The “D” — Dartmouth’s daily student newspaper — has published a profile of our friend Joe Asch. In the piece, John Mathias, president of the Association of Alumni, is quoted as saying of Joe, “he’s an unrelenting critic of Dartmouth, almost pathologically.”
Assuming Mathias has not been misquoted, this is a deplorable remark. (I hold out some hope that Mathias didn’t say it; John has been a gentleman in my few personal dealings with him.) One can agree or disagree with Joe, and one can find him annoying or not. But to suggest that’s there something “almost pathological” about his criticism of the college is beyond the pale.
Joe criticisms of Dartmouth are always backed up by analysis and usually by data. Nor is it surprising that he rarely finds much to like about the way Dartmouth has been run over the past decade or so. If the administration of President Wright was in fact incompetent and misguided, as Joe and others believe, one would expect that someone paying close attention to its policies and practices would be an unrelenting critic.
Mathias laments that “everything seems wrong, according to Joe.” But why assume that Joe sees things this way because he’s almost sick? Liberals believe that virtually everything President Bush did was wrong; conservatives believe that virtually everything President Obama did is wrong. As long as the cirticism is substantive and based on coherent reasoning, there’s no need to posit pathology.
Those like Mathias who do posit it are substitiuting insult for analysis. It’s clear to me that Joe is doing much more for Dartmouth by raising issues that deserve to be aired than Mathias is by directing personal attacks at those with whom he disagrees, while refusing meaningfully to engage the issues Joe discusses in such detail.
Assuming that Mathias has been quoted correctly, and in the absence of an apology, Mathias should step down from his position as president of the Association of Alumni. That organization is supposed to be representing all alums. It will not do to have its president accusing a fellow alum of acting almost pathologically just because he consistently dissents from college policy.
Ironically, Mathias ran for office on the “unity” slate. The lack of candor associated with that label has always been apparent, but never more so than now.
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