Jaresova: Unproductive Discourse

This Wednesday, when I stepped out of my dorm in the Gold Coast cluster, I was shocked and dismayed. I was stunned by the “Cemetery of the Innocents” display 546 flags on the Gold Coast lawn set up by the student group Vita Clamantis. Although the organizers intended the demonstration to “ask for forgiveness” and not “condemn,” the display was a direct attack on women who had exercised their constitutional right to have an abortion.

This expression of “free speech” attempts to shine light on the 54.6 million abortions that have taken place since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 (“Organization plants flags to protest abortion,” April 19). I use the word “abortion” to describe what this flag display represents because “abortion” is an objective term used to characterize a strictly medical procedure. On the other hand, Vita Clamantis employs words that fall within the category of emotional language such as “death,” “cemetery” and “innocent.” In doing so, they attempt to manipulate the public’s emotions rather than use logic to make solid arguments.

By labeling abortions as “deaths,” Vita Clamantis voiced its view that life begins at the moment of conception, and that abortions meant the murder of “innocent” human beings. Thus, the implication in the display was that the women who have had abortions in the United States since 1973 were responsible for 54.6 million murders. The use of the American flags further denotes the idea that the abortions, and consequently the women who had them, were un-American. Such advertising therefore constitutes a direct attack against these women and individuals who supported them in their decision. For Dartmouth women who have had abortions and pro-choice individuals, Vita Clamantis’ overtly incendiary message was very hurtful and alienating. Granted, while Vita Clamantis did have the right to express this point of view, I contend that the display was more than unnecessary: It was extremely ineffective in fostering what could have been a thoughtful conversation. It was a distraction from the real question that pro-choice and pro-life advocates both should aim to answer: How can we improve the lives of people so that abortion doesn’t need to even be in the picture?

In his email to one of my peers, the president of Vita Clamantis Robert Smith ’14 expressed that his organization’s intention was not to offend but to stir up thoughtful dialogue about the pro-life perspective. But the use of American flags for a controversial cause like abortion is an offensive move that is anything but thoughtful. It disregards the historical meaning of the American flag as a symbol for the country’s unity and strength. Furthermore, Vita Clamantis’ flag display eerily matched that of veteran cemeteries used to commemorate soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for the ideals of this country. To associate the apparent “deaths” of unborn cells with the perceived honorable deaths of soldiers is wholly disrespectful.

Perhaps it would have been more productive if, more in advance of setting up the display, Vita Clamantis had notified the Dartmouth community about the forum they were holding so that more students would have been able to attend and prepare. Many of us became aware of what was happening upon seeing the flags in the morning and weren’t able to participate in what might have been a valuable opportunity to discuss an issue that is so important to many of us. While there is much on which we may disagree, surely a conversation in which both sides participate and don’t feel attacked is a more productive way of finding common objectives.

Other social movements on campus, such as Occupy Dartmouth, have demonstrators actually present at the site of protest. This allows the inquiring passerby to ask questions and to engage in constructive dialogue throughout the day. Since this flag display had been predictably upsetting to many, Vita Clamantis should have at least stood by the flags they had so cautiously put up when all of campus was asleep.

So Vita Clamantis, by all means, go ahead and let yourselves be heard. After all, it is free speech. And in the end, there should be many areas in which we can all find common ground. But next time, think again about how you issue your messages so that you don’t alienate those who would be willing to listen.

**Andrea Jaresova ’12 is a member of The Dartmouth Comics Staff.*

Verbum Ultimum: Continuing to Move Forward

The Board of Trustees’ decision to appoint Provost Carol Folt as interim College president was no doubt an expected and logical move. As Dartmouth’s second-highest ranking administrator, Folt is an integral part of College President Jim Yong Kim’s administration, and her appointment will allow for a smooth leadership transition following Kim’s departure to the World Bank on July 1.

Although her appointment has been met with mixed reactions from students, faculty and alumni, Folt is nevertheless the most suitable individual to maintain stability at the College during this critical transition period. Having been here for nearly 30 years and having served in a variety of leadership positions, Folt has a clear understanding of the inner workings of the College and is cognizant of the unique challenges it faces.

Kim’s short tenure as president has left Dartmouth in a difficult position. With his background in health care, Kim embarked on a variety of projects that fit his specific interests and expertise, such as creating the Center for Health Care Delivery Science and establishing the Learning Collaborative on High-Risk Drinking. The current round of strategic planning has also been shaped by Kim’s goal to improve Dartmouth’s global presence and image.

Kim’s premature departure leaves many loose ends, creating a precarious future for his unfinished initiatives. The next president will likely arrive with his or her own vision for the College and a fresh set of ideas and goals. While we hope to see the next president take Dartmouth in new directions, we must also ensure that the many worthwhile projects Kim started and all the time and resources spent on their creation do not go to waste.

As interim president, Folt’s primary responsibility will be to maintain the momentum of the initiatives Kim left behind so that they continue in the future. Given her central role in helping to develop and implement many of Kim’s policies, Folt should have no difficulty keeping the College moving forward on its current trajectory during the presidential transition period. Although she does not need to create her own vision for Dartmouth, Folt must not become complacent as she leads the College.

Her time as president may be limited, but Folt must still take the lead in addressing the many pressing issues currently facing the campus, most notably student life concerns like hazing and sexual assault. In order to effectively deal with these issues, Folt will likely need to take on a different leadership approach than she has during her 30 years at the College thus far. Her previous roles as provost and dean of the faculty may not have required significant engagement with the greater Dartmouth community, but Folt can no longer limit herself to working behind the scenes once she assumes the presidency.

Students across the board have expressed their lack of interaction and familiarity with Folt (“Interim president must stress visibility, students say,” April 18). While this is unsurprising for a provost, who works primarily within the administration to implement the president’s initiatives, Folt will need to make a concerted effort to interact with all sectors of the College as she takes on this new position. She will need to communicate regularly with students, solicit their feedback and actively engage the community consistent problems with Kim’s presidency from which all future occupants of the office can learn.

Daily Debriefing

Binghamton University officials have stopped spring fraternity and sorority pledging due to an increasing number of hazing complaints, The New York Times reported. Dean of Students Lloyd Hoye said the university took action to protect the health and safety of students and prevent serious hazing incidents, despite objections that hazing at Binghamton is no worse than at other schools, according to The Times. Binghamton is one of many universities nationwide cracking down on hazing, The Times reported.

Approximately 200 administrators from some of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation considered obstacles they are facing and how they might overcome them at a conference held at Lafayette College last week, Inside Higher Ed reported. Issues discussed included the trend of fewer upper-class students attending liberal arts colleges, questions about the worth of a liberal arts degree, increasing college costs and changing views on technology. Administrators at many smaller institutions, some of which have already made operating changes in response to these concerns, suggested that others may benefit from learning how small colleges have adapted to similar circumstances, according to Inside Higher Ed. Administrators at such colleges also expressed greater anxiety about the future of the liberal arts sector and are more open to experimentation than those at elite colleges, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Virginia Military Institute is considering a controversial plan that will restrict students from pursuing popular majors in order to balance out faculty workloads and student academic interests, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. Approximately 83 percent of students have selected the seven most popular majors at the college. The unequal enrollment distribution has resulted in under-allocated resources for the more popular majors and excess resources for less popular ones, according to Deputy Superintendent Brig. Gen. R. Wane Schneiter. To achieve more equal distribution of majors, the plan would more directly consider academic interests during the admissions process, The Chronicle reported. Other institutions are also providing incentives for students to choose less popular majors. Cornell University has increased the number of classes necessary to compete some popular majors, added leniency in coursework required for less popular majors and increased the number of minors in more popular disciplines, according to The Chronicle.

Wright book chronicles history of US veterans

Less than three years after stepping down as the College’s 16th president in 2009, President Emeritus James Wright has written and released a book chronicling nearly three centuries of history concerning United States veterans who have fought in American wars.

The book, titled “Those Who Have Borne the Battle: A History of America’s Wars and Those Who Fought Them,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and will be in stock at local bookstores across the nation in the coming weeks, according to Wright.

“It’s a history book, but it’s one with a bit of an edge,” Wright said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “It’s a book with a little bit of advocacy, personal experience and personal reflections.”

The book discusses how America’s treatment of its veterans has evolved over time, from the Revolutionary War to current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Before World War II, military service was perceived as an act of citizenship, and most people felt the country was not obligated to help veterans, Wright said. The G.I. Bill of 1944, however, led to a range of benefits granted to veterans, including medical support for those who were injured.

Wright said that although veterans are given adequate medical support after they return from duty, they are not provided sufficient support in other areas.

“They deserve and want more than medical support,” Wright said. “They want to be seen as young people with dreams and want support to enable them to reach their dreams.”

History professor Robert Bonner, who read and edited the manuscript, said that Wright places the ideal of the citizen soldier at the “heart” of the book.

“To capture this ideal in all of its complexity is quite an achievement,” he said.

Wright said the idea for the book came to him after he delivered a lecture on the history of war veterans and America’s treatment of them at the University of California, Berkeley in February 2009.

After speaking with veterans in hospitals, Wright began to perform “large amounts” of historical research for his book with the help of James Reed ’12, Michael Stinetorf ’11 and James Shin ’11.

“Books were stacked up on my bookshelves and the floor,” he said.

After nearly two years of research and writing, the book underwent its final round of editing last fall and was submitted to Public Affairs Books in New York for publication, Wright said.

“It is a very time-consuming project,” Wright said. “I never regretted being involved in it. I enjoyed being a historian again.”

Since stepping down from the position of College president, Wright has traveled with his wife, Susan Wright, to Korea, Italy and France, as well as cities across the United States, he said. He has also been involved in the Rauner Special Collections Library Oral History project, which seeks to “document events and issues that have shaped Dartmouth College,” according to the project’s website.

Wright will be teaching a history seminar that follows the themes of his book next winter, he said.

“I came in here as a historian in 1969, so I thought I would go out as a historian,” Wright said.

Susan Wright continues to serve as an active member of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center advisory board, she said. In June 2010, she joined the Board of Trustees at Colby-Sawyer College, which “allows her to keep her hand in the matters of higher education,” James Wright said.

James Wright said that although he does not regret stepping down as president of the College, he misses many aspects of being on campus.

“I have missed my colleagues, missed the people I’ve worked with and the energy of the campus,” Wright said. “I miss students a lot. I don’t think you students realize how great it is to hang around with you.”

Students say president needs strong presence

Dartmouth’s next president will have a wide spectrum of issues to tackle, ranging from sexual assault to binge drinking to diversity. Although faculty, students and alumni interviewed by The Dartmouth differed widely in their opinions of what the College’s next administration should look like, they unanimously agreed that the new president must be someone who truly understands Dartmouth’s uniqueness.

The search committee for the next president will be led by Board of Trustee member Bill Helman ’80, and trustee Diana Taylor ’77 will serve as vice-chair.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel ’78 said he feels that the search for Kim’s successor will be easier than the search for Kim. The presidential search document created in 2008 which outlined a set of qualifications that the president of the College should possess can be used as a “template” for document to be created during the current process, Mandel said.

Among the characteristics outlined by the previous search document were “the ability to build strong management teams” and “a powerful affinity for the mission and values of Dartmouth College.”

Outgoing Student Body President Max Yoeli ’12 said that students should be consulted during the presidential search process.

“Student input and a direct voice on the committee with input taken seriously is important to choosing a president who will be accepted by faculty, alumni and students,” Yoeli said.

Association of Alumni President John Daukas ’84 said that hiring someone who has “been through Dartmouth” would be best for the College.

“It’s very important that they find someone who appreciates what makes Dartmouth such a wonderful place and the best place to go to college, and I think that’s probably an alum,” Daukas said. “You can have exceptions Jim Kim was a great exception but the people who are most likely to appreciate what makes Dartmouth Dartmouth’ are people who went here.”

Charlie Hoffmann ’77 Tu ’83 said that Kim’s perceived “outsider” status might fuel alumni desire for a fellow Dartmouth graduate to serve as the next president.

Students and faculty expressed the common sentiment that Dartmouth’s next president should serve a longer term than Kim did. The new president should also be involved in campus life and have a genuine interest in student activities, according to students and faculty.

Recently elected Student Body President Suril Kantaria ’13 said that Dartmouth’s next president should be committed to developing the College internally.

“We’ve had a president for the past few years who’s improved Dartmouth’s image and focused outwards,” Kantaria said. “But I would look for a president who focuses inwards, who’s committed to stay for a long period of time and someone who really has experienced Dartmouth.”

Maintaining Dartmouth’s competitiveness should be a priority of the next administration, according to faculty, students and alumni. Many alumni said the next president should focus on how to keep the College running smoothly, while faculty and students said the focus should be on the College’s academic strengths as a liberal arts institution.

Keeping the College’s operations organized is essential to its success, former president of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni John Mathias ’69 said.

“A lot of people are good at certain things, but when it comes to administration, they don’t have a feel for it,” Mathias said. “Ideally you have someone who has been on point and experienced administration of some kind or worked in an administration with various levels.”

Yoeli said that Dartmouth’s new president must understand the school’s academic mission.

“Of the qualities [the committee] is searching for, one of the top in my mind is a fierce commitment to liberal arts and recognizing Dartmouth’s history as a college, not a university,” Yoeli said.

Students called for increased dialogue between the administration and the student body, citing occasions when student interests have been ignored.

“I think the general sentiment of the student body is that the Kim administration has not really reacted to student cries,” Kantaria said. “I think that this has fueled several students’ frustration about the administration.”

Yoeli said that despite admirable administrative support for student programs such as Green Team, the Kim administration often fell short of meeting student needs.

“Members of the community who are involved in sexual assault prevention efforts said they faced some trouble with [Kim’s] office,” Yoeli said. “I put in a lot of effort for dining advocacy. The Dean’s office took some efforts but there were delays and we weren’t quite sure where the holdup was.”

Theater professor Peter Hackett pointed to sexual assault and binge drinking as Dartmouth’s two greatest challenges. He added that female students at the College are “significantly less safe” than male students, and this will only change if the president is willing to change the existing state of affairs.

A new president will need “considerable courage to face the parts of the Dartmouth community that are adamant about preserving the status quo,” Hackett said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Class of 2014 President Chisom Obi-Okoye ’14 said that issues such as self-segregation and the “exclusivity” of the College could be ameliorated by an administration that tried to find new ways to make Dartmouth feel more like a community.

“It’s not terrible that people want to hang out with, for example, their sports teams, but what happens is you have a lot of separate communities that don’t always work together,” Obi-Okoye said. “The binge drinking isn’t the problem. It’s people not feeling like they have something to do that causes the binge drinking.”

English professor Ivy Schweitzer said that under Kim, Dartmouth has become a “less community-oriented” place and that a new president should focus on making the College a welcoming place for all.

“Dartmouth has become a much more corporatized’ institution,” Schweitzer said. “Department administrators are working to the bone. I think the janitorial staff feel kind of pushed around these are the people who make possible our existence here.”

Other professors called for increased dialogue between faculty and administrators and an increased role for faculty in policymaking.

“We would like to see a real effort to listen to the faculty not just a nod and a pat on the back and a smile, but a real attempt to listen,” anthropology professor Sergei Kan said. “[Kim] never really connected with most of the faculty, and the same goes for many of the students.”

Staff writer Jenny Che contributed reporting to this article.

Helman to lead search committee

Bill Helman '80, who works for Greylock Partners, was appointed the head of the Presidential Search Committee on Thursday.

Bill Helman ’80, a member of the Board of Trustees and partner at the venture capital firm Greylock, will serve as the chair of the Presidential Search Committee tasked with choosing the 18th College president in light of College President Jim Yong Kim’s imminent departure for the World Bank, according to a College press release. Board member Diana Taylor ’77 will act as vice-chair.

Further details about the composition and goals of the search committee will be announced in the coming weeks. The College aims to form a group similar to the committee that selected Kim three years ago and that included representatives from various “key constituencies,” according to the release.

“Bill Helman brings extensive experience in recruiting leadership for a range of for-profit and non-profit organizations,” Chairman of the Board Stephen Mandel ’78 said in the release. “He appreciates the complexity of leading academic institutions and will do a great job in encouraging members of the Dartmouth community to share their thoughts about the qualities of leadership that will best serve the College.”

Helman said that Mandel approached him for the position soon after Kim’s nomination and was “thrilled and honored” to be considered for the role. The Board voted to confirm Helman’s nomination soon after, Helman said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

Helman, who has been a trustee since 2009, is the chair of the Investment Committee, which helps manage Dartmouth’s endowment. He also serves on the board of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He has been a managing partner at Greylock since 1997 and also sits on the boards of the Harvard Management Company, Ford Motor Company, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Broad Institute, the Steppingstone Foundation and Zipcar. Helman majored in history and minored in economics as an undergraduate and received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1984.

Taylor is currently the managing director of the investment firm Wolfensohn and Company and served as the superintendent of banks for New York State from 2003 to 2007. She studied economics while at Dartmouth and went on to earn her MBA and master’s in public health from Columbia University. She has been a member of the Board since 2008.

Helman said he and Taylor are “very different” and will complement each other well. Helman said that they have argued in Board meetings before and will argue while on the search committee, but each has respect for the other.

“There’s no question that we’re aligned in the goal,” he said.

Kim’s presidency has included significant efforts to bolster Dartmouth’s graduate programs, including the creation of his 20×20 initiative, which aims to propel the Geisel School of Medicine into the top 20 in the country by 2020. Both Helman and Taylor have experience working with Ivy League graduate programs Helman is currently a member of the Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows, and Taylor serves on the boards of the Columbia University School of Business and the Mailman School of Public Health. Helman is also the trustee representative to the Thayer School of Engineering Board of Overseers and the chair of the Geisel School of Medicine Board of Overseers.

Because Helman’s role will be “more visible” than that of other search committee members, he will be responsible for representing the committee to the public, he said. Helman will also organize the committee’s agenda and lead its meetings. Overall, Helman said that he is “laser-focused” on finding the best president possible for Dartmouth.

“We need to shoot very high,” he said. “We need to take Dartmouth to the next level, building off the incredible institution that it is, but not being afraid to move ahead.”

Helman said that his 30 years of experience with building companies and hiring senior-level leaders will help him with the active recruiting that will be required of the search committee.

“The candidate we’re after is not likely looking for a job,” he said. “You don’t just passively look on the Internet and put into Google, Who’s looking for a job?’ and see what comes up.”

The next step for Helman and Taylor will be to choose the rest of the members of the search committee, which will be modeled after the 2008 search committee and will likely include faculty members, trustees, a student and a Dartmouth graduate, according to Helman. The committee will represent a diverse cross-section of the Dartmouth community, Helman said.

“We want people that a candidate will look at and say, Wow, that’s the kind of team I want to engage with,'” he said.

The search committee will “almost certainly” be finalized by the end of the Spring term, and a “more detailed and specific timeline” for the search process will be agreed upon by the committee.

Mandel said that while he cannot predict how quickly the search committee will select the College’s next president, he expects the search process to be “smoother” than the search for Kim because the “political issues” that the Board faced in 2008 have since been resolved. The committee will compile a “search document” outlining the committees goals for selecting the College’s next leader, based on the statement of the last search committee, Mandel said in an interview with The Dartmouth.

The 2008 leadership statement, which formed the basic criteria that the previous search committee used to select Kim, asserted that the next president needed to articulate a comprehensive vision for Dartmouth that would aid the academic reputation of the College and its professional schools while building consensus among students, faculty and alumni.

In addition to seeking a president with a strong resource-allocation strategy, the 2008 leadership statement emphasized the importance of allocating resources to strengthen Dartmouth’s doctoral programs and professional schools Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering and the Tuck School of Business. The statement called for candidates with a commitment to graduate education and experience with graduate-level institutions.

The 2008 statement also contended that issues pertaining to the Medical School and the College’s relationship with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center would “figure prominently in the president’s agenda.”

Mandel announced on Tuesday that Provost Carol Folt will assume the role of interim president on July 1 until the next president is chosen.

Schramm praises entrepreneurship

Economist Carl Schramm said that governments should take a more minimal role in the economy and recognize the value of entrepreneurs in a Thursday lecture.

As an increasingly capital environment, the global economy depends on entrepreneurship to foster innovation, create new jobs and produce wealth, economist and entrepreneur Carl Schramm said in a lecture at the Rockefeller Center on Thursday.

In the lecture titled “Entrepreneurship and the Future of the Global Economy” Schramm said that entrepreneurship is especially important during times of recession, yet it remains undervalued, and academic institutions do not teach entrepreneurship properly or take it seriously, he said. Furthermore, government policies intended to facilitate entrepreneurship, such as those of the United States and China, inherently restrict its positive effects, Schramm said.

“Many governments think that they can solve all problems,” Schramm said. “The problem is that the government is intrinsically outside the market and so cannot pick winners or losers with any efficiency at all.”

Thus the government, at the taxpayers’ expense, commits money to different ventures that do not succeed, Schramm said, citing the Solyndra Corporation bankruptcy as a case in which the government wrongly stepped in to fund a private sector company. In 2009, Solyndra Corp. received over $500 million in guaranteed loans from the government only to file bankruptcy in 2011.

The risk involved in entrepreneurship frightens people, according to Schramm. Risk and creativity, however, are imperative for growth, he said. This growth is not limited to the business sector and finance, according to Schramm.

The failures as well as the successes are what make the U.S. entrepreneurship model remarkable, he said. One of the unique traits of U.S. entrepreneurship is its acceptance of failure, according to Schramm. Other nations, particularly China and India, are changing their economies to copy American flexibility, Schramm said.

Schramm has experience with furthering entrepreneurship through his work as the president of the Kauffman Foundation, an organization dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship.

“If there’s one thing I can be happy about, it is having taken entrepreneurship and seating it in the context of economics,” Schramm said.

Kairos Fellow and the founder of the Dartmouth Kairos chapter Dexter Zhuang ’13 identified Schramm as a potential speaker in the hope of “promoting campus dialogues.” Zhuang said the global nature of the economy is a reason to “encourage a more entrepreneurial way of thinking.”

Parker Hinman ’13 said he appreciated Schramm’s perspective on the relationship between government and entrepreneurship.

“As a government major, it was interesting to hear a proposal for a reduced government role in improving the current economy,” Parker Hinman ’13 said.

Others, however, said they did not agree with Schramm’s strictly economic perspective.

“It seems like he only endorses one model of entrepreneurship,” Kripa Donjol, a visiting prospective student, said. “In terms of the bailout, are you willing to take the risk that people will immediately become innovative?”

Before working at Kauffman, Schramm was a health policy and management professor at Johns Hopkins University for 15 years, an entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Schramm and Company, P.C. He has also served on government committees and panels and is a George W. Bush Institute Fellow and visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Schramm’s lecture was sponsored by the Rockefeller Center and the Tuck School of Business.

Hollisto’s World

Memes seem to be the new rage in the tiny, insular bubble we call Dartmouth College. Although I have not personally added my own creation to this newfound stream of social criticism, an old buddy of mine who goes to Princeton (don’t judge his character by his institution, he’s one of the few gems who just happens to live in the douchebag capital of the world) turned my excited face into a meme about things I cannot mention in this publication.

My meme would be a picture of Kel from the classic Nickelodeon sitcom “Keenan and Kel” holding a bottle of orange soda. The caption would say, “Sorry, orange soda, I love the NBA playoffs more than you. I do, I do, I dooo-ohhh.”

That’s how much this matters to me. I watched the 2011 NBA Finals on my cell phone during my niece’s kindergarten graduation. Last week, I predicted the top four in the Eastern Conference, so now it’s time for the West. I’ve put countless hours of thought into these rankings, and I’ve added hybrid spirit animals just to spice things up.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

I just don’t understand the Spurs. Every year, the players get one step closer to a nursing home but the team still manages to win games. After a slow start, the Spurs have hit their stride at the right time. San Antonio has only lost two games in the month of April and only has one more matchup against a playoff-bound squad. Look for the aging-proof Spurs to coast into the playoffs well-rested and ready to battle for the Western Conference crown.

Hybrid Spirit Animal: The Liger

Regal. Powerful. Inspiring. This lion-tiger combination is the undisputed king of the savannah. Like the liger, the Spurs are respected by every team in the league. Although it’s not as flashy or eye-catching as the other hybrids, the liger can go toe-to-toe with any predator in the wild.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

Two weeks ago, I thought the Thunder was the best team in the league. OKC followed up a huge win against the Chicago Bulls with an absolutely dismal April. Durant and co. are 5-5 in their last 10 and have not beaten a single playoff team since the Bulls on the first of the month. The Thunder will have to deal with its growing pains quickly if it wants to avoid a first-round upset.

Hybrid Spirit Animal: Leopon

The leopon is a combination of a lion and a leopard. It is well respected across the wild but it still lives in the liger’s shadow. The Thunder will have to take down its older brother, the Spurs, if it hopes to establish itself as the new king of the Western Conference.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis is the sleeper team that I think has the potential to sneak its way into the NBA championship. Nothing makes sense about this squad. The best two players on the team are Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol. Marc Gasol is a poor man’s Pau Gasol, and Rudy Gay is a fairly average forward who somehow manages to score 20 points a game. On paper, this team should be horrible. For some reason, the Grizzlies play with a chip on their shoulder and find ways to win big games. Don’t forget this squad almost won the West last year without Gay. This team is a giant killer, and don’t be surprised if you see it in the championship.

Hybrid Spirit Animal: The Grolar Bear

The grolar bear is a cross between a polar bear and a brown bear. Like the grolar bear, don’t piss off the players of the Memphis Grizzlies or they will send you home in tears.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Normally the Lakers would be higher on this list, but Kobe Bryant’s injuries are troubling. The only thing worse than a healthy Kobe taking too many shots is an injured Kobe taking too many shots. Kobe is going to shoot he’s cocky, so he’ll always try to be the hero. If he doesn’t learn how to realistically manage his condition, the Lakers won’t make it past the second round.

Hybrid Spirit Animal: The Donkra

The Donkra is a cross between a zebra and a donkey. This is the ugliest hybrid animal I could find. I hate the Lakers.

I wanted to include the Clippers in this final power ranking, but Blake Griffin’s free throw problem will be exploited in the playoffs. Good teams with good coaches won’t allow him to get close enough to the basket to dunk.

By the way, the only thing better than owning a liger would be seeing all of these games in person. I can’t wait for the excitement to begin.