Saturday, January 31, 2015

You're probably dying for some inside dope on Dartmouth's new no-hard-liquor policy, right?


I know you can't actually read this timeline of "The Process" involved in President Hanlon's historic reform plan, but if you really care, you can click on it to enlarge. Actually, I was thinking more that it might make a lovely wallpaper; just print out this PDF on any suitable-for-wallpapering material.

by Ken

I expect you've heard something about the new plan announced by the president of Dartmouth College to make the campus a better, safer healthier place for everyone to live and learn -- you know, the plan that includes banning hard liquor from the campus. (Ah, now it rings a bell?) And you're thinking, gee, I'd like to know more about that, like can you really keep hard liquor off a whole college campus?

It's just your luck that you happen to have an inside connection. In exchange for putting in four years on that campus in its much-reduced form back around the Civil War, I get a lifetime of timely information about Alma Mater deposited in my e-mailbox. And for a price, I'm prepared to share that information.

Okay, I'm just kidding about the price. It's all included in the standard DWT package. (Tipping optional, though nobody's done so yet.)

The plan is actually called "Moving Dartmouth Forward," and its genesis, as you can see from the timeline above, goes back to April 16 of last year, when College President Phil Hanlon "call[ed] for an end to extreme behavior at Dartmouth." I guess you had to be there, or be watching the news, to know what kinds of "extreme behavior" he had in mind. Like, he wasn't thinking of the American Family Association's former loudmouth-in-chief sounding off about Jews and Muslims and other non-Christian scum.


Okay, this is not riveting video. It looks as if President Phil was strapped to powerful electrodes that would administer giant juice jolts anytime he moved any part of his body more than half an inch.

But this is actually serious business. And it's actually an enormously wide-ranging, deeply detailed plan, meant to address serious, deep issues of community respect and safety. I don't claim to have digested even the materials I have access to, and I certainly don't claim to know how workable the system of proposals is (and the proposals are clearly meant to function as a system). But I can tell you that the problems President Phil is attempting to address here are big-time ones, and with the process he set in motion last April, he seems to be really trying to find ways to grapple with them.

You'll find the complete text of President Phil's speech, as prepared, here. (And also an FAQ here.) But I want to share a chunk from the beginning of the speech, because President Phil evokes one of my heroes, in exactly the right way. (I've added the picture.)
I want to begin the conversation by reaching back into our past.

I begin with a story of a young professor of philosophy at Princeton University in the wake of World War II. The professor, at the behest of Dartmouth’s then dean of the faculty, was convinced to pick up from Princeton and move to Hanover to become the chairman of the mathematics department at Dartmouth. His task was to revitalize the department, filling it with faculty of the first rank, capable of attracting the brightest students in the nation.

It was a risky proposition made riskier by the fact that this professor would be a non-tenured chairman. And yet the philosopher turned mathematician -- who studied under Einstein -- took the leap. He came to Dartmouth. He recruited tenaciously and built a stellar department from the ground up. As a Dartmouth undergraduate, I had the good fortune to be a beneficiary of his efforts.

But he did not stop there. A computer genius—he foresaw that while the invention of the computer was an incredible breakthrough … the real revolution would be putting the computer into homes and classrooms across the country. So he helped to invent the language that would make computers accessible. Which we know as BASIC.

But he did not stop there. He became president of the College, and he presided with calm during a time of tremendous social unrest in our country. He inspired and managed the transition of Dartmouth to a coeducational college, without doubt the most significant change in our College’s history.

I share the story of John Kemeny -- a story of risk, a story of best-in-class teaching, a story of leadership, a story of visionary problem-solving, a story of the courage to CHANGE -- because it encapsulates perfectly the incredible promise that is Dartmouth.

John G. Kemeny (1926-1992)

Like President Phil, as a Dartmouth undergraduate I had the good fortune to be a beneficiary of John Kemeny's efforts. In my time, as I recall, which actually predates President Phil's, he was still, as memory serves (sometimes better than others), co-chair of the Math Department, and was still teaching actively. I don't think I ever took a class with him, but I'm sure I must have had lectures with him. And though I am by no means a mathematician of any sort, I took classes with a number of professors from that "stellar department" he "built from the ground up," including two terms with Tom Kurtz, co-inventor with Kemeny of the BASIC programming language (I understood scarcely a word Professor Kurtz said during those two terms in an honors math course, real college-type math turning out to be very different from the kiddie-style high-school version I'd sailed through, but then, I with my basic ignorance of mathematics was apparently every bit as mystifying to him), and spent some time with a number of the others. They were an amazing bunch -- not just incredibly smart, but creative, wise, and humane, some of the best people I've known.

As President Phil mentions, at a time when computers still existed only as giant mainframes, Kemeny and his team were committed to maximizing hands-on contact -- they wanted every student in the college to have the opportunity to sit at a keyboard and do at least some simple programming, using the pioneering Dartmouth Time-Sharing System and of course BASIC. That's what they'd been created for.

The first, and maybe only, alumni function I attended was a dinner presenting Kemeny to NYC alums when, a year or two after I graduated, he was selected as the new president of the college. I was just looking at his Wikipedia bio, and see that as a Hungarian refugee settled in NYC, he attended George Washington High School, a legendary public school not far from where I live now in Washington Heights, which graduated countless students en route to great public careers. He graduated in three years and then, during his undergraduate years at Princeton, "took a year off" -- to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos! ("His boss there was Richard Feynman. He also worked there with John von Neumann." Yikes!) Amazingly, the Wikipedia bio makes no mention of the fact that in 1979, while still president of Dartmouth, he chaired what became known as the Kemeny Commission, overseeing the Report of the President's Commission on the Accident at Three-Mile Island ("The Need for Change: The Legacy of TMI").

But I digress. If you're in need of inspiration for vision, it would be hard to think of a better model to turn to than John Kemeny.


I'm going to turn the floor over to the Dartmouth Office of Public Affairs, which posted this release, "President Hanlon Presents His Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan," with associated materials. I'm guessing they won't mind my sharing the release with you.
Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon ’77 today introduced his Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan to address high-risk behavior on campus and create a safe and inclusive environment in which students can live and learn.

The plan has at its core a new housing model that will fundamentally transform the residential and social experience at the College.

President Hanlon presented the reforms as the capstone of work that began last spring when he called on the Dartmouth community “to create fundamental change in every place on campus where the social scene is carried out.”

In his April 16 address, Hanlon announced the formation of the Presidential Steering Committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The committee’s work included crowdsourcing solutions from the Dartmouth community, investigating best practices, and visiting peer institutions. Committee members were also charged with consulting external experts in the fields of student life, student health and wellness, sexual assault, alcohol abuse, diversity and inclusivity, and campus safety. Committee members heard from more than 40 student groups and 50 alumni groups and reviewed more than 2,000 email suggestions before submitting their final report to Hanlon this month.

From this report, Hanlon identified the set of reforms announced today, which Dartmouth has begun to implement and will continue putting in place in the coming months and years.

“To be clear, no single action contains the consummate solution. If it did, these problems would have vanished from our campus and society years and years ago,” Hanlon said.

Hanlon outlined steps to ensure a safer and healthier campus environment for students, raise expectations for individuals and student organizations, create a more diverse set of social opportunities for students, foster a more inclusive campus environment, strengthen academic rigor, and increase opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

“Dartmouth has a long tradition of academic excellence,” said Hanlon. “This is our legacy. And as we move to the future, we will become ever more defined by this ideal. But this will happen only if we remove the barriers that keep us from fulfilling our potential.”

Among the most notable reforms, Dartmouth will aim to lead nationally by eliminating hard alcohol from campus. Under Hanlon’s plan, hard alcohol will no longer be served at events open to the public, and penalties for underage students found in possession of hard alcohol will increase in severity.

Other initiatives include a four-year mandatory sexual violence prevention and education program for students; comprehensive sexual assault training for faculty and staff; an increased presence of faculty and other mature influences in the lives of students; a comprehensive code of conduct for all students; and the new housing model.

As part of the effort to increase accountability, the College will reinforce the rules for student groups—including Greek organizations—and hold all groups to higher standards than ever before. Organizations that choose not to live up to these higher standards will not be part of the Dartmouth community.

These steps are being taken to raise expectations for all students on campus, Hanlon said, and he warned that if substantive Greek reforms are not enacted within several years, the College will reevaluate the continuance of Greek life on campus.

To ensure accountability and adherence to the new plan, Hanlon also announced the formation of an external review panel chaired by Tufts President Emeritus Larry Bacow. Dartmouth will regularly reevaluate and retool the Moving Dartmouth Forward Plan, ensuring transparency and substantive reform throughout the process.

To truly create a safe environment—and one that is advantageous to learning—we will also have to tackle the challenge of excessive drinking. Dartmouth will take the lead among colleges and universities in eliminating hard alcohol on campus. Dartmouth’s new alcohol policy for students will prohibit the possession or consumption of “hard alcohol” (i.e., alcohol that is 30 proof or higher) on campus by individuals, including those over the legal drinking age, and by Dartmouth College-recognized organizations. In addition, we will ask that the entire campus community follow suit and not serve hard alcohol at college-sponsored events and be role models for the healthy consumption of alcohol.

The key to the successful implementation of any policy change is a clear path for enforcement. To this end, we will require third-party security and bartenders for social events. We will also increase penalties for students found in possession of hard alcohol, especially for those students who purchase and provide alcohol to minors.

Now, aren't you glad you asked? Okay, you didn't ask, actually.

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