Inside Out?

Inside Out? – Only Nixon could go to China.

That’s what I thought when I heard that Phil Hanlon, Dartmouth Class of 1977 and AD Fraternity brother had been selected to become the 18th President of Dartmouth College. Hanlon has a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Cal Tech and is currently Provost at the University of Michigan, where he also teaches undergraduates. He’s stated that he expects to focus closely on the college’s cost structure and finances. “We can’t continue superinflationary tuition increases,” he has noted.

He’s right about that. Last year Dartmouth increased its tuition by 4.9%, 3% above the inflation rate. Indeed, it has grown by 3% more than inflation for the past 30 years. Tution now totals almost $44 thousand / year. As always, the school notes that tuition and fees only cover half their costs. But why does it cost so much? As a career academic, educator, and administrator Hanlon has the credibility to dig into the finances and find where the bodies are buried.

But there’s another area of college life that needs examining—less critical than finance, but still important. It’s the social scene that revolves around partying and binge drinking. As a bro at AD in the mid-‘70s, Hanlon experienced the frat scene that served as a model for the movie Animal House. It was a tumultuous time: a few years after Hanlon graduated the faculty proposed abolishing all fraternities at Dartmouth—a “modest proposal” that didn’t get very far. Since then reform efforts have come and gone. Houses have been suspended or kicked off campus. But nothing material has changed.

Costs and frats are perennial problems for colleges. Perhaps someone from the inside—with the credibility of a bro—can cut these twin Gordian Knots. Here’s to hope.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer

Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

One thought on “Inside Out?”

  1. Interesting observation, but you have your decades confused. It makes a difference. Animal House comes from the early 1960s. Dartmouth was all male and fraternity life focused on frivolous. By Hanlon’s time (and mine), Dartmouth had (some) women, 18 year old drinking, and serious concerns about Vietnam, Watergate, women’s rights, racism, and so forth. Fraternities hit a low.

    So, no, Phil Hanlon was a significant distance from the Animal House days.

    We also don’t know how active he was. Many students today — and in those days in particular — joined a house and then rarely showed up because they found little of what thought to be worthwhile going on. It’s a little hard for me to image a Phi Beta Kappa math major spending countless hours sticking to the AD floor or admiring the aroma of the gorff.

    It is at least possible that he graduated with a bitter taste in his mouth about Dartmouth’s Greek life. That’s not unusual. Nearly all of the Dartmouth Trustees were affiliated, yet they have often approved with enthusiasm anti-Greek actions.

    Your “Nixon Goes to China” idea makes sense to me nonetheless, however. I think we can all imagine a Dartmouth president who did not belong to a college social fraternity and thus overcompensated once here so he could prove he was “one of the boys.”

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