Wind-dried wood

  I read an article the other day in  The Providence Journal about a cotton-textile mill in West Warwick, R.I., called the Lippitt Mill.  The charming old building is made out of wood.

There are wood structures in New England going back to the 17th Century. In few places in the world can such wooden structures last that long because of rot and insects. But New England's wind and cold winters preserve the wood, of which we still have a big supply. Another reason not to complain too much about our challenging climate.



The president of my college alma mater (Dartmouth) has given a fine speech about the need to stop the very small --- but all too loud -- members of that community who engage in bad, fraternity-idiot behavior. Because of stories going back to the '20s and '30s and the rise of Winter Carnival then,  and later, the very funny if misleading ''Animal House'' stories allegedly based in part on hijinks in the Alpha Delta Phi House at Dartmouth, the college has developed a reputation for outrageous behavior by a few undergraduates.

The new president of Dartmouth, Philip Hanlon, was himself a member of A.D., before going on to Cal Tech for his doctorate and later serving as provost of the University of Michigan. So were  my father and grandfather, two soft-spoken gentlemen who I never saw drunk. ( I'm a lifelong expert on  alcoholism from the other side of my family.)

But writing as a member of a fairly demure fraternity myself back in the '60s,  and watching closely what happens at other "elite colleges,'' I can say that Dartmouth gets a unfair share of the blame for bad behavior committed by a tiny percentage of male students.

Unfortunately, every institution has branding assets and  deficits. Dartmouth long ago was branded as rowdy, even as, say, students at the University of Chicago  (where an undergraduate recently died of alcohol poisoning) were branded as neurotic and hyper-intellectual.

It takes a lot of time and lot of money to change an image, however misleading it may be. Being a student at Dartmouth mostly means doing a lot of academic work (with no pre-exam reading periods in which to catch up unlike at most of its peer institutions) forced by its intense trimester system. But that's not nearly as good material for the news media as beer-pong tournaments.

Perhaps the college needs  a Don Draper type from Madison Avenue to rebrand the place for the new international academic mass market.