Many of Dartmouth’s disgruntled alumni feel that President Wright’s emphasis on increasing the research and scholarly profile of the faculty to be antithetical to Dartmouth’s mission. That mission in their minds seems to be defined as undergraduate teaching to the exclusion of all other activities.
The sacrifice of teaching effectiveness for the sake of research productivity is a non-issue. First, these alumni have nothing to worry about with respect to the erosion of teaching effectiveness. The institution is committed to providing the best education to both undergraduates and graduate students, and holds faculty accountable for maintaining these standards in many ways. For example, the tenure process demands teaching excellence from every candidate, and Dartmouth students are the main arbiters in this process.
In addition, today’s undergraduates demand faculty who are doing world-class research, because they want to be involved. Every spring, prospective undergraduates visit campus to inspect the kind of education that is possible to them. I have meet with many prospective undergraduates over the years, and to a student, the first question that each asks is, “will I be able to do research in a faculty member’s laboratory if I come to Dartmouth?” Dartmouth could not recruit the best undergraduates unless the faculty were doing outstanding research and scholarship parallel to their classroom teaching.
Research and scholarship are what keep faculty engaged with the broader world. Today’s students demand opportunities to participate in these extracurricular intellectual endeavors with faculty. The faculty encourage and expect this engagement from undergraduates as well. If Dartmouth returned to the small teaching college in the mountains it was 50 years ago, all this would be lost. Anyone who thinks that research and teaching are competing endeavors for faculty should come to campus and see how we do it. I am sure all the Dartmouth faculty would welcome the opportunity to illustrate the synergy of research and teaching to any doubtors.