Bleeding Green Alumnus
By Phil Aubart '10, Staff Columnist
Published on Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Joseph Asch ’79 doesn’t have the greatest reputation around these parts, as far as I can tell. The profile on him in The Dartmouth (“College critic makes voice heard,” Sept. 24) was factually correct, but gave enough quotes to his opponents and was written in such a way as to convey a generally negative impression of him. Additionally, many students simply view him as “the crazy old guy.” To some extent, this makes sense. How often are the words of an alumnus found in the pages of this publication? Plus, Asch often presents his case in an impassioned way that students may find unique.
The funny thing is that Asch is one of the biggest champions of students here in Hanover. Asch has railed against the administration’s heavy hand in dealing with alcohol policy infractions, especially with regard to other Ivy League schools’ policies (“Thirsty for a Reasonable Alcohol Policy,” Feb. 16, 2007). Asch has questioned the official statistics the College pushes out relating to class sizes and student-faculty ratio (I’ve only been in one class with fewer than 10 students). He has fought against the unwritten speech code purported to exist in the years before my time at the College. Asch supported the petition trustee candidates, whose stated goals included fighting for student rights and initiatives, and preserving the undergraduate nature of the College.
Since Asch joined Dartblog — an online commentary on all things Dartmouth that is frequently critical of the College’s administration — he has questioned the mysterious departure of former Dean of the College Tom Crady, and the questionable appointment of the under-qualified Dean of the College Sylvia Spears. Asch has called for the departure of College Provost Barry Scherr (and gotten his wish) and, perhaps most importantly, he has been able to sit down with Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone, something this paper has not yet done this academic year.
The point is that Asch cares deeply about the College even 30 years after his graduation. He founded a writing program solely designed to help students (the now-defunct Departmental Editing Program, started and funded by Asch, helped students write discipline-specific papers). He follows student life and calls for corrections where he sees fit. Not only that, but he calls the shots like most students would call them themselves.
Asch is one of the few people who takes the time out to write and comment on columns I and other columnists have written. So why does he get such a bad rap? Are we really so indebted to the administration that we feel anyone who goes against it must somehow be crazy or represent something we don’t want?
Asch is much more of a positive force than a negative one — despite the fact that many in the administration dislike his thoughts and views: that he writes for Dartblog, whose founder supported the (evil) petition trustees; that Association of Alumni President John Mathias ’69 thinks he is an “unrelenting critic of Dartmouth, almost pathologically.” Indeed, if Asch didn’t care so much about this institution and want it to continue to excel in all facets of its existence, he wouldn’t bother to write or criticize
What Mathias and others like him fail to recognize is that Asch’s love for the College pushes him to criticize. After all, there’s no need to continually compliment the administration on what it does right. I mean, I’ve never seen a column dedicated to the fine job the administration has done to maintain the status quo. Rather, we all should constantly push for change where we see fit. Obviously we have many students who are doing just that: discussing gender status on campus, like in Friday’s issue of The Dartmouth Mirror; rallying against hatred; discussing whether or not we can get the Hanover Police to go a little easier on our problem with binge drinking. Asch argues for the same sorts of things. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the students here at the College are deeply attached to the administration (whichever one) and spend more time defending its actions rather than questioning and challenging it. For example, few students express a wish to preserve parity on the Board of Trustees. Asch is doing what few of us are brave enough to do.
Yes, Asch is outspoken, but only because he challenges a very powerful administration that is used to having its way. I can only hope that some day the flame eternal in my heart for Dear Old Dartmouth is as strong as Asch’s.