President Philip Hanlon ’77 Q&A with DGALA President Brendan Connell, Jr. ’87
June 20, 2015
Q. What is your reaction to past DGALA President Caroline Kerr’s recent election to the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees?
A. I join you in being thrilled that Caroline is joining the Board. As you know I work in close partnership with the Board; they are among my most important advisors; what is important here is that the Board brings to me not a unified perspective but a multiplicity of perspectives and experiences and Caroline helps along several dimensions, with not only her experience at DGALA and as president of DGALA but also she will be our first post-2000 graduate on the Board, so she brings us experience and perspective from that as well. There is one point in which I want unity on the Board and not diversity is that I’m blessed with a Board that wants only the best for Dartmouth. I know that Caroline’s passion for the College will only elevate, so I’m really looking forward to having Caroline on the Board with us.
Q. The other big event this year for us was the opening of Triangle House, for DGALA at our October reunion, although the students moved in during September. I’d love to get your perspective on that. And our thanks to you and Gail [Mrs. Hanlon] for being so visible and present at all the opening events; that meant so much to this community. I’d like to hear your take on how it’s going so far with Triangle House, and with everything that is happening with residential life, with residential colleges, how a living-learning center like Triangle House fits into that.
A. Triangle House is an important addition to our campus. And I was thrilled to be, as was Gail, at the opening to actually take a look at the facility. From all I have heard and seen it is completing its mission as intended. It is fostering a positive, safe, respectful community for its residents. It is increasing the whole Dartmouth community’s understanding and contemporary LGBTQIA issues. And it’s helping residents to take their passions from ideas into action. And I want to credit all the residents there, along with UGA Logan Henderson ’17, who has helped to create a space where everyone is able to express themselves authentically and where guests are welcome. So it is doing exactly what we had intended and hoped. In terms of the larger perspective in terms of transforming the residential experience, Triangle House fits really well with our major objectives, which are to provide greater opportunities for students to connect with faculty and develop relationships with faculty beyond the classroom, to create an environment that supports community building and social interactions – it gives more options for that. And it also creates promotes experiential learning as residents are learning about contemporary issues through living in a community centered on those issues. So it’s doing what we had hoped; it’s off to a fast start and it fits really well within our broader objectives for residential life.
Q. For us, DGALA members were very proud to raise $500,000 for the funding of the House.
A. Yes, I want to recognize you for that and thank you because that was key for getting the project done.
Q. Talk to us a bit about the Moving Dartmouth Forward initiative. I know it has many components Can you describe in some ways how it might impact the members of our community with respect to inclusiveness?
A. Yes, inclusiveness is one of the key objectives, along with reducing harmful behaviors. So one of its aspects is the climate study that will be conducted next fall; the Provost’s Office is just gearing up for that. The results of that will be very important for us as we better understand our community here, what’s going on how we can direct programs and resources to make it a better place. There is a broader faculty diversity effort that has included several things to promote faculty diversity which is one of our weak spots right now, we need to have a more diverse faculty for sure. Way back in my first year here, we directed significant recurring funds to support recruitment and retention of faculty that are underrepresented in their fields. Another part of MDF that is directly relevant to your question is the new expectations for student organizations. The Dean of the College has just completed the annual review process that is being put in place to insure that student organizations demonstrate their commitment and that tangible steps are taken to promote inclusivity.
Q. Do you have any thoughts on queer studies, part of our academic programs? I believe now that there is only one professor focusing on that and I know that that would be something for student or grad students coming here that could really be a marquee development.
A. I’m really glad you asked that and I understand the point that you are making, and it fits with our effort to diversify the faculty. The actual priorities for academic programs, investment in academic programs, whether it is money or space or the like, begins with the faculty themselves; the faculty themselves establish collectively what the priorities should be. They take that to the Dean of Faculty, who is directly responsible for the allocation of resources. I will for sure pass along the interests of this group to the Dean of the Faculty. But I also urge you to talk to the faculty themselves, that is really where the priorities have to emerge from.
Question from the floor:
Q. How do you see the evolution of men and women and gay people and other groups and has it changed over the years? What is your sense of the progress that has been made in terms of overall diversity and healthy interaction among groups?
A. This is a very important question. First, I would say that Dartmouth is just a reflection of our national society. So the first thing I would urge you to do in thinking about this question is to reflect on how our society has changed as a nation. The people who are students here are coming very recently from the outside. Today, there is much more of healthy normal relationships between men and women. And certainly societal considerations around being gay have changed so dramatically in the last couple of decades. I’ve read that it is as fast as any societal change that anyone can remember.