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Campus insider

Offensive e-mail roils Dartmouth campus

By Tracy Jan and Peter Schworm
March 8, 2009
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Just one day after Dartmouth College became the first Ivy League school to appoint an Asian-American president, one of its students marred the historic moment with a racist e-mail sent out over a daily satirical campus listserv.

The anonymous e-mail referred to Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-born Harvard medical school professor and global health pioneer, as a "Chinaman" and went on to bemoan the loss of another "hard-working American's job" to "an immigrant willing to work in substandard conditions at near-subsistent wage."

"Unless 'Jim Yong Kim' means 'I love Freedom' in Chinese, I don't want anything to do with him," the e-mail said. "Dartmouth is America, not Panda Garden Rice Village Restaurant."

The e-mail was posted on "Generic Good Morning Message," which summarizes the day's news. It is distributed to about 1,000 students and alumni. Editors apologized for their lack of oversight, and the writer said he is "full of regret" and "did not intend to offend anyone."

Kim distributed his own message to the Dartmouth community, acknowledging the "unfortunate" e-mail. He said he hopes the incident will bring about "better understanding and greater compassion" for all segments of the community.

He then gave the offending writer a pass: "I also don't want this lapse in judgment to limit his prospects for the future. Dartmouth students are very talented, but we all make mistakes - especially when we are young."

Advice from Silber
Even retired, John Silber, the famously brusque former president of Boston University, is stirring up trouble.

In an essay for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research titled "Lose a president to a coup and you will fail," Silber advises university boards of trustees to grow a backbone and not cave in to "misguided special interests" like faculty no-confidence votes.

Silber, who twice survived no-confidence votes, defended former Harvard president Lawrence Summers and wrote that "Harvard suffered after losing a talented president to the campaigns of the politically correct."

His remarks were directed at trustees of The New School in New York after recent attempts by some faculty and students to drive Robert Kerrey from the presidency.

"One has to consider the balance for the university as a whole, and individual faculty members and students just don't have that perspective," Silber said in an interview Friday.

Belt-tightening at Harvard
Harvard University is pinching pennies by making cuts, big and small. Soon after delaying the construction of a $1 billion science complex in Allston, it has begun shutting down two of the six elevators in the Holyoke Center to save on energy costs.

University officials would not say how much money the measure would save, other than a "significant amount of money in operating costs." Harvard employees had better lace up their sneakers and start walking up those stairs.

Divestment controversy
All along, officials at Hampshire College had insisted that the school's decision last month to dump a mutual fund was in no way prompted by the fund's ties to Israel, despite student activists' vocal assertions to the contrary. It appears that message has finally gotten through.

The Anti-Defamation League and Hillel, a Jewish campus organization, which had issued statements denouncing the movement for divestment from Israel, praised the Amherst college for flatly denying that its decision was politically motivated. Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who had slammed Hampshire for singling out Israel, did the same.

"We welcome this unequivocal statement from Hampshire College that it did not divest from Israel, and that Israel in fact played no role in the college's recent decision to disinvest from a mutual fund," said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL's national director. "This is an emphatic repudiation of the campaign of misinformation that has cast the college's investment decisions in a false and politically biased light."

Last month, the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine trumpeted Hampshire's divestment from the fund, saying it marked the first time a college had broken financial ties with companies specifically because they did business with Israel. College officials said they left the fund after concluding that it included many corporations whose business practices violated the college's investment standards, and that the college has holdings with ties to Israel.

To submit tips to Campus Insider, contact Peter Schworm at schworm@globe.com and Tracy Jan at tjan@globe.com.

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