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Address to the General Faculty

October 29, 2018

Remarks as prepared

Good afternoon and welcome to the fall General Faculty meeting. It is tradition, memorialized in the OFDC, that the President deliver a State of the College address each year at this meeting. And I am delighted to do so again this afternoon.

Before I turn to the State of the College, let me offer a bit of a preamble, including some notes of recognition and thanks.

First, the mass shooting in Pittsburgh and the multiple shootings in Kentucky over the weekend sadden us all deeply and our hearts go out to the friends and families of the victims. Especially disturbing is that these were deplorable acts of antisemitism and racism. As a community we condemn such bigotry and hatred and the toxic national dialogue that contributes to them.

Understandably, such acts leave members of our community feeling vulnerable and afraid. This reinforces our need to stand together in support of every member of our community and model empathy, understanding and open dialogue as we prepare our students for their lives of leadership ahead.

Next, I want to thank and applaud all of you, members of the different faculties, for another year of outstanding accomplishments. You are the core of this institution, and we could not achieve the success we’re having without your hard work and dedication.

You go above and beyond to nurture and push our amazing students as they learn, create, explore, and innovate. This work is challenging and time consuming while often being the least recognized of the contributions you make. But it is appreciated, and not just by me, not just by our students. Over the past year, we have made it a point to have student-faculty pairs speak at alumni and Campaign gatherings about their work together. And I can tell you that these pairings have powerful impact and resonance with the alumni and parents in these audiences.

But at Dartmouth, we expect it all. Even as you devote yourselves to our educational mission, we ask you for excellence and leadership in your research and creative work. And you deliver in ways that are being increasingly recognized outside of our campus. The last few years we have seen a record number of well-deserved external awards going to Dartmouth faculty.

Paul Meaney and Rahul Sarpeshkar became newly elected IEEE Fellows. Both Michael Hoppa of the Biology department and Vikrant Vaze from Thayer received NSF CAREER Awards. In Physics, Mary Hudson received the Fleming Award from the American Geophysical Union, and Robyn Millan was recognized with NASA’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal from Goddard Space Flight Center.

I also want to congratulate Katherine Mirica of Chemistry and Treb Allen from Economics for being awarded prestigious Sloan Fellowships; and Larry Kritzman from the French and Italian department, for receiving the title of Commander of the Order of Academic Palms (L’Ordre des palmes Académiques) from the French government—the highest honor awarded to an academic in France, and one that is only rarely given to scholars who are not French nationals.

And on the literary front, we can be extraordinarily proud that Carlos Minchillo, our associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, was recognized with the Casa de las Americas prize in Brazilian literature, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Latin America, while Colin Calloway from History and Native American Studies was named a finalist for the National Book Award in Non-Fiction for his book, The Indian World of George Washington. 

I could keep going, mentioning the three new National Academy members elected over the past few years and three Guggenheims awarded last year to Dartmouth faculty. There are so many of you doing exceptional work, from Arts & Sciences to Engineering, at Geisel and Tuck. I cannot name you all, but I hope that each of you knows how proud I am of your accomplishments and how grateful I am that you’re doing this work at Dartmouth.

Let me mention just two more. Joe Helble was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Dave Kotz was selected to be a Distinguished Member of the ACM to recognize the impact of his scientific contributions to computing.

Which brings me to my next item: let us all welcome Joe Helble to his new role as Provost. Today’s his first work day on the job, and we’re delighted to have him aboard. And please join me for a special shout-out to Dave Kotz. He’s been such a source of wisdom to me and my leadership team in his role as Interim Provost and has gone above and beyond to keep things running smoothly and ensure a seamless transition to Joe. I simply can’t thank Dave enough for all he’s contributed.

Your impressive contributions as faculty would not be possible without the outstanding work, and commitment, of our highly talented staff. And Dartmouth is a place where we expect our staff to innovate and lead in their own areas. I don’t know how many of you read in Saturday’s New York Times the story that featured our own Buddy Teevens as being the driving force of innovation for safety in football. Or the article in yesterday’s Times lauding the innovative features of the newly renovated Hood Museum, thinking led by our own Hood staff.

Or how many of you enjoyed the traditional Homecoming Bonfire on Friday evening? Many of you probably know that the bonfire almost didn’t happen this year. Legitimate safety concerns were addressed by a planning committee led by Professor Doug van Citters that led to creative changes to the structure of the bonfire and the design of the event. With those changes, this year’s bonfire was both spectacular and safe. But importantly, Dartmouth staff members – through their contributions to the planning committee and the event, itself – contributed significantly to its success. These are just a few examples of the many ways that staff members at Dartmouth are making us a stronger, more successful institution through their dedication and creative thinking.

On that note, I hope many of you saw the announcement of the Lone Pine Recognition program – a comprehensive expansion of the ways in which we celebrate the accomplishments of our staff. Please consider nominating staff members in your area for this expanded set of awards. And please join me right now in thanking all of our staff members for their service.

The bonfire is one example where Dartmouth and the Town of Hanover have shared interests. Just this last summer, we invited the Town’s leadership to not just engage with us on the issues of the moment, but to initiate a process of ongoing dialogue around long-term strategic issues. These conversations are just beginning, and I anticipate that top of the list will be the future of Main Street.

As we compete for talent, the College has a compelling interest in being sure that the Upper Valley is an attractive place to live. Having a vibrant downtown is part of that. But as we all know, the future of bricks and mortar retail is evolving. To compete with the convenience of on-line shopping, the retail experience must go beyond simply selecting a good and standing in line to pay for it. It is important to look forward and begin taking steps in partnership with the Town that will create a Main Street that will be a destination not just today, but twenty-five years from now.

I know that many of you are concerned about the reports that the Dartmouth bookstore will close. Rick Mills has been point person on looking into this and I know that he had lunch earlier today with Julia Griffin on the topic. I also know that Rick has been in touch with his counterpart at Princeton about how they work with Labyrinth Books.

I am sure Rick is open to hearing from any of you who have thoughts to share.

Now, let me turn to the State of the College. I want to take you back over fifty years ago to a point where Professors Kemeny and Kurtz had what was then a bold, audacious idea. That computing would come to all people – it would not just be the domain of scientists and engineers. To take a meaningful step towards that future, they harnessed a team of undergraduates to implement time-sharing and BASIC.

This was Dartmouth at its best. Not just a place where faculty and students work in close partnership. But a place where they work in partnership to pursue the bold, audacious ideas that are hatched right here on this campus. A place with liberal arts at the core. A place where this magnificent North Woods setting fuels our adventuresome spirits. And a place that sends its students, faculty and alumni all around this girdled earth but then is always here, as it was for me, calling us home.

I invite all of you to join together today in support of this vision for Dartmouth.

As I measure progress towards that vision, I can report that the first derivative is positive and that the second derivative is also positive. The College is on an upward trajectory towards that vision and the slope of that trajectory is increasing.

Let’s begin with talent.

On the admissions front, the opportunity to work with all of you, as you deliver the world-class education we provide, is attracting the most academically accomplished students Dartmouth has ever seen.

Indeed, this past year’s admissions cycle was the most successful and selective in our institutional history.

The Class of 2022 is the most geographically diverse class to matriculate at Dartmouth. They come from all 50 states and 57 countries, with a record 11% foreign citizens.

Academically, they’re superstars. 96 percent finished in the top 10 percent of their high school class, compared to 93 percent last year, and mean SAT and ACT scores are at an all-time high.

More students than ever are attracted to our excellence and our reputation for teaching and research, and with Lee Coffin and his team creating what they call an “Admissions Renaissance” at Dartmouth, I expect that trend to continue.

Turning to faculty and staff, I spoke in my preamble about your accomplishments and the recognition it is garnering. And I am beyond excited, and want to welcome, a number of highly accomplished new faculty members who have joined you over the past year or plan to join next year. The future of our vibrant intellectual community looks very bright.

But at the same time, let me spend a few minutes talking about one of our most important challenges – faculty and staff diversity. Currently, Dartmouth has under 20% faculty of color and well over 40% students of color. I know that the demands for mentoring placed on faculty of color, especially junior faculty, is a serious issue and one of the reasons that diversifying the faculty is such a high priority for our campus.

We have taken this challenge head-on through our Inclusive Excellence initiative and implemented a number of positive steps to help us achieve our goals.

  • The Provost is providing salary support to allow units to make target opportunity hires.
  • Every group involved in the hiring, promotion and tenure process receives training on hidden bias. That includes not just every search committee, but the associate deans, the Committee Advisory to the President, my senior team and even the Trustees.
  • We are now employing a faculty-led team to help identify talented candidates from under-represented groups for each faculty search. Thanks to Michelle Warren who has led this effort over the past couple of years and Dean Lacy who has taken up the reins this year.
  • We’ve created a number of post-docs for new PhD’s in disciplinary areas where faculty of color are highly represented. These post-docs are structured so that they can lead to tenure-track faculty positions. A sizeable grant from the Mellon Foundation is helping to support this program.
  • The deans are actively working with department chairs on ways to balance the workload for junior faculty in particular.

These steps are paying off. This year, 43% of new faculty hires across the institution were underrepresented minorities. And, if you include the post-doc to tenure track hires we made in Arts & Sciences through the Mellon grant, the number is even higher. The previous year’s results were equally strong, if not stronger.

In total, when we look at minority recruits and departures, we are on track to nudge our institution-wide total of minority faculty up a full percentage point this year to 18%. 

All this is progress, but the bottom line is that we have a long way to go and must make this an unwavering commitment over the years ahead.

Let me shift gears from people to the financial and facilities resources that fuel our lofty ambitions.

Fiscal year 2018 was, by all measures, a strong and successful year. Assets, endowment and total net assets reached all-time highs for the second year in a row at $8, $5 and $6.5 billion, respectively.

We were positive on our balance sheet and even positive from a GAAP funding perspective. The success of last year reflects five years of efforts to introduce greater rigor into our institution’s financial practices.

To appropriately fund depreciation and deal with the impacts of its historic under-funding, we have been systematically adding $1.5M to this budget line each year. This is part of a larger effort to be sure that we cover recurring costs with recurring revenues and avoid paying for recurring costs from one-time sources.

We have instituted a culture of reallocation as part of the annual budget process. On top of that, we are in the midst of an ambitious four-year initiative to reallocate $17 million in annual administrative expense to support academic priorities.

We are taking steps to prepare Dartmouth for the next economic downturn. We have created a contingency fund (currently at $50M) that can help bridge us through a couple of down years in gift funding and endowment pay-out.

And we have constrained tuition growth so as to minimize the financial burden placed on our Dartmouth families as well as stockpiling a source that we can go to in case of dire need. Over the past five years, we have seen single year tuition increases that are the lowest since 1977. And, the percent increase over the past five years is the lowest five-year increase since the 1950’s.

In addition, we have instituted the budget course, which brings unprecedented levels of transparency to the finances of the institution.

On the revenue side, we have made great strides in maximizing philanthropic investment in Dartmouth. I can report tremendous enthusiasm for our institutional vision from the alumni community. That’s been reflected in record reunion attendance this year and is evidenced by the more than 50,000 alumni who have contributed to the current Call to Lead campaign.

Our alumni and parents have dazzled us with their commitments of time, energy, ideas and yes, treasure, enabling us to achieve unprecedented fundraising results. Let me give you a snapshot.

At present, we have raised $1.8B towards the $3.0B goal of the Campaign. And this generosity is being felt on campus just as we speak. Allow me to share some of the many initiatives sponsored by Campaign dollars:

  • Through the Society of Fellows, we are bringing over a dozen outstanding new PhD’s to our campus each year across a broad range of disciplines.
  • Those of you in the Humanities have made remarkable use of a $1M research support fund that I made available from Campaign contributions. And that will be magnified by the Kimball gift which, when matched, will provide an annual flow of over $400K.
  • We welcome the dozen or more faculty already brought to campus by the faculty cluster hiring initiative. They cross all divisions of Arts and Sciences as well as Thayer, Tuck and Geisel.
  • The Irving Institute is up and running and has already issued an RFP to support faculty ideas from across the institution.
  • Many of you have generated creative curricular ideas that have been supported by the DCAL Experiential Learning initiative, another Campaign funded program.
  • Some of you may have seen construction on old Tuck Drive, one of the first of enabling projects that is a pre-cursor to the impressive new Computer Science/Engineering building and the expansion that will follow.
  • The renovation of Dart row is underway and fund-raising has begun to put in place the resources necessary for the deep renovation of Dartmouth Hall.
  • The replacement of Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, one of our most cherished icons, is complete and is stunning!

These are just a few of the ways that the impact of the Campaign is already being felt on campus. And stay tuned there is much, much more to come!

This is the good news – without doubt Dartmouth has made meaningful progress towards putting its financial house in order over the past five years. But still, the residential model of higher education is enormously expensive and we continue to carry a burden of not having appropriately funded depreciation and retiree health over a long period of years.

When you estimate future costs and revenues using reasonable rates of inflation, a significant funding gap appears within 10 years. Hence, we need to focus our energies on how we’re going to close that gap.

I’ve spoken already about how much we’ve done on the cost side and on maximizing philanthropic revenue. Looking forward, we need to generate new sources of net revenue, outside of tuition, sponsored research and philanthropy. Almost all of our peers enjoy significant sources either in the form of subsidies from clinical partners or from big-time athletics revenues or from activities that monetize their brand.

Over the year ahead, the Senior Leadership Group plans to begin exploration of opportunities that might fit our campus.

Let me close with a challenge that is of particular urgency: the issues that have arisen over the past year around faculty misconduct.

This will all be familiar to those of you who attended the Arts & Sciences faculty meeting a couple of weeks back, but I wish to repeat it for the benefit of the full faculty, and it bears repeating even for those who have heard it before.

The allegations and findings of faculty misconduct have been a wake-up call, compelling us to do better. But let me be clear: this is not a moment to dwell on the past or to place blame for what may or may not have happened in previous eras under previous administrations. Rather, this is a time to look forward, together. This work falls to all of us: the President, the Provost, the Deans, Chairs and Directors, Committees across campus. All of us will and must be part of charting this future. Today, I can report that several steps are currently 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. One important aspect of the report was the recommendation that we adopt a single policy for all community members, while acknowledging that different procedures might be appropriate for different groups.

As we 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 for those discussions, we will ask you to consider a draft policy and procedures for dealing with complaints against students, faculty and staff. The policy includes input from consultants with national stature on sexual misconduct issues, who 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 will be seeking your views on all aspects of these policies and procedures.

In the meantime, we are pursuing proactive environmental review and education efforts. In response to concerns we’ve heard from multiple quarters about the learning and working environment in 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 will be seeking broad input on what this review should look like.

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 that would be interested in a Title IX workshop. Stay tuned for much more to come on this front. There is a lot we need to do together and it will require our focus and attention as well as our strongest community spirit to move Dartmouth forward.

That is a lot already, even though there is so much more I could say about the State of the College. But I want to stop there so that you have time for questions.

To conclude, the State of the College is strong and ascendant, thanks in very large part for all that you do to make Dartmouth such an intellectually vibrant institution.

Your work on committees, in the classroom, in your fields, in your roles as mentors and in dedicated service to the institution, especially at this seminal moment in the life of the College, makes all the difference.

As we prepare to begin celebrating our 250th Anniversary year, I can’t think of a better cadre of colleagues to have by my side. 

Last Updated: 11/6/18