200th Session Meeting Minutes

The Academic Affairs Committee received presentations and engaged in subsequent questions and answers around two distinct topics: the College’s ongoing reaccreditation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) and the effect of the past year’s budget reductions on Dartmouth’s faculty and on academic programs in general.  

Every ten years the College undergoes a process of reaccreditation by NEASC. Heather Kim, director of the College’s Office of Institutional Research, is spearheading the process in the current cycle, which began in 2009. Heather met with the committee to inform members about the process and to discuss its purpose. The principal basis for NEASC’s evaluation is an internal appraisal by the College of its own strengths and weaknesses (essentially a SWOT analysis) now being conducted by a team of dean-level officers. This internal appraisal will culminate in a report of approximately 100 pages covering eleven specified “standards,” consisting of a discussion of the College’s strengths and weaknesses relating to each of these standards and a “projection” of actions and investments needed to achieve its goals in those areas. While the reaccreditation process nominally has both a “public purpose” of quality assurance and a “private purpose” of quality improvement, in the College’s case (where successful reaccreditation is almost assured) the effort is undertaken principally because it provides a rubric for self assessment and, ideally, a catalyst for improvement. A preliminary draft of the College’s self-study report will be available to the public on the College’s Web site in August or September 2010, and the final assessment and recommendations by the NEASC team (led by Amherst College president Anthony Marx) is expected to be published in spring 2011. In the meantime, alumni who are interested can access both the College’s self-study report from the 1999-2000 reaccreditation cycle and the NEASC assessment from that cycle here: www.dartmouth.edu/~oir/reaccred/.

Professor of computer science and associate dean of the faculty David Kotz ’86 met with the committee to discuss the effects of the recent budget cuts on the faculty and the College’s academic programs in general. What began as a presentation on the topic by Professor Kotz evolved into a broader discussion regarding both budgetary issues and the general outlook of the faculty in the current environment, enhanced by the presence of four other Dartmouth faculty on the committee (Scot Drysdale, computer science; Peter Hackett ’75, theater; Brian Pogue, engineering; Lindsay Whaley, linguistics). As has been reported previously, tenure-track faculty were excluded from layoffs during the budget reconciliation efforts. However, as vacancies have occurred through normal turnover, in some cases they are being refilled more slowly than normal. With the total faculty having increased by approximately 60 positions (17 percent) during the past decade, neither Professor Kotz nor any of the other faculty members on the committee indicated that they felt this slowness to rehire was having any significant negative effect. The unfilled vacancies have also facilitated a suspension of approximately 40 courses during the upcoming academic year (or 2 percent of the approximately 2,000 courses typically offered); which of those courses are reinstituted later and which may be dropped permanently will be the subject of a future strategic review. Faculty salaries were frozen during the 2009-10 academic year (except for raises in conjunction with promotions) but the College has committed to a modest increase in faculty salaries for the upcoming academic year. By and large, other financial benefits that the faculty view as important to hiring and retention (such as a junior faculty sabbatical policy that is more liberal than most) have also been protected despite the College’s financial challenges. The overall objective has been to constrain costs while remaining competitive with peer institutions, particularly as the current environment has increased the poaching efforts by some institutions Hugh O’Reilly ’86 will chair the committee and Jay Miller ’82 will be vice chair in 2010-11.  

The committee met twice during Alumni Council Weekend. On May 20 they met to discuss alumni feedback received since last fall; the format and production timeline for the 2009–10 Alumni Liaison Committee (ALC) annual report; and the recent elections for the Association of Alumni Executive Committee and the two alumni-nominated vacancies on the board of trustees. The committee met with trustees Sherri Oberg ’82, ’86Tu, and Al Mulley ’70 on May 22. Topics discussed included recent alumni feedback received by the committee; the final report of the Alumni Council Ad Hoc Committee to Support Greek Letter Organizations; the recent elections for the Association of Alumni Executive Committee and the two alumni-nominated vacancies on the Board of Trustees, and the 2009-10 ALC annual report. Janine Avner ’80 will chair the committee in 2010-11.

Sean Plottner, editor of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, made a presentation regarding the online version of the magazine.  

Committee member Andy Horne ’87 led a discussion about the focus of the committee. He recommended that the following items be discussed by the committee at each meeting: metrics (how well is the council communicating via emails?), tools (is the council using them effectively? Which presentations should the committee bring to the entire Alumni Council?), issues, and councilor reporting. The committee decided to create a subcommittee to discuss these issues between meetings, draft a new committee mission statement, and examine purposeful acts and recommendations to share with the entire Communications Committee. The subcommittee will: identify purpose and set task, base agenda on task, and ensure follow-up with action items.

The committee discussed councilor communications, including the summary produced by Brooks Clark ’78 after each meeting. Brooks will retire from the Alumni Council on June 30 and Debbie Atuk ’04Tu will oversee the production of the fall meeting report. Jay Davis ’54 shared a handout of a writing style guide. He will compose a draft of a style guide, circulate it via email to the Communications Committee members, and allow everybody to work on revisions together. The committee will then post the final guide on the Alumni Council website as a tool for councilors.

Sarah Jackson-Han ’88 will become the chair in 2010-11. Derek Symer ’90 was elected vice chair for 2010-11.

Committee chair Wylie Collins ’83 extended a general welcome to all members and then introduced new members. Congratulations were offered up to the admissions team, which had just completed the Class of 2014 admissions effort in yet another year of record applications to Dartmouth College.

The spring Alumni Council meeting each year is accompanied by a high level of interest among alumni regarding admissions results and trends. In response, dean of admissions Maria Laskaris ’84 and director of recruitment and communication Dan Parish ’89 provided the committee with a very thorough and impressive summary of the results for the Class of 2014. Highlights include:

  • Applications to Dartmouth continue to increase, with a 3.6 percent growth rate from 2013 to 2014, and a 35 percent growth rate from 2010 to 2014;
  • The overall yield has also increased, from 48 percent for the Class of 2013 to 53.6 percent for the Class of 2014. Early-decision admits increased from 401 to 460. The regular-decision yield also increased, from 36.9 percent to 41.1 percent;
  • A five-year class comparison was presented in which the Class of 2010 was compared to the Class of 2014 with respect to geography, diversity, gender and academic credentials.

Maria and Dan also discussed recruiting initiatives, including both on-campus and online programs, highlighting the effectiveness and importance of encouraging students that have been accepted to Dartmouth to visit Hanover during their decision-making process as they evaluate the merits of becoming a Dartmouth student. (We all agreed there are many such merits!) Dan also discussed the increased focus on several online initiatives that have proven to be effective, and will continue to be a focus of the admissions team in its recruiting efforts.

There was a brief discussion about the continued importance of ensuring that the Enrollment and Admissions Committee takes the lead in recruiting and retaining alumni interview volunteers. In the interest of time, we agreed to spend more time on this topic in the fall as interviews get underway. Dan informed us that there were 10,768 alumni interviews for the Class of 2014, representing 57 percent of all applications. This is the highest number of interviews ever. Given the dramatic growth rate of applications, the committee’s focus on strengthening the alumni interview network will be critical. We discussed briefly the merits of refining the system to more closely monitor the number of individual interviewers contributing to the effort (in addition to number of interviews).

We briefly reviewed potential additional areas the committee can add value going forward. Wylie encouraged the committee to select very specific topics and metrics in its review of where the committee can be most helpful to the admissions team. Members of the committee agreed that the yield issue is perhaps one that the committee should study further, to see if alumni and, more specifically, the committee can further assist the Dartmouth admissions team on this important initiative.
Wylie thanked the committee for the opportunity to serve as chair and offered to continue to help the committee and admissions team in the future. Danielle Dyer ’81, ’89Tu, will chair the committee and Tee Lotson ’82 will be the vice chair in 2010-11.

The Honorary Degrees Committee met on May 21 to finalize a list of alumni candidates to be submitted to the College's Committee on Honorary Degrees for consideration with respect to the College's June 2011 Commencement. Ten of our 13 committee members were present, along with Sue Young ’77, our on-campus administrative liaison. During our April conference call we had narrowed a list of 12 names down to five, and the members of the committee were charged with one final review of each name for discussion at the May meeting.

After a robust discussion of each of the five names, we decided to forward two of the five as our final recommendations for the 2011 commencement. Of the three candidates not submitted, two have been held for review at a later date and one was removed from the list for further consideration. We also discussed another name that had surfaced too late for consideration for this year’s submission, and have requested additional research so that the individual can be reviewed again at the committee’s December 2010 meeting. Sue Young provided information on three additional names for further review at a later date. We also learned that two of our nominated alumni candidates from last year’s list will receive honorary degrees from the College at this year’s Commencement: Barry MacLean ’60, ’61Th, and James Nachtwey ’70.

We ended the meeting with Louisa Guthrie ’79, outgoing chair, passing the baton to Bobby Charles ’87, incoming chair, and Bonnie Henderson ’87, ’93DMS, newly appointed vice chair.

Daniel Bryant ’91 opened the meeting and had committee members introduce themselves. Student Assembly president Frances Vernon ’10 and incoming president Erik Tanner ’11 then provided an update. There are four committees within the Student Assembly: Academic Affairs, Diversity and Community Affairs, Student Life, and Student Services. Current topics/priorities of the Student Assembly include the continuing need for alternative social space (for events such as the successful “Party in the Collis Caf-A”), alcohol policy, and keeping the lines of communication open between President Kim and the students. The Graduate Student Council (GSC) president, Ting-Lan Tina Chang, also provided an update. Recent achievements include creating the possibility of a Dartmouth clinic that would provide an in-house dentist to address the need for dental/vision insurance; the hosting of cross-campus events (with undergraduate student groups, DMS, Tuck, Thayer, and the Dartmouth Institute), which continue to be successful; the start of a weekly e-newsletter to highlight upcoming events to grad students; and the election of the GSC Executive Board.

Next J.B. Daukas ’84 presented an update on the Committee to Support Greek Letter Organizations. The committee conducted surveys, toured houses, and held discussions with senior administrators as part of its research to determine the current state of Greek letter organizations and provide recommendations to make sure they endure and thrive. Through this research, it was determined that the organizations need help to survive long-term. The conditions of the houses are a large concern: The buildings are old, many other students use the houses for social opportunities, there is excess waste of beer cans and cups, and the houses are not treated properly by the students who live in them. J.B. provided the committee’s recommendations, which include enhancement of alumni and faculty involvement in the houses, increased student accountability, retention of professional cleaning services, development of fundraising/capital campaigns; and expansion of the number of sororities with housing.

Next on the agenda was an athletics update by Bob Ceplikas ’78, acting athletics director. Bob reviewed the effects of the $16 million departmental budget cut, varsity and club sports highlights, events attendance, student-athlete community service efforts, the dedication of Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park, and the Wearers of the Green. He then introduced Bob Cormier, the new men’s basketball coach. Coach Cormier thanked the committee, gave a brief background of his career, and prioritized his goals on improving the men’s basketball program.

Sylvia Spears, acting dean of the College, then addressed the committee. She provided information on the divisional restructuring implementation and the new dean of the College functional structure, which includes campus life, student support services, athletics, health service and safety and security. Sylvia also explained the pilot of the Organizational Adjudication Student Board Pilot Project and the Student and Alcohol Harm Reduction Committee to develop and implement evidence-based initiatives that reduce the prevalence of dangerous drinking on Dartmouth’s campus. Also in attendance to help answer questions were interim associate dean of the College, Harry Kline, and acting director of judicial affairs, Nate Miller.
Lastly, the committee unanimously approved Norm Sylvester ’58 and David Wagner ’99 to be vice co-chairs. Daniel Bryant ’91 will be retiring as chair, and Axel Grabowsky ’60 and Susan Hess ’81 will be the incoming co-chairs.