Dartmouth’s idea of “broadening the ranks”

Dartmouth College sends to alumni a publication called “Dartmouth Life.” The current issue introduces the teachers-scholars who joined the faculty this academic year. The article is called “New Faculty Broaden the Ranks.”

The article allows each new faculty member briefly to summarize his or her area of academic interest. The hard science and math professors provided write-ups in line with traditional notions of what’s important in these fields. I discerned no political slant.

In the other realms, especially the liberal arts, this was not the case. Rather, it was all about race, gender, inequality, etc.

To be clear, I’m not disparaging the interest areas of these teachers (at least not most them). They are worth investigating. If the teachers are competent, and I assume they are, I’m sure I could learn from them.

On the other hand, I received a great education at Dartmouth without delving into any of the areas of expertise cited by Dartmouth’s new academic hires. I’m not in favor of turning the teaching clock back to 1970, but I would like to see a group of new liberal arts hires whose interests are not almost uniformly left-wing. That would represent a genuine broadening of the ranks.

Here are the some of the profiles. They encompass nearly all of the ones for new liberal arts professors:

Jeremy Ferwerda, Assistant Professor of Government

My research focuses on the contentious politics of immigration in Europe. In particular, I examine how policymakers adjust public goods spending, welfare programs and electoral strategies in response to immigrant settlement.

[Note: there is nothing inherently leftist about researching the politics of immigration in Europe. However, this article suggests that Prof. Ferwerda’s approach the subject tilts leftward. He seems to argue in favor of “activat[ing] migrant populations as a political resource to provide local politicians with concrete incentives to distribute scarce benefits to immigrant populations.”]

Azeen Khan, Assistant Professor of English

My research explores the contention that psychoanalysis, much like Marxism, imagines itself at its inception as a praxis and theory with both universal and international claims. But while Marxism, with its emphasis on the economy and the movement of capital, is actively taken up in anti-colonial struggles, psychoanalysis — which focuses on questions of sexual and racial difference — has a more contentious trajectory.

[Note: I’d love to hear Professor Khan discuss this, but I don’t think I’d want to take an English course from her]

Chelsey Kivland, Assistant Professor of Anthropology

I am fascinated by Haiti — a country that inspired the democratic creed of “equality for all” but has struggled to realize a democracy true to it. I study this paradox by following the lives and deaths of Haiti’s urban poor as they strive to defend the rights of their communities amid local, national, and global constraints.

Patricia Lopez, Assistant Professor of Geography

How do we come to care about others, and how does this care have material impacts? Beginning with the co-emergence of notions of race, geography, and outbreak stories post-1492 and continuing into the present, I examine the political productiveness of discursively constructed difference through disease narratives.

Na’ama Shenhav, Assistant Professor of Economics

I study how changes in public policy, political power, and economic conditions — particularly those that benefited women relative to men — have impacted the well-being of children and families over the last century.

Jesse Shipley, Professor of African and African American Studies

I am an ethnographer, filmmaker, and artist who explores the links between aesthetics and politics by focusing on performances and popular cultures in the midst of changing political and economic regimes. I have conducted field research internationally focusing on the complex realities of urban life, labor, race, gender, mobility, and new media technologies.

[Note: Nothing like touching all the bases]

Zaneta Thayer, Assistant Professor of Anthropology

I’m interested in understanding how evolution has shaped our biology to be responsive to stress, and in turn how differential exposure to stress as a result of structural inequalities can shape disparities in health.

Tricia Keaton, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and of African Diaspora Studies

Why is Paris, France an exceptional place in the African diaspora? What is Afro/Black/Paris? My work explores those questions in relation to broader issues of belonging within and beyond France. My classroom is located not only on Dartmouth’s campus, but also in Paris — the City of Light.

The article concludes by noting:

Also joining the faculty this year is Treva Ellison, an assistant professor of geography and of women, gender, and sexuality studies.

If you went to Dartmouth back in the day, think about how your favorite professors would have described their research interests. For my part, I can’t imagine Charles Wood, Peter Bien, Alan Gaylord, David Roberts, Henry Roberts, or virtually any other professor I studied under writing anything remotely like this. Only Marysa Gerassi (Navarro) comes to mind.

A final note on Dartmouth’s claim that it is “broadening the ranks.” In 2008, I wrote about Dartmouth’s writing class for freshmen, Writing 5. I noted that many of the writing courses were centered around ideologically-based themes, from a leftist perspective. I described some of these courses and the areas of interest of some of the professors.

These descriptions suggest that Dartmouth’s new hires in 2016 did not broaden the ranks, but rather reinforced them. If Dartmouth is broadening its ranks with this group, it is doing so only in the bean counting sense. More than half of the new hires are female or belong to a minority group favored by leftists.

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