In what sense does Dr. Kim “get” Dartmouth?

I’ve been cautiously upbeat about Dr. Jim Yong Kim, who has been named Dartmouth’s new president, probably because I’m aware of how awful the college’s selectee could have been. However, some of the gushing over Kim’s selection is enough to give me second thoughts.

Not surprisingly, the most off-putting gushing comes from Martha Beattie. Beattie was a member of presidential search committee, a fact I lamented here. As I wrote, “it’s difficult to believe that any good will come from a process in which a smear artist like Beattie has a role.” Given Beattie’s unsavory role in alumni politics, her enthusiasm for Kim should worry the portion of the alumni that opposes Dartmouth’s decision to violate its promise regarding how trustees will be selected, and other alums concerned more generally about the direction in which Dartmouth has been drifting.

Beattie trumpets the fact that Dr. Kim does not come from the ranks of academic administration. Given the state of academic administration, this may indeed be a selling point. But given his lack of this sort of experince, I can’t be more than agnostic about how Dr. Kim will perform as an academic administrator.

Beattie informs us that Dr. Kim “gets Dartmouth.” When a speaker or writer says that a person “gets it,” the speaker or writer is merely saying, in an annoying way, that the person in question agrees with the speaker or writer. To the extent that Dr. Kim agrees with Martha Beattie’s underlying vision of Dartmouth, a substantial portion of the alumni should, as I said, be concerned.

I wonder whether Dr. Kim “gets” certain key thngs about Dartmouth:

Does he get that some academic departments are so heavily populated by ideological leftists that non left-wing students, despite a passion for the subject matter, choose not to major in these disciplines or to take many of the course offerings?

Does he get that Dartmouth’s freshman writing program has been developed around ideologically-based themes, to the point that the writing sometimes takes a back seat to the ideology?

Does he get that certain classes suffer from depressed attendance rates due to a combination of grade inflation (which takes away the penalty for non-attendance) and uninspiring instruction?

I doubt that he does. I think Dr. Kim gets Dartmouth in the sense that he was able to tell the search committee members what they wanted to hear. If he hopes to be an effective president, he must be prepared, before long, to tell some of these same people, and a host of others, what they do not want to hear.


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