Jim Kim drops his mask

I was cautiously optimistic about Dartmouth’s new president, Jim Kim, when his appointment was first announced, and some of his early gestures seemed to confirm my optimism. However, Kim’s speech to Dartmouth alums in Wasington last month not reassuring. I noted my discomfort here. My impression was that a genial facade and a good sense of humor masked an arrogant, left-wing technocrat. Kim struck me as elitist in the bad sense — overly impressed by success in the corporate world and by a good position in the Obama administration.

If this post by Joe Asch on Dartblog is accurate, then my worst fears about Kim are going to be exceeded. According to Joe, Dartmouth’s Black Alumni Association (BADA) sent a mailing to the College’s official list of African-American alumni that stated:

[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, April 06, 2010 7:24 PM
Subject: BADA Wants You to Vote in the Trustee Election–Last Chance!
Note that we MUST stop Joe Asch from being elected to the Trustee Board. He has demonstrated blatant racism and cannot even garner the respect of his own class.

The mailing is a vicious smear. There is no evidence that Joe is a racist. The BADA is a disgrace to Dartmouth.

According to Joe, shortly after the BADA sent its memo out, President Kim sent an e-mail to all BADA members urging them to vote. He did not send a similar e-mail to all alumni.

Dartmouth Undying — the establishment side in this election — knows from its 2008 telephone polling that BADA members are among the strongest supporters of the administration. Thus, even in the absence of the BADA memo smearing Joe, Kim’s special appeal for BADA member votes would have been an act of partisanship. But to make that appeal on the heels of the memo is beyond the pale.

If this is what happened (and I know I didn’t get an e-mail from Kim urging me to vote), then Kim has not only taken sides in the election, but has, in effect, become part of one side’s unsavory campaign apparatus. This would be improper on its face and would reveal Kim as dishonest because he has publicly declared his “neutrality” in the election.

The Dartmouth establishment has denounced alumni elections as divisive. What could be more divisive than for one segment of the alumni to pull the race card to smear a candidate and for the college president to urge that segment (and that segment only) to vote?

I’ve heard many alums say that Jim Kim gets Dartmouth. There are certainly aspects of it that he gets. He knows that fraternities are popular and that students and alums would like to see the football team perform better. Whether his understanding goes much further has always been unclear to me.

His e-mail to the BADA members tells me that he either doesn’t get Dartmouth or that Dartmouth is not worth getting.

I invite anyone who believes that the facts presented in this post are incorrect or that I have misinterpreted their meaning to contact me. I will correct any errors and present any alternative interpretation.

UPDATE: The results of the election have been announced. Morton Kondracke, running unopposed, was elected. John Replogle defeated Joe Asch by a margin of approximately 70-30. John Mathias’ slate defeated Mike Murphy’s by a slightly larger margin. The outcome of these races doesn’t surprise me, although I didn’t think the margins would be quite as large.

With the establishment’s candidates so obviously headed towards victory, it is astounding to me that President Kim would intervene in the election in an attempt to assist these candidates, assuming, as it appears, that this is what he did. He has gained nothing and, for some of us, he lost his credibility.