Voces Clamantium: Students and alumni weigh in on Kim
By Charlie Hoffmann ’77 Tu ’83, John Mathias ’69 And Dennis Zeveloff ’12
Published on Thursday, March 29, 2012
To the Editor:
President Kim makes a poor choice of the World Bank over Dartmouth, forsaking substance for illusion by leaving a truly influential position for a political post atop an ineffectual bureaucracy. Kim promised Dartmouth an approximately 10-year engagement. Opportunistic executives and politicians routinely bolt recent commitments, but a top college leader shoulders greater responsibility. It is disappointing to see the presidency of Dartmouth diminished by this choice. Partners in Health colleagues must have missed the irony in their statement on Kim’s nomination: “Jim is all about delivery and about delivering on promises often made but too seldom kept.”
Three years doesn’t keep his promise to Dartmouth. An inspired choice, his energy and early accomplishments raised expectations for a Kim Era. Leaving early with much unfinished business, his tenure will instead be a great disappointment, the briefest of any Dartmouth president but Rev. Daniel Dana, obliged by illness to resign in 1821 after a year.
Doubtless, the Obama administration positioned the World Bank presidency as a compelling platform for Kim to exercise real power in attacking poverty, but the Bank’s unassailable mission is overwhelmed by structural dysfunction that other talented men have failed to change. The Bank is a futile misapplication of Kim’s talents. If Kim were to remain at Dartmouth for 10 years, he would personally touch and inspire the lives of over 15,000 undergraduates and several thousand graduate students who will go out into the wide, wide world to lead and accomplish many great things. That is leverage the World Bank and its president won’t ever have.
Sometimes the measure of a man is in the honors, opportunities and challenges that he declines when he has other commitments to fulfill. Our president would prove a truly exceptional character if, on reflection, he withdrew from this nomination, rolled his sleeves back up and returned to the business of the Kim Era at Dartmouth. Even greater opportunities will follow.
Charlie Hoffmann ’77 Tu ’83 Lake Forest, Ill.
To the Editor:
“The world’s troubles are your troubles ... and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix,” John Sloan Dickey told students in his 1946 convocation address. From the day of his inauguration onward, President Jim Yong Kim repeatedly challenged the greater Dartmouth community with this quotation. Surely no one could have mistaken his sincerity and consistency on this point. The World Bank has “the reduction of world poverty and improvement of living standards by promotion of sustainable growth and investment in people” as its core mission. These are unquestionably among the world’s most highly visible and urgent troubles. I could not possibly be prouder of Dartmouth or its President today for not only “talking the talk” but now also “walking the walk.”
As an alumnus not on the ground in Hanover, I admit to having a relatively minor interest in the fixation upon fraternity basements, student dining plans, local wages, Hanover Inn renovations or any of the various “Who shot George?” issues that recently seem to dominate the daily discourse in alumni blogs and comments posted to The Dartmouth. They are troubles far removed from John Sloan Dickey’s stirring challenge, albeit of undeniably great importance to the everyday lives of some who enjoy the high privilege of a Dartmouth education and don’t hesitate to complain in public about their own unmet wants and needs. At this moment, I prefer to focus upon the astonishing amount of worldwide goodwill President Kim has brought to Dartmouth during his brief tenure.
In my opinion, if the Dartmouth presidency is now perceived as a stepping stone to a position like president of the World Bank, then we are all in Jim Kim’s debt. I wish him every success.
John Mathias ’69 Former President of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni
To the Editor:
To me, the most disappointing part of President Jim Yong Kim’s departure is what he’s leaving behind: a vision tailored to his expertise and an uncaring administration. In a series of meetings and lunches last term, Kim began to present a narrative in which he had restored financial stability, mollified pro-athlete/pro-frat alumni about his passivity and could now commit the school to a trifecta of scholarship, pedagogy and engagement that was going to take us all the way to being a not-in-New-Jersey Princeton. He talked about how Dartmouth’s unique work in health care delivery would distinguish us in the international rankings, and he asked students to remember that his job was not to design dining plans but to increase the value of a Dartmouth degree.
I was willing to get on board. He appeared to have our best interests at heart. Because he was so responsive to student concerns in person, I didn’t even mind how frequently the dean of the College and other administrators ignored or antagonized other students. The 18th president will have to capitalize on the good: a Dartmouth that can interact with the world while maintaining top-notch teaching. He will have to fix the bad: a bloated Parkhurst that wouldn’t communicate with students, improve advising or create a more academic atmosphere. And he’ll have to resolve the questionable: massive investments in health care-related projects. It won’t be easy. If there’s a long-term takeaway from Kim’s short term, it’s that students need to be more active in shaping a better Dartmouth. Unlike the administration, we will always be tied to this school’s successes and failures.
Dennis Zeveloff ’12