, we will ask you to consider a draft policy and procedures, a straw man, for dealing with complaints against students, faculty, and staff.

The policy includes input from consultants with national stature on sexual misconduct issues – they shared what is and isn’t working, in practice, for schools around the country.

The policy also incorporates insights from our recent experiences with misconduct allegations here at Dartmouth.

We’ll be seeking your views on all aspects of these policies and procedures in the weeks ahead.

In the meanwhile, we are also looking at unit reviews and training, we are proposing proactive environmental review and education efforts:

In response to the concerns we’ve heard from multiple quarters about the learning and work environment in so departments and programs, we are exploring how we could launch an environmental review that would include not just PBS, but faculty departments across Dartmouth, and would focus prospectively on a host of academic climate issues – not just sexual misconduct, but broader themes of advancement and mentorship, power dynamics, diversity, and inclusion.

Again, we’ll be seeking broad input on what this review should look like. Those of you who haven’t read it, there is an amazing report put out by the National Academies of Sciences called “Sexual Harassment in the Academy” and it is worth reading. I know the COP has read it; it is worth looking at if you haven’t already.

On the education front, we are committed to a multi-pronged approach: we are pilot-testing an online module and exploring a comprehensive training plan that could dovetail with new sexual misconduct policies and procedures. At the same time, we understand how important it is for you to have more immediate access to education and resources. For that reason, as we are pursuing our planning efforts, our Title IX Coordinator is offering to meet with any division or department in A&S that would be interested in a Title IX workshop.

There is much to do here, and we need to do it together. It will need our focus and attention as well as our strongest community spirit to move Dartmouth forward.

Second, about a month ago, I participated in a roundtable in Washington – a dinner with about a dozen college presidents and 20 or so members of the press who cover higher education. As the dinner progressed, more and more of the questions from our friends in the media were about public trust and public valuing of higher education. What do we say to the record number of people who question whether higher education is worth the price? Many of you may have seen a recent Gallup poll measuring public trust in institutions. It still showed higher education as one of the top four institutions amongst the public respondents. But only 48% of the respondents actually said they had trust in higher education. What was really striking was that since Gallup conducted the same poll in 2015, the higher education figure, that trust figure, had dropped by 9% - by far the largest drop of any of the institutions that they measured.

Against this backdrop, a really troubling narrative is emerging from the Administration in Washington. I have now experienced this in three or four different activates, events, meetings in DC. This narrative begins by sounding the alarm over potential Chinese economic dominance of the US. It then squarely places the blame for Chinese economic growth on the theft of intellectual property from US universities by Chinese nationals. It concludes by calling on US universities to somehow close off access by foreign nationals to technology and innovations that are of plausible economic benefit.

Yes, the theft of intellectual property does sometimes happen and we must take reasonable steps to prevent it. But US higher education is the envy of the world exactly because we offer an open intellectual environment and we seek to recruit the very best talent from all across the world. Just to put you on notice, we must remain vigilant in holding on to those foundations of our excellence.

Finally, on a more joyous note, in January we will begin celebrating Dartmouth’s 250th Anniversary year. Don Pease has been at the center of planning faculty events. Stay tuned, I think there’s a website about to go up, which will list the many events currently being planned. If you have other ideas, I’m sure Don would love to hear them.

In conclusion, don’t forget the state of the college address in a couple of weeks. And again, a really big thank you to all that you’ve done, the people in this room, to make Dartmouth such a strong and vibrant institution.

Last Updated: 10/26/18