Beer Old Dartmouth
A college president refuses to bow to political pressure.
From the Wall Street Journal
The moral panic over U.S. undergraduate life features increasingly illiberal demands to restrict open debate, due process and voluntary association—and the first impulse of most college administrators is to capitulate. So raise a toast to Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon for responding with pragmatism instead of politics.
For several years the New Hampshire school has been conscripted into the national debate about sex assault, binge drinking, hazing and various forms of “privilege.” Protestors claiming to be oppressed by their Ivy League education occupied Mr. Hanlon’s office for two days last year, while Rolling Stone magazine attempted to smear the college as it did the University of Virginia.
Mr. Hanlon answered this week with a student-life reform plan, and the media seem most impressed with his ban on hard liquor on Dartmouth property. They’ve forgotten the lesson of the 21st Amendment, which is that prohibition rarely succeeds. Students who obey the rules will somehow make do with beer or wine, though perhaps a young entrepreneur is being handed the opportunity to become the Jay Gatsby of Hanover.
But many Dartmouth professors and other campus activists are enraged that Mr. Hanlon refused their main ultimatums to suppress free expression in the name of identity politics and especially to dismantle the college’s fraternity and sorority system. Outside of football, no other American institution enjoys so much elite disdain but widespread popular approval as college fraternities, and Mr. Hanlon might have become an overnight media-academic celebrity had he nuked Frat Row amid the current political agitation.
Instead, Mr. Hanlon, a former University of Michigan provost, observed that all U.S. colleges struggle with misconduct, regardless of their particular social scene. The solution is to require accountability and to expect virtues such as civility and self-control. “True and lasting change will not come from top-down policies alone,” he said in a speech to the student body. “It will come from individuals and organizations committing to live up to a higher standard of behavior.”
This is another way of describing the character education and moral instruction that academia abdicated in the 1960s and ’70s, and it is a refreshing turn given the sensibilities of modern higher education. Mr. Hanlon ended his address with a subversive call for faculty members to join this project, namely by strengthening academic rigor and “curbing grade inflation.”
Maybe if good grades were harder to get, and kids were asked to spend more time on coursework, they might not get into so much trouble. “Now get to class,” Mr. Hanlon concluded.