We recently discussed Former Education Secretary William Bennett’s new book, Is College Worth It.

Dartmouth College alum Joseph Asch reviews the notes of a recent faculty meeting, which proves Bennett’s case.

Last Monday’s faculty meeting could not have been a clearer example of what ails the College. While book after book is published about the existential challenges facing higher education — like Bill Bennett’s new title (right) — to hear the various administrators and professors at the meeting, things at Dartmouth could not be better.

Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastandunno talked at very great length of the need to increase the size of the faculty in order to take the research effort “up a notch,” and how funding would have to be found so that young professors could have their fifth or sixth year free from teaching tasks in order to work on a tenure book, and how the number of support staff for research would have to be increased, too. Lists of new building projects and renovations were cited, and Mastandunno could not have been happier that The Dartmouth Institute and Jim Kim’s pet Healthcare Delivery Science program were not moving to town as previously planned: as a result, that much more space would now be free in the new North Campus Academic Building for faculty offices and research space.

…Overall, had everyone been male, pink-nosed, and in a blue blazer, one would have thought oneself in an English gentleman’s club of the self-satisfied, stuffed-chair kind that flourished until Margaret Thatcher made everyone work for a living.

Absent from the discussion was anything specific: no new programs, no innovations in teaching, no reference to areas where the College is facing up to the storms that are rocking it almost every day right now. Mastandunno said that the meeting was not the place to discuss administrative bloat, and shortly thereafter he alluded to the upcoming capital campaign. He noted the Trustees’ concerns about a lack of instruction in leadership, but he turned the issue around by pointing to the leaders among the Trustees as evidence of the College’s continued success in this area. (Mastandunno omitted to note that all of the Trustees but one graduated more than 25 years ago.)

Glancing references were repeatedly made to multi-year committee efforts that seem to be going on deep in the background — nothing new to report today, sorry — and Mastandunno tried to find common ground around the possible mandatory undergraduate course to reform the campus climate, though he acknowledged the deep divisions in the faculty about such a change, and he added that approval for the course would be required of an alphabet soup of committees right up to the Trustee level.

The entire meeting was a study in complacency.