Tag Archives: Dartmouth College

Big Greenwashing

Dartmouth College has announced a new, lavishly-funded institute to study energy issues. Or, as the PR bumpf puts it, the institute’s purpose is “ato advance the understanding and knowledge of a resource that powers modern life and is directly related to society’s standard of living and success.”

Great news, right?

Well, not everybody thinks so. As the Valley News reports, “environmentalists within the Dartmouth community described [the institute] as a ‘horrific’ example of influence-peddling.”

See, the full name of the new body is the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. That’s “Irving” as in Irving Oil, one of New England’s leading distributors of fossil fuel. The Irving family donated $80 million — roughly half the estimated cost of the thing, including a shiny new building to be erected on campus — in exchange for the naming rights and, some fear, a measure of influence on what exactly is studied.

This is a growing trend on college and university campuses: rich people with axes to grind putting up scads of dough to establish “institutes” devoted to studying questions of their choosing. And churning out “research” that, mirabile dictu, supports conservative and pro-business points of view.

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Our finer educational institutions engage in some unproductive ass-covering

Thank goodness for the Clery Act, the federal law that forces educational institutions to track and report sex crimes on campus. It’s blown some fresh air into some very stuffy corridors. And compelled us all to take a hard look at what actually goes on in our supposedly safe, high-toned precincts.

The latest, as reported by VPR, is that reports of sexual assaults “saw dramatic increases” in 2013 at Dartmouth and Middlebury Colleges.

Said institutions reacted, sadly, by blaming the messenger. Middlebury:

“While these numbers are a source of real concern, and we will remain vigilant in enforcing our policies, it is also possible that these numbers reflect a greater willingness among individuals to report violations,” said Shirley M. Collado, dean of the College.

And even worse, from Dartmouth:

We believe that the increase in the number of reports is a result of Dartmouth’s efforts to strengthen a climate of reporting rather than an increase in the actual incidence of sex offenses.

“It is possible.” “We believe.” No evidence offered, just a very convenient belief.

Now, I’m sure they’re right, at least in part. But it’s still a disappointing reaction. Especially from Dartmouth, which has much to atone for in these areas.

A little free PR advice. Here’s what you SHOULD have said.

We view this news with dismay. We believe that the increase may be caused, in part, by an improved climate of reporting; but any incidence of sexual assault on our campus is unacceptable.

We have tried to create an atmosphere in which our students learn that sexual assault is unacceptable, and in which they feel absolutely free to report any assaults. Clearly, we have more work to do.

There. Was that so hard?