Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dartmouth and the University of Michigan-Reaping the Whirlwind

I have watched for five decades, since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the liberalization of college campuses.  Not only politically, but sexually, and permitting more and more extreme behavior such as excessive drinking, and as we saw at Penn State, even child molestation. The young, with little perspective, many without religious and/or moral moorings, have traditionally found the freedom of college heady; they cheer the liberty and see little reason to curb it.

But five decades into it, really many more than that if you read the history of higher education, we are seeing the unintended but warned of consequences surfacing. Within the past ten days the President of Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, Philip Hanlon, publicly acknowledged that this, one of the premiere undergraduate institutions in the land, faces serious problems that threaten to “hijack” “Dartmouth’s promise.” It really is a special place–with a 245 year legacy! As two examples, Hanlon pointed out that this year’s graduating class will produce the 74th and 75th Rhodes Scholars to come out of Dartmouth, and of 20 Thiel Fellows, three hail from the school. (Not to mention that in its earlier days its physicians probably saved the life, and certainly the leg of Joseph Smith when he was about 9-years-old–the only people in America that could have done it at the time.)  

Hanlon addressed the University on April 16.  Despite Dartmouth’s educational and intellectual legacy, he warned that three specific things were at issue, which he described as “extreme behavior.” Those included, sexual assault, excessive drinking, and exclusivity bordering on racism–all of which threatened the social fabric of the Dartmouth community–and all of which the perpetrators consider “acceptable fun.” The school’s reputation is suffering.  Consequently student applications were down 14% last year and a Title IX investigation is underway at the school. Hanlon has been at this problem since taking over the helm several years ago, and he reported that the school’s efforts were beginning to produce positive results, but he warned, the progress should not be confused with success. Therefore, he was stepping up measures to further meet the big three issues, including a zero tolerance “sexual assault disciplinary policy.” He did not elaborate further on this policy or any of the several other measures he mentioned. His purpose was to invite the entire university community to assist in redirecting the social environment of the school.  It was impressive to read that this man was directly confronting the issue.  “Dartmouth WILL take the lead in American education by bringing campus life to a safe, sustainable place.”  “We welcome the high expectations,” he said, “And we will deliver.”  Lets pray that he does.(1)

On 20 April, The Michigan Daily online, carried a column by Sam Gringlas.  Hanlon had been the University Provost at the University of Michigan before going to Dartmouth.  Gringlas noted Hanlon’s address to his school and reported that the University of Michigan was also undergoing a Title IX investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for alleged violations.  

And so the whirlwinds swirl in the North and Northeast.  These problems not only have their genesis in the liberalization of American culture, but they also grow out of many other societal problems that remain unresolved such as poverty and racial inequality.  But the one thing we rarely hear about publicly, though if you talked with the teachers in the classroom most would likely acknowledge it to be the case, is that many of these problems stem from the home environment out of which the youth come.  Fractured, poorly led or leaderless altogether, dysfunctional, irreligious, valueless families produce similar fruit.  For all of their good-faith efforts at Michigan and Dartmouth, committees,  school policies, and programs are really only a finger in the dike.  

President David O. McKay not only said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home,” but in 1968, he wrote in the introduction to that year’s Family Home Evening Manual in which he said:
Would you have a strong virile nation?--then keep your homes pure.  Would you reduce delinquency and crime?--then lessen the number of broken homes.  It is time that civilized peoples realized that the home largely determines whether children shall be of high or low character.  Homebuilding, therefore, should be the paramount purpose of parents and of the nation.(2)
I know the nation did not hear him and I wonder if many Latter-day Saints did.

Lets think together again, soon.


1.   Philip J. Hanlon, "It Is Time for Dartmouth to Change," address of 16  April 2014, Hanover, New Hampshire, at the Vital Speeches of the Day, website, available to subscribers.  However, you can also find it online here:

2.  David O. McKay, "To Parents in the Church," Family Home Evening Manual 1968, (Salt Lake City: Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1968), iii, emphasis added.

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