Dartmouth College

Jessicah Pierre: Those elite college 'legacy' admissions

Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H.

Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H.

Via OtherWords.org

In what’s being called the largest college admissions scam ever, a number of wealthy parents, celebrities, and college prep coaches have been accused of offering large bribes to get rich students into Ivy League and other elite schools, regardless of their credentials. The Ivy League includes Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale.

The parents facing charges allegedly paid up to $6.5 million to get their kids into college.

Shocking as it is, this is hardly a new phenomenon in higher education. Wealthy and privileged students have always had an upper hand in being accepted to prestigious universities.

They’re called “legacy preferences.”

“Many U.S. colleges admit ‘legacies,’ or students with a family connection to the university, at dramatically higher rates than other applicants,” The Guardian explains, because “they are widely seen as a reliable source of alumni donations.”

Some of our countries most prominent figures have benefited from legacy preferences. When applying to Harvard, future president John F. Kennedy noted that his father was an alumnus. And although his academic record was unspectacular, he was admitted into the Ivy League school.

The same can be said for George W. Bush, whose father and grandfather graduated from Yale. Despite his “lackluster grades,” The Guardian reported, Bush was accepted.

This overt — and legal — preference for the wealthy and powerful goes back at least a century. Yet when the children of middle class families are denied admission, some families have laid the blame on affirmative action programs for students of color, who’ve historically faced discrimination.

As the college admissions process becomes more competitive, campaigns against affirmative action have revved up immensely. In 2016, Abigail Fisher challenged the University of Texas at Austin’s race-conscious admissions program after being rejected when she applied for a university program designed for the top 10 percent of her class.

Despite not having the credentials to get into the program, Fisher cited affirmative action as the reason why she was denied. In other words, she claimed she was being discriminated against because she was white. Her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that affirmative action is in fact constitutional and doesn’t hurt white students.

In fact, even with programs like affirmative action, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, racial divides at universities still remain. While college enrollment is increasing across the board, it found that enrollment rates for college-aged white students (42 percent) remain higher than for both black students (36 percent) and Hispanic students (39 percent.)

Meanwhile, a 2018 analysis of Harvard’s admissions process found that legacy applicants were accepted at a rate of nearly 34 percent from 2009 to 2015. That’s more than five times higher than the rate for non-legacies over the same six-year period: just 5.9 percent.

It’s clear that students like Abigail Fisher are picking the wrong fight when it comes to discrimination in the college admissions process.

The high-level of corruption of legacy admissions hurts the majority of students, regardless of race. So too do the parents spending millions on bribes. But that’s how inequality thrives.

Today’s college admissions scandal is just another illustration of the rich encouraging working- and middle-class people to turn against each other — and blame people of color — while they quietly rig the game for themselves.

Instead of pointing the finger at each other, the victims of these manipulations should come together to take the monster of economic privilege down.

Jessicah Pierre is the inequality media specialist at the Institute for Policy Studies.

Images from Out West

One of the works by Nan Darham in her show at the Russo Gallery at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., through Feb. 9. She is from Bozeman, Mont.  Her artwork and stories chronicle the culture, landscape, wildlife and characters that populate her life in the West. She configures a changing geography that includes immense historical and contemporary issues of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

One of the works by Nan Darham in her show at the Russo Gallery at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., through Feb. 9. She is from Bozeman, Mont.

Her artwork and stories chronicle the culture, landscape, wildlife and characters that populate her life in the West. She configures a changing geography that includes immense historical and contemporary issues of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Trump move against colleges' affirmative action on race is good news for affluent white students

Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth is one of the four Ivy League universities in New England. The others are Harvard, Yale and Brown.

Dartmouth Hall at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth is one of the four Ivy League universities in New England. The others are Harvard, Yale and Brown.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

That the Trump administration has decided that the federal government will no longer encourage colleges and universities to use race in the admissions process, reversing Obama-era guidance meant to promote diversity, will have the least effect on the nation’s richest, most prestigious and thus hard-to-get-into colleges and universities, of which New England has a lot. They get so many applicants and have so much financial aid to give out that they can easily create very diverse classes.   The schools want to show such diversity in part because it reinforces their position as national and even international institutions. They want their students’ faces to look like the, well, world.

Using race as one criterion among others also has socio-economic-diversity effects– e.g., African-American and Hispanic students tend to come from poorer families than white and many Asian families.

Meanwhile, the Feds are investigating Harvard for alleged racial bias after complaints from some Asian-Americans that the admissions process is skewed against them.

Harvard has argued that it “does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans’’ and notes that this group currently makes up a hefty 22.2 percent of students.  But some rejected applicants say that’s too low considering their high marks and other indicators of future success.

We should leave  to the colleges what sort of mix they  need and want.  Barring provable racial bias,  the Feds shouldn’t try to manage colleges’ decision-making.

Trump’s policy, which will appeal to his mostly white base, will mean that poorer schools (public and private) will be less likely to offer admission to minorities. They’ll become whiter even as the Ivy League  and other highly selective colleges maintain their affirmative-action programs. Poorer, less prestigious schools could try to maintain racial diversity indirectly, especially by providing more financial aid on the basis of a family’s finances – again, African-Americans and Hispanics tend to be considerably poorer than whites – but in a time of fiscal austerity for many colleges and universities and a shrinking number of overall applications because of demographic change, don’t bet on it.

The Trump policy will tend to favor affluent whites and widen the class divide.

 

 

 

 

Horsefeathers

"Dive'' (feathers and sticks), by Alysa Bennett, in her show "A Change of Horse,'' at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, N.H., through May 25. The gallery says her " career inspiration and artistry have been of subjects that bring movement and mystery. Horses have been a core subject for the artist for many years and are shown in multiple mediums of drawings, prints and sculptures. ''

"Dive'' (feathers and sticks), by Alysa Bennett, in her show "A Change of Horse,'' at AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon, N.H., through May 25. The gallery says her "career inspiration and artistry have been of subjects that bring movement and mystery. Horses have been a core subject for the artist for many years and are shown in multiple mediums of drawings, prints and sculptures. ''

Lebanon is an old Connecticut River Valley mill town, chartered in 1761, that was revolutionized by the routing, in the 1960s, of Interstates 89 and 91 through the town and nearby  White River Junction, Vt. (where Amtrak and freight trains stop), in addition because of the growth of Dartmouth College.
 

That's especially with the expansion of  Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, which is affiliated with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, in Lebanon,  and  with the growth of storied Dartmouth College itself, whose main campus, in Hanover, is just to the north. Dartmouth Hitchcock is the largest medical center in northern New England. The Geisel School is named after Theodor Geisel, aka "Dr. Seuss,'' a member of the Dartmouth College class of 1925.

So the former small-factory town now has a mixed economy based on education, medical services, high-technology and retail. It and White River Junction also have some good restaurants.

Tree-killing Southern Pine Beetle moving into southern New England

Southern Pine Beetle.

Southern Pine Beetle.

From ecoRI News (ecori.org)

Pitch pine forests are at greater risk of attack from the Southern Pine Beetle than forests with a mix of tree species, according to recent research by Dartmouth College. The study shows that the composition of forests is more important than other factors when predicting where the destructive pest will strike next.

The research, published in Forest Ecology and Management, adds to understanding of the Southern Pine Beetle and confirms previous research from the beetle’s southern habitat on the importance of characteristics that increase forest susceptibility to the pest.

The research finding has important implications for forest managers who need to predict and prevent infestation by a pest that is already responsible for significant forest damage and that is continuing its climate-induced move northward, according to researchers.

“Knowing which tree stands may be most susceptible to this beetle is extremely important information for managers working to protect our forests,” said Carissa Aoki, a post-doctoral research associate at Dartmouth and lead author of the study. “This research not only tells us that preventative treatment such as thinning can be effective, but also helps prioritize tree stands for treatment based on structural characteristics."

Southern Pine Beetles have a hard reddish brown to black exoskeletons and measure about 0.12 inches, about the size of a grain of rice.

For the study, researchers focused on southern pine beetle infestations in the New Jersey Pinelands, a forested area that spans the southern and central portions of the state. The  average coldest night of the winter in this region has warmed by about 7 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 50 years, creating favorable conditions for the Southern Pine Beetle to increase its range.

The last documented outbreak of Southern Pine Beetle in New Jersey occurred more than 80 years ago, but the mid-Atlantic states may see more regular outbreaks in the future. The northern New Jersey Pinelands, and pitch pine stands in the New England states with similar structural characteristics, are particularly at risk of infestation as the  beetle continues to move northward, according to researchers.

As of 2014, a new outbreak was detected on New York’s Long Island, and scattered throughout Connecticut the following year. These beetles have additionally been trapped as far north as Rhode Island and Massachusetts, though large-scale tree mortality hasn’t yet occurred in these southern New England states.

“The northward movement of the southern pine beetle is just one example of how climate warming is permitting rapid range expansions,” said Matthew Ayres, a professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. “We can expect many more cases because the warming continues. This might mean you can grow a cherry tree where you couldn’t before, but you and your plants can also expect a growing battery of pests that weren’t there before.”

The researchers found that Southern Pine Beetle infestations in both wetland and upland areas were far more likely to occur in pure conifer stands than mixed stands of oak and pine. While wetland conifer areas were especially affected, wetland mixed sites had fewer spots than expected.

While the study confirms some of what was previously known about the species, the finding in the Pinelands — that a high percentage of pine trees in a stand is a more important factor than moisture levels — is in contrast to previous research that indicated strong evidence for the connection between high moisture and stand susceptibility.

Researchers also found that stands of intermediate age — about 25 to 75 years for pitch pine — were disproportionately infested. Forest stands comprised of older, larger trees tended not to be very susceptible, while young trees are known not to be susceptible and weren’t sampled. The volume of trees in a stand and the percentage of each tree that is green were also found to contribute to stand susceptibility.

The results indicate that the same tactics that have been effective at limiting beetle impacts in the South could also be effective in newly occupied northern ranges. Those tactics include monitoring to detect population increases, rapid suppression of spots when they are still rare, and thinning of trees for prevention.

Southern Pine Beetle activity occurs in extremes — either very rare or through infestations that involve millions of pests. During episodic outbreaks, the beetles readily kill even the healthiest pines through synchronized attacks that overwhelm tree defenses.

“The Southern Pine Beetle is one of the most aggressive tree-killing insects in the world. Outbreaks tend to be self-sustaining because the more beetles there are, the better they succeed,” said Ayres, a co-author of the report and with 25 years of experience studying the beetle species.

 

Stephen J. Nelson: John Hennessey, a great academic and a great reformer

John Hennessey speaking at a Tuck School function.

John Hennessey speaking at a Tuck School function.

 Via the New England Board of Higher Education (nebhe.org)

John W. Hennessey  Jr. lived a remarkable, full life as a professor, as a leader in his field of management and business, and moral, ethical leadership, and as dean at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and provost at the University of Vermont. He was extraordinary on many fronts, a great man who lived in tumultuous times marked by world war as a young man, later as a graduate student and then professor and dean during the massive social and culture changes wrought by the 1960s and ‘70s. He was ahead of his times in ways that were noteworthy then, but now are even more so as we look retrospectively at his life. He died Jan. 11 at 92. 

Hennessey was part of “the greatest generation,” those who were teenagers as a horrific war broke out, served as young men and women, and then came home to continue college careers and get on with their personal and early professional lives. Following his recent death, an article about his life in The Boston Globe captured Hennessey’s early-on bewilderment and criticism of the many discriminations of his time.

Of particular note for him were the barriers  that many institutions, among them our most elite, constructed against women, including his wife. After graduating from the Harvard Business School, Hennessey wondered about whether attending there made him complicit in Harvard’s discrimination policies. After all, his wife who wanted a law degree, could not even apply to Harvard’s Law School. Those personal lessons, coupled with the feminist activism of his mother as a suffragette at Vassar College and a similarly inclined sister at Vasser decades later, were in Hennessey’s gestalt as a young faculty member at the Tuck School.

When in 1968, Dartmouth’s president, John Dickey, approached Hennessey to become the dean of the Tuck School, his response was clear. Hennessey's quid pro quo: He would become Dickey’s dean only if he agreed to permit Hennessey to accept women to the Tuck School, which at the time, like all of Dartmouth College, was an all-male institution. Dickey agreed and the first women came to Tuck three years before Dartmouth decided to admit women undergraduates and four years before their arrival on campus. Hennessey was graduating his first women from Tuck before Dartmouth made the move to co-education in its undergraduate ranks.

But he was by no means done with that stroke. While making those commitments for women in business, he was also actively involved both at Tuck and with business school colleagues across the country to recruit racial minorities and opening doors for them into the business and corporate world. He invented the case-study approach to teaching business ethics, led the Tuck School to growth and expansion, and was an enormous influence in the leadership and wisdom of Dartmouth.

A fellow alumnus from the late 1940s at Princeton, John Kemeny, was Dartmouth’s president, in the 1970s. Kemeny turned to Hennessey repeatedly for advice and counsel. When Kemeny left the presidency, in 1981, many a rumor at Dartmouth had it that Hennessey was on the short list of successors. That did not turn out to be the case, one might say sadly for Dartmouth. Here was maybe the greatest man not to become a college president.

Hennessey then went on to a distinguished career as provost at the University of Vermont and for a short time acting president there.

What are the testimonies from this distinguished life in the halls of the academy? What does his forward-looking leadership and vision for higher education and society say to us today?

First, we need to be ever ahead of the curve. Hennessey did not wait for the civil-rights legislation of the 1960s and '70s, affirmative action, Title IX and all the rest to animate, motivate and move him in the direction of equality and equity. It was in his gut and in his heart, and he had the courage to give voice to those principles. Our colleges and universities today need to witness this legacy and build on it. That includes issues and contentions that Hennessey would have thought  that we had conquered, yet today continue to require revisiting and conquering anew.

Second, and more critically, check your ego and your self-righteousness at the door. It is easy for those who aspire to promote change to do it with their chests out. John Hennessey was as reserved a man, as he was an intelligent and forceful leader. But leadership was not about him, and more importantly even the good that he sought to do was not a testimony to his goodness.

The Globe piece quotes him in words that stand on their own and form a coda about the life of John Hennessey. As the undergraduate wave of women of Dartmouth began to take courses at the Tuck School, Hennessey commented late in his oral history that his upper-level administrative colleagues didn’t realize the ways in which they were “being paternalistic and fatherly.” As said noted, “The idea that it can all be done with good intentions and with ‘good old boys’ simply being gooder, isn’t going to work. And you’re going to have to listen to wise women.”

John Hennessey enriched the halls of academe, the quest for the life of the mind, and for lives well-lived.

Stephen J. Nelson is professor of educational leadership at Bridgewater State University and Senior Scholar with the Leadership Alliance at Brown University. He is the author of the recently released book, The Shape and Shaping of the College and University in America: A Lively Experiment. Nelson served on the student affairs staff at Dartmouth College from 1978-1987. He is currently working on a biography of John G. Kemeny, Dartmouth math  and computer-science professor and president, 1970-81.

 

Will Amazon spawn old-fashioned Main Street retailing?

"View of Manchester, Vermont,  ''  by DeWitt Clinton Boutelle (1870)

"View of Manchester, Vermont, '' by DeWitt Clinton Boutelle (1870)

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

What will become of cities as more and more work is done on the Internet and more and more stuffis delivered by mail (and drones?). At first glance you might think that these changes will hollow out the cities.

But people seek respite from screens and, for that matter, much paid work will continue to be done off screen.  Consider that big growth areas for future jobs include such trades as electricians, plumbers, roofers, linemen, etc.

Seeing people in the flesh, not just virtually, will become more attractive as we become sated with screen life. Indeed, it’s essential for good health. And important decisions will continue to be best completed, and new ideas most cogently expressed, in real encounters. That’s one reason  that Manhattan still thrives, in spite of its high costs.  You can’t do a merger deal online. You have to meet in person.

Young adults, especially those with children, will continue to move to, or stay in, the suburbs, but future suburbs will look different from ‘50s- and ‘60s-style subdivisions.  For one thing,  they will have dense, very walkable centers for shopping, distribution and entertainment, and, especially, meeting people, with many smaller specialty stores in place of the vast malls and even vaster windswept parking lots around them. There will be fewer ugly big-box stores because so much of their brand-name stuff will be shipped directly to customers via Amazon, etc.

Highly specialized stores, many with unique items – some of them locally made ---can do well in these suburbs-becoming-mini-cities within broader metro areas. They’ll be staffed by salespeoplevery knowledgeable about their products and services and with long-term relationships with customers.  

The Boston Globe reports: “Credit Suisse has predicted that upwards of a quarter of the 1,200 malls in America will close in the next five years.’’

“Today, if you know what you need, you go to Amazon and buy it,’’ Pam Danziger, president of the Pennsylvania-based Unity Marketing, told The Globe. “Where you’re going to find interest is on Main Street and not in these homogeneous same-old, same-old outlet stores. Main Street — where people really know you — that’s where the future of retail is.’’

Read the highly instructive case of  toney Manchester, Vt., suffering from the decline in shopping at its many national chain outlets and so now looking to go more local. Please hit this link:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/15/there-app-for-this-retail-town-suffers-age-commerce/uArZDDp6UX5lzQlB0nsciP/story.html

Meanwhile, the car culture, even in the suburbs, will probably continue to fade with further proliferation of such ride-sharing services as Lyft and Uber and the expansion and diversification of mass transit associated with our aging population and environmental concerns.

Some suburbs are starting to look like center cities. Consider Tysons Corner, in suburban Fairfax County, Va., outside of Washington.  Tysons looms like a mini-Manhattan, with office and residential towers. And then there are the small old cities within broader metro areas, of which there are many in New England – think Concord, N.H. and Portland, Maine. I think that they’ll grow as people seek the conveniences of more than traditional suburban density but without the costs of living in such big cities as Boston and New York, whose centers are increasingly for the rich.

Relatively new  suburban places such as Tysons are called“edge cities’’ . But we’ve got what are small  old “edge cities’’ around here, such as Pawtucket, R.I., which might have the urban bones to become more lively and prosperous.

Then there are the mid-size cities, such as Providence, Worcester and New Haven. They’ll draw people with their commercial and cultural attractions but won’t have the critical mass to become big cities. Rather, they’ll be ancillaries that will perform some of the services provided in nearby big cities -- e.g., Boston and New York. They’ll continue to lure folks who want to live in real cities but want/need somewhat less density and considerably lower costs than in Boston and New York.

Even Hartford, now an urban disaster area, ought to be able to eventually turn itself around and market its assets (especially its riverfront) as well as, say, Providence has done with its advantages.

Then there will be new mini-metro areas far away from big cities. One is the Lebanon, N.H.-Hanover, N.H.-White River Junction in the Upper Connecticut River Valley. There, the intersection of two major Interstate highways – Routes 89 and 91 -- along with the presence of a well-known university (Dartmouth College) and associated large medical center has for several decades been creating a kind of city – still sprawling but gradually being pulled together by, among other things, public transportation (encouraged by the proliferation of facilities, many of them high-end, for the elderly in areas with major colleges and medical centers).

New England, with its many still well functioning towns and small cities with an almost European settlement pattern, would seem well placed to benefit from the technological and behavioral changes roiling the country,  the sprawling , utterly car-dependent  metro areas of much of the Sunbelt and Middle West less so.  People will continue to seek community. At leastin New England that will be easier to find and/or rebuild than in most of the country.

 

Affirmative-action angst

The earliest known image of Dartmouth  College, Hanover, N.H., in the February 1793 issue of Massachusetts Magazine.  The college, officially founded in 1769, was an outgrowth of a Connecticut school for educating Native Americans founded in 1755.    

The earliest known image of Dartmouth  College, Hanover, N.H., in the February 1793 issue of Massachusetts Magazine.  The college, officially founded in 1769, was an outgrowth of a Connecticut school for educating Native Americans founded in 1755.

 

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

In other education news, the Trump administration, playing to its white male base, wants to sue colleges to block affirmative-action programs aimed at increasing the number of people of color on campuses. The implication is that black and Hispanic students get far more help than do white kids. (Asian-American students are put in another category.)

I’m not crazy about formal affirmative-action programs but colleges have, and should have, many things to consider when putting together classes. For example, many of the most prestigious colleges, including the Ivy League, give a big preference to “legacies,’’ those students, most of whom are white, with alumni parents or other close relatives.

Indeed, rich (mostly white) kids get a big advantage in admissions. First, they (or, rather, their families) can pay full tuition, a not minor consideration for admissions officers. Second, being already affluent, they and their families are naturally more likely to donate to their colleges before and after graduation – especially the legacy students.  Thus Jared Kushner, with mediocre high school marks, got into Harvard – after his father donated $2.5 million to that illustrious institution. It’s unknown if Donald Trump’s rapacious multimillionaire real-estate operator father, Fred, wrote a donation check to get young Donald Trump into the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School as a transfer student from Fordham.

Finally, a thought experiment forwhite people: Do you really think that life would have been easier for you as a black person?

Probablythe fairest way to  do college affirmative action in our increasingly genealogically plutocratic society is to make more of an effort to enable low-and-middle-income to attend. That would particularly benefit people of color, as well as poor whites.

Native impression

"Heart First'' (Dartmouth) (oil on mylar), in the show "In Our Own Words: Native Impression 2015-2016,''  at Cade Tompkins Projects, Providence, Sept. 10-Nov. 5.    It's a collaboration with Lucy Ganje chronicling the lives of native Americans in the Tribal Nations of North Dakota. These are works that Mr. Heyman created during an artist residency at Dartmouth College (which was created in the 1760s with the aim of educating Native American as well as "English youth.'')

"Heart First'' (Dartmouth) (oil on mylar), in the show "In Our Own Words: Native Impression 2015-2016,''  at Cade Tompkins Projects, Providence, Sept. 10-Nov. 5.

It's a collaboration with Lucy Ganje chronicling the lives of native Americans in the Tribal Nations of North Dakota. These are works that Mr. Heyman created during an artist residency at Dartmouth College (which was created in the 1760s with the aim of educating Native American as well as "English youth.'')

Josh Fitzhugh: In Cuba, old U.S. cars as metaphor

 

Editor’s note: Insurance executive, lawyer, farmer, Vermont maple-syrup mogul and former editor and reporter John H. (Josh) Fitzhugh, sent us this piece the other day. By the way, New Englanders should be aware of the very long social, cultural and economic ties between Cuba and our region. The old Boston-based United Fruit Co. is just one example, not to mention the many New England firms  that made candy, booze, molasses and brown and white sugar from Cuban sugar cane, some of it grown on farms with New England-based owners. And yes, the slave trade. My paternal grandparents and parents went down there a couple of times to enjoy the raffish activities under assorted pre-Castro dictators/gangsters.

-- Robert Whitcomb

xxx

I traveled with my daughter, Eliza, on a Dartmouth College-led tour thinking that I should “time travel” to see what Havana and the island were like now before tourism and American business interests transformed it.

I needn’t have rushed. While change is certainly underfoot in Cuba, I left the island after a week with the conviction that the tangled relationship between the U.S. and Cuba will take decades to sort out absent some leadership change as dramatic as occurred a half century ago.

First, a bit about the trip. As required by the rules of the U.S. embargo of Cuba, the trip was organized as a people-to-people exchange to enhance “contact with the Cuban people, support civil society, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities.” 

Dartmouth’s method for accomplishing these goals was to have us accompanied by a professor of Spanish; to organize numerous lectures by Cuban authorities; to visit various art and music venues; to eat predominately at small private restaurants called paladars; and to permit us to pepper our good-spirited and intelligent Cuban guide, Abell, with constant questions regarding the deficiencies of the vaunted Revolution.  Over the course of the week we toured old and new Havana; Hemingway’s residence, Finca La Vigia; the towns of Cienfuegos and Trinidad; and places in between. To say that we were exhausted by the time we left would be an understatement.

We also all learned a lot, and by that I mean that we all struggled on a daily basis to reconcile our growing understanding of Cuba with opinions as to how American (or Cuban) policy should change to better the lives of the people of both nations. Now that may sound kind of arrogant (who are we to assume such responsibility?) but it was the truth. As an American you can’t travel in Cuba without feeling some responsibility for the ways things are, including the country’s turn toward socialism. And President Obama’s initiative to press for closer contacts with Cuba have given these thoughts greater immediacy.

Now as to some observations. It would appear that over the past  50 years, Cuba has made great strides in health care and education (provided free of charge to the population) but at a cost of economic stagnation and tremendous deterioration of its physical structures. The government is quick to lay the blame for the latter on the embargo but in my opinion it has less to do with that than with the socialist mentality that has discouraged enterprise and private investment of any kind.

A good example is the deterioration that has occurred in old Havana, the location of many beautiful European style structures. Before the Revolution, according to a tour member who had been there, Havana’s old structures, mainly of cement and stone, were in pretty good repair. Today, one in ten is missing a roof; one in five have no windows. Three a day collapse, we were told. The reason? While families are permitted to live in the structures, they are not responsible for their upkeep, which is the government’s responsibility, and whether by design or lack of funds, it has not done so. The picture above is a good example of this decline.

Today, the only structures in old Havana in good repair are tourist spots (such as government-owned hotels) or small paladars snd small hostels, owned by families which under current rules can tap into and keep some of the profits from the burgeoning tourist trade.  Even major government centers, like the Museum of the Revolution, are shabby and decrepit. The Capitol building, designed to look like Washington’s, has been closed for three years (although that may tell more about Cuba’s one-party rule than its finances, frankly.)

Faced with the loss of its sugar daddy, the Soviet Union, Cuba in the mid-‘90s first went through a horrendous economic decline (they call it the “special period”) and then began to pull itself back with help from Chavez’s Venezuela and an increasing reliance on tourism. Today, China and Vietnam seem to have replaced Venezuela as major trading partners but tourism continues to grow, and with it major economic issues.

In short there now appear to be two economies in Cuba: the tourist economy, where taxi drivers, restaurant operators, hoteliers, tour operators, artists and musicians prosper; and the rest of the economy, which suffers along at $20 a month in government wages plus whatever black market income one can find. This income disparity is worsened by those lucky enough to have relatives overseas who send back “remittances,” and most of these are Cuban whites from formerly middle- and upper-middle-class families in Havana.

An example of this disparity was manifest in a dinner we had with some young artists. The young Afro-Cuban at our table has an art degree and has had some moderate success selling his work, mainly to tourists. He now supports his brother a dentist who is on the state payroll.  Another example was a young man whose father was ambassador to Paris in the ‘70s. Trilingual in Spanish, French and English, he worked in a restaurant until three years ago, when he began driving his family’s original 1955 Chevy as a taxi in Havana because his income prospects were better.

The lack of investment is also apparent in the country. Cuba nationalized the hated sugar plantations and mills, but after a disastrous attempt to maximize sugar production in the 90s, has now cut back on sugar production in an effort to diversify agriculture and reduce food imports. Despite efforts to privatize small farms and urban gardens, however, a tremendous amount of land remains fallow, land  that to my eye was probably cultivated before the Revolution. Coupled with the ongoing demographic flow from country to city and the lack of any environment for foreign investment, I don’t see much prospect for agricultural growth and believe Cuba’s goal of producing 70 percent of its own food a pipe dream.

In general we found the Cuban people well behaved, good humored and (as best as one can generalize such things) happy. They are proud of their independence and tolerant of their leaders. They seem willing to recognize mistakes and move on. While constantly reminded by their government that Uncle Sam is evil and untrustworthy, and that the socialist ideals of the Revolution should be venerated and followed, my sense is that most Cubans love American culture and take an attitude toward their government that “this too shall pass.” Many have become very adept at managing their immediate environment to try to benefit themselves and their families.

The prevalence of  old Chevys, Fords, and Cadillacs is a kind of metaphor for this attitude, I think. Keeping these vehicles going is of course a necessity due to the U.S. embargo and a real testament to the mechanical ingenuity of Cubans, but since they are so obviously a symbol of America, and of Cuba before the Revolution, they also bespeak(to me at least) a kind of protest with the way things are and a hope as to what may eventually return. So is the practice of using the dollar sign ($) to denote an item’s cost in pesos.

Like a divorced couple, Cuba and America have much history to remember and to forget, but will forever be linked in some fashion by their proximity to one another.



Hannah Silverstein: At Dartmouth, a new system for residential life

Dartmouth College is restructuring its residential life, building a new system of clusters of residence halls that recalls Harvard's "house system'' and Yale's "college system'' but with unique characteristics of its own.

By HANNAH SILVERSTEIN, for Dartmouth Now

The house communities—a cornerstone of the Moving Dartmouth Forward plan announced by President Phil Hanlon ’77 in January—are designed to transform Dartmouth’s undergraduate residential experience, bringing more continuity to students’ on-campus living options and greater opportunity for faculty-student interactions beyond the classroom. The houses will open to students in fall 2016.

“We will fundamentally transform residential life at Dartmouth. We envision a campus that is more inclusive, where faculty and grad students play more influential roles in the lives of undergraduates, where students learn and grow outside the classroom, and where we have more options for social life and community interaction. Our new housing plan addresses each of these important needs, and today I am pleased to report that we are aggressively moving forward to implement it.”

—President Phil Hanlon ’77, Moving Dartmouth Forward speech, January 29, 2015

The six house professors include biologist Ryan Calsbeek, astrophysicist Ryan Hickox, engineer Jane Hill, sociologist Kathryn Lively, mathematician Craig Sutton, and Japanese literary scholar Dennis Washburn.

“What’s striking about the faculty who have stepped forward to lead this transition is how deeply they care about students,” says Provost Carolyn Dever. “They have each consistently demonstrated that dedication in and out of the classroom, as both role models and mentors. They represent Dartmouth’s scholar-teacher model at its finest.”

The house professors will each serve a four-year term beginning July 1, 2015, and will move into on-campus residences near their respective house communities the following summer. Associate Professor of Mathematics Sergi Elizalde, who has served as faculty director of the East Wheelock Cluster since May 2014, will continue in his role.

Students will be affiliated with a specific residential community, including the East Wheelock Cluster, and will retain this house affiliation throughout their undergraduate experience, regardless of whether they are on- or off-campus in any given term or choose to live in other accommodations.

Interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer says the house professors will work with students to help the communities define their identities and develop such activities as community meals, intramural competitions, performances, field trips, and experiential learning and leadership-development opportunities.

“Our model will be distinctly Dartmouth,” Ameer says. “We are engaged in an intensive planning process to ensure that the system meets the evolving needs of our students, both as learners and as members of a community that should really feel like home.”

The house professors will be instrumental in planning the new system in the coming year, along with a student advisory committee, the provost, the vice provost for student affairs, the to-be-appointed dean of the College, other members of the faculty, and student affairs staff.

Mike Wooten, director of residential education, says the house system will help integrate residential life more deeply with the intellectual mission of the College. “It’s really about increasing students’ sense of connection with the place where they spend four years of their lives,” he says.

The house professors were chosen from nearly two-dozen applicants, says Jon Kull, the Rodgers Professor of Chemistry and dean of graduate studies, who served on the selection committee. “We had the wonderful problem of choosing from among a pool of deeply committed and enthusiastic faculty,” he says.

 

Plutocrats and their kids in the Ivy League

See how the super-rich help their kids get into and prosper at Ivy League schools. This piece might be the best example  yet of how America is no longer the land of opportunity it was long touted to be but a self-perpetuating plutocracy, where overwhelmingly the most important thing you can do for success in life is to pick rich, powerful and, preferably, pushy parents. Harvard and Brown universities are  paradises for this sort of thing.

Another is Dartmouth College. Read this.

 

Salinger's high country

  saintgaudens

Statues at the  wonderful Saint Gaudens National Historic Site, in Cornish, N.H., where J.D. Salinger lived for decades, though he remained in many ways a Manhattanite.

Herewith a charming look in The Boston Globe at J.D Salinger's Connecticut River Valley section of Vermont and New Hampshire. I have always found it one of the loveliest and most interesting parts of America.

He was a strong presence, albeit usually unseen, in the region. I think I saw him go into the stacks of Dartmouth's Baker Library once; he was wearing a raincoat. He was the male Greta Garbo of his time -- the more reclusive he got, the more famous. Intentional, in some way?  And yet he was a civic-minded resident when it came to local matters.

I took a class in Chinese history with his wife of the time -- the '60s --- Claire Douglas, at Dartmouth.  The young assistant professor seemed very smitten with this beautiful lady. Toward the end of the trimester, I was surprised that at a social gathering (at the professor's apartment) for the class, which only had about a dozen people, that the majority of the attendees (including the professor) supplemented their wine and beer with marijuana cigarettes. This was the high '60's indeed!

-- Robert Whitcomb

The Poseidon adventure

greek  

Bronze horse figurine (solid cast, with stamped and incised decoration), made in 8th Century B.C. Greece. It's owned by the Tampa Museum of Art but now will be in the ''Poseidon and the Sea: Myth, Cult, and Daily Life'' show at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., through May.

Poseidon was the Greek god of the sea and known as Neptune to the Romans. Oddly, Poseidon was said to have dominion over horses as well as more marine things. These creature looks a  bit like a sea horse.

Beautiful sea-green verdigris on the bronze!

 

 

David R. Godine: Hero of the book

For those who love the physical book  when it's produced to be a thing of  beauty, this Boston Globe  story about  the great New England-based  independent publisher David R. Godine is an inspiration. Even in these  Amazonian days, publishers who see books as both an intellectual and physical art form can still sometimes make money, especially when the publisher's list turns out to include an obscure (in America) writer who has just won a Nobel Prize in Literature. That's what just happened with French writer Patrick Modiano.

 

"You bet we're going to make a lot of money off Modiano. You publish a Nobel Prize winner, you'd have to shoot yourself in the foot not to make a lot of money,'' he told The Globe.

But as his career has proven,  profit is not why Mr. Godine got into the book business. Rather, he became a publisher because of his love of the craft that started before he made his first book while at Dartmouth College, a book that,  The Globe reports, involved picking ''poems in Latin, Italian and French and using a variety of typefaces to print them as they originally appeared.''

 

I  have reviewed some of the  elegant volumes published by Mr. Godine over the past 40 years, and have met him a few times. He deserves much praise as  a quiet but relentless advocate for an essential part of our culture.

College pranks, anxiety and tricks of time

  By ROBERT WHITCOMB

 

(Reposting this, with minor changes, to mark commencement season.)

 

A few months ago, I was chatting with a Dartmouth College classmate about stuff that happened when we were students in 1966-70. I mentioned someone we knew in common and recalled that he was in a certain fraternity. The guy I was talking with, Denis O'Neil, a screenwriter who recently published a part-memoir, part-novel of that period titled Whiplash: How the Vietnam War Rolled a Hand Grenade into the Animal House, politely corrected me; in fact, this person was in another fraternity.

Time has fragmented and mingled stories in my memory and those of others from that era, now almost half a century ago. One could argue that it was a tumultuous era, and thus it's easy to get things scrambled, but most times are tumultuous and transitional. Mr. O'Neil makes much of the stress caused by the fear of being drafted and sent to Southeast Asia, but as bad as that was, it was much worse for young men in World War II. Whatever. We're all the centers of our own universes, and we create narratives to explain ourselves to ourselves and others and to place ourselves in history.

Certainly, the huge size of the Baby Boomer generation, and technological and social changes of its young times, were dramatic, though I would argue that except for improvements in the rights of racial minorities and women, the transformations caused by the Internet (which increasingly looks as if it has made things worse for most people) have been much bigger than "Sixties'' changes.

 

Still, it's true that in that period one had the distinct sense of living in a discrete and vivid era, which actually began about 1966 and ended about '73. People who lived in the "Roaring Twenties'' -- 1924 to the Great Crash of October 1929 -- told me in "The Sixties'' that they had had a similar sense back in the Coolidge administration.

Youth is intense, and so the memories the now-autumnal people of "The Sixties'' are intense, if sometimes erroneous. From Mr. O'Neil's book, which centers on pranks, fun,  romance (not always fun) and anxiety, you might think that 80 percent of a male undergraduate's time was spent drunk, seeking young women to have sex with and trying to get out of the draft. In fact, even for non-nerds who disliked what we then called "booking'' (has the World Wide Web come up with its own equivalent phrase?)  most of the time was spent going to class, studying and sleeping, not "raging'' (the word for partying).

After all, a lot of students wanted to get into good graduate schools and then fancy jobs. A lot did, and went on to become perhaps the greediest generation in U.S. history. Mr. O'Neil was wise to have constructed his book at least in part as a novel, letting his imagination and telescoping of events provide a better story for the movies, a business he knows very well. If they do make a film of his story, I'd be interested to see how much of it gives a sense of the more humdrum aspects of college life for middle-to-upper-class late adolescents back then.

L.P. Hartley's line "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there'' is much quoted but people don't do things as differently as they might like to think 50 years later.

 

Blighted and bright college days

(comment via rwhitcomb51@gmail.com)
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a Dartmouth College classmate about stuff that happened when we were students in 1966-70. I mentioned someone we knew in common and recalled that he was in a certain fraternity.
 The guy I was talking with, Denis O’Neil, a screenwriter who recently published a part-memoir, part-novel of that period titled “Whiplash: How the Vietnam War Rolled a Hand Grenade into the Animal House,” politely corrected me; in fact, this person was in another fraternity.
Time has fragmented and mingled stories in my memory and those of others from that era, now almost half a century ago. One could argue that it was a tumultuous era, and thus it’s easy to get things scrambled, but most times are tumultuous and transitional. Mr. O’Neil makes much of the stress caused by the fear of being drafted and sent to Southeast Asia, but as bad as that was, it was much worse for young men in World War II. Whatever. We’re all the centers of our own universes, and we create narratives to explain ourselves to ourselves and others and to place ourselves in history.
Certainly, the huge size of the Baby Boomer generation, and technological and social changes of its young times, were dramatic, though I would argue that except for improvements in the rights of racial minorities and women, the transformations caused by the Internet (which increasingly looks as if it has made things worse for most people) have been much bigger than “Sixties” changes.
Still, it’s true that in that period one had the distinct sense of living in a discrete and vivid era, which actually began about 1966 and ended about ’73. People who lived in the “Roaring Twenties” — 1924 to the Great Crash of October 1929 — told me in “The Sixties” that they had had a similar sense back in the Coolidge administration. Youth is intense, and so the memories the now-autumnal people of “The Sixties” are intense, if sometimes erroneous.
From Mr. O’Neil’s book, which centers on fun, romance (not always fun) and anxiety, you might think that 80 percent of a male undergraduate’s time was spent drunk, seeking young women to have sex with and trying to get out of the draft. In fact, even for non-nerds who disliked what we then called “booking” — has the World Wide Web come up with its own equivalent phrase? — most of the time was spent going to class, studying and sleeping, not “raging” (the word for partying). After all, a lot of students wanted to get into good graduate schools and then fancy jobs. A lot did, and went on to become perhaps the greediest generation in U.S. history.
Mr. O’Neil was wise to have constructed his book at least in part as a novel, letting his imagination and telescoping of events provide a better story for the movies, a business he knows very well. If they do make a film of his story, I’d be interested to see how much of it gives a sense of the more humdrum aspects of college life for middle-to-upper-class late adolescents back then.
Probably not much.  The famous and often hilarious (and even witty) Dartmouth pranks memorialized in “Animal House” (and Mr. O’Neil describes some corkers, including  a great train robbery of sorts) and the stuff described above offer rich material for a film.
Still, while L.P. Hartley’s line “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” is much quoted  people don’t do things as differently as they now might like to think  they did 45 years ago.
***
I was working last week in Harrisburg, Pa., the capital of the Keystone State. While that recently bankrupt city has seen better days — for many decades, it was a thriving center of trade and manufacturing and is bounded by rich farmland — many of its old residential and commercial buildings are beautiful, and you get a sense that people in the region very much want the little city to come back.
Greater Harrisburg has more brick and stone houses than you see in New England, where most houses are of wood, but there’s the same sense of an almost European-style settlement pattern, with a tight city center and the countryside close by. More and more people there complain about commuting and some of the gentrification in parts of Harrisburg suggests that a lot of its aging population is getting tired of driving. Indeed, demographics may gradually undo, over the next decade, much of the social and economic damage done by developer-driven sprawl zoning.
And there’s still a lot of boosterism in Harrisburg: The small local airport is proudly called Harrisburg International Airport, with flights to Toronto providing the “international” angle. Perhaps poor little Rhode Island could use a little of what some might slur as Babbitry to help talk itself out of its inferiority complex.

Robert Whitcomb (rwhitcomb51@gmail.com) is a Providence-based editor and writer.

Blighted and bright college days

(comment via rwhitcomb51@gmail.com)
A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a Dartmouth College classmate about stuff that happened when we were students in 1966-70. I mentioned someone we knew in common and recalled that he was in a certain fraternity.
 The guy I was talking with, Denis O’Neil, a screenwriter who recently published a part-memoir, part-novel of that period titled “Whiplash: How the Vietnam War Rolled a Hand Grenade into the Animal House,” politely corrected me; in fact, this person was in another fraternity.
Time has fragmented and mingled stories in my memory and those of others from that era, now almost half a century ago. One could argue that it was a tumultuous era, and thus it’s easy to get things scrambled, but most times are tumultuous and transitional. Mr. O’Neil makes much of the stress caused by the fear of being drafted and sent to Southeast Asia, but as bad as that was, it was much worse for young men in World War II. Whatever. We’re all the centers of our own universes, and we create narratives to explain ourselves to ourselves and others and to place ourselves in history.
Certainly, the huge size of the Baby Boomer generation, and technological and social changes of its young times, were dramatic, though I would argue that except for improvements in the rights of racial minorities and women, the transformations caused by the Internet (which increasingly looks as if it has made things worse for most people) have been much bigger than “Sixties” changes.
Still, it’s true that in that period one had the distinct sense of living in a discrete and vivid era, which actually began about 1966 and ended about ’73. People who lived in the “Roaring Twenties” — 1924 to the Great Crash of October 1929 — told me in “The Sixties” that they had had a similar sense back in the Coolidge administration. Youth is intense, and so the memories the now-autumnal people of “The Sixties” are intense, if sometimes erroneous.
From Mr. O’Neil’s book, which centers on fun, romance (not always fun) and anxiety, you might think that 80 percent of a male undergraduate’s time was spent drunk, seeking young women to have sex with and trying to get out of the draft. In fact, even for non-nerds who disliked what we then called “booking” — has the World Wide Web come up with its own equivalent phrase? — most of the time was spent going to class, studying and sleeping, not “raging” (the word for partying). After all, a lot of students wanted to get into good graduate schools and then fancy jobs. A lot did, and went on to become perhaps the greediest generation in U.S. history.
Mr. O’Neil was wise to have constructed his book at least in part as a novel, letting his imagination and telescoping of events provide a better story for the movies, a business he knows very well. If they do make a film of his story, I’d be interested to see how much of it gives a sense of the more humdrum aspects of college life for middle-to-upper-class late adolescents back then.
Probably not much.  The famous and often hilarious (and even witty) Dartmouth pranks memorialized in "Animal House'' (and Mr. O'Neil describes some corkers, including  a great train robbery of sorts) and the stuff described above offer rich material for a film.
Still, while L.P. Hartley’s line “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” is much quoted  people don’t do things as differently as they now might like to think  they did 45 years ago.
***
I was working last week in Harrisburg, Pa., the capital of the Keystone State. While that recently bankrupt city has seen better days — for many decades, it was a thriving center of trade and manufacturing and is bounded by rich farmland — many of its old residential and commercial buildings are beautiful, and you get a sense that people in the region very much want the little city to come back.
Greater Harrisburg has more brick and stone houses than you see in New England, where most houses are of wood, but there’s the same sense of an almost European-style settlement pattern, with a tight city center and the countryside close by. More and more people there complain about commuting and some of the gentrification in parts of Harrisburg suggests that a lot of its aging population is getting tired of driving. Indeed, demographics may gradually undo, over the next decade, much of the social and economic damage done by developer-driven sprawl zoning.
And there’s still a lot of boosterism in Harrisburg: The small local airport is proudly called Harrisburg International Airport, with flights to Toronto providing the “international” angle. Perhaps poor little Rhode Island could use a little of what some might slur as Babbitry to help talk itself out of its inferiority complex.
Robert Whitcomb (rwhitcomb51@gmail.com) is a Providence-based editor and writer.