All in for Dartmouth? I think not

Dartmouth’s new president Phil Hanlon spoke this evening at an event at the Dartmouth Club of Washington as part of the “all in for Dartmouth” campaign. Hanlon set a new indoor record for beginning sentences with the word “So.” Beyond that, he came across as a decent, sensible, and honest (for a college administrator) guy. Which is exactly how he was described to me by a friend (with a low regard for college administrators) who knew him well at the University of Michigan.

Unfortunately, it is also clear that Hanlon will do nothing to reverse the extreme leftist slant of Dartmouth’s humanities departments; nor will he even lift a finger to give conservatives a small voice in these departments. In addition, Hanlon may be poised to make the college’s disciplinary processes even less fair than it reportedly already is.

As to the first point, let’s compare Hanlon’s answers tonight to two questions. The first was from a Black alum who demanded to know what Hanlon is doing to increase the racial diversity of the faculty. Hanlon agreed that Dartmouth’s faculty needs to be more racially diverse and presented a list of measures designed to achieve this goal.

This exchange prompted me to inquire whether Hanlon is also interested in increasing ideological diversity within the faculty, given the near absence of conservative voices.

Hanlon answered that he has heard this concern expressed before, but there is nothing he can do on this front because hiring decisions are made by individual departments and are not subject to his interference. He then repeated that he has heard this concern before.

Hanlon’s answer is honest as far as it goes. But it raises this question: If the president is powerless to influence hiring and tenure decisions because they rest with individual departments, why wasn’t that his answer to the student who asked what is being done to promote racial diversity?

The answer is obvious. Dartmouth’s president can push for the kind of “diversity” the left favors even if it might mean stepping on a department’s toes. But Dartmouth’s president might well become Dartmouth’s ex-president if he stepped on departmental toes while pushing for the hiring of even one conservative scholar.

It’s difficult for a conservative to be “all in” for a college like that. In fact, it should be difficult for anyone who values the traditional concept of a liberal education.

As to the judicial process, Hanlon was asked specifically about Kate Burke, whose allegedly Inquisition-style approach to student discipline was reported here. Hanlon quite properly declined to discuss the performance of a particular college employee.

But then he added that Dartmouth is seriously considering changing its judicial process in cases involving sexual harassment allegations. Citing the alleged complexity of these cases, Hanlon said that the College might bring in “professionals” to handle (or help handle) them.

This move would undermine whatever fairness may exist in Dartmouth’s existing treatment of sexual harassment accusations. To understand why, we should first recognize that sexual harassment cases aren’t particularly complicated. As in much litigation, the issues are (1) what happened and (2) was it acceptable. I say this as someone who has litigated my share of such cases.

No special expertise is needed to resolve these questions, which are basically the same as would be raised in a case involving, say, a fight between two students. What, then, would be the role of professionals?

My litigation experience tells me that the role of sexual harassment professionals would be to tilt the playing field in favor of the accuser (one tends not to become a sexual harassment professional unless one is largely devoid of skepticism about the validity of harassment claims). How? First, by attempting to boost the credibility of the accuser’s version of the facts beyond that which a lay person would give it (and one suspects that the lay persons who hear these cases at Dartmouth are already prone to accept the accuser’s allegations). Second, by attempting to override the lay sense of what kind of behavior is acceptable.

This is what sex harassment “experts” do. Their ideology and their bread-and-better both impel them in the direction of constantly expanding the concept of sexual harassment. You, the unschooled, might think that “yes” meant “yes.” But we, the experts who understand complexity, are here to tell that “yes” meant “no.”

Dartmouth’s sexual abuse awareness coordinator recently wondered why the college cannot expel students “based on an allegation.” Phil Hanlon would never agree to this; nor would a more sophisticated radical feminist ask him to.

Instead, she would ask him to make changes to the judicial process that stack the deck against the accused. If Hanlon agrees to let professionals — to be selected, presumably, by radical feminists like the sexual abuse awareness coordinator or those who hired her — play a serious role in the resolving sexual harassment cases, he will have gone a long way towards agreeing to expel students based on an allegation.

Are you “all in” for that? I’m not.

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