University split over Korean-U.S. World Bank candidate
Published : Mar 24, 2012 - 15:23
Updated : Mar 24, 2012 - 15:23

HANOVER (AFP) - Dartmouth College students, returning from spring break, were divided over President Obama's decision to nominate their president to lead the World Bank.

   Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American who became the first Asian-American to lead a prestigious Ivy League university, began his tenure at Dartmouth in 2009 as something of a rock star, a reflection of his success in tackling global health problems.

   His glitter however dimmed earlier this year when a senior alleged that a Dartmouth fraternity required pledges to eat vomit-filled omelets and swim in a kiddie pool of bodily fluids. Critics accused Kim of doing little to prevent such behavior.

   "It's like he's being saved from having the fix the (alleged hazing) problems by getting this new job," said Taylor Payer, 19, a freshman who is a member of Occupy Dartmouth, an offspring of the movement against excessive corporate profits. "I'm happy that we may get a new president who will address the problems."

   But Drew Jones, a 21-year-old senior, defended Kim.

   "It's hard to know everything that is going on with students. You don't have eyes and ears on everything," said Jones. He said that he's proud his college's president has been nominated to lead the World Bank.

   Several students said they learned about Kim's nomination on Facebook. One contributor quipped that Kim used Dartmouth as a stepping stone for a banking job, the same way many Dartmouth students do.

   Others students learned via a short email from Kim, which he said it will be "very difficult" to leave Dartmouth, which was founded in 1769 and is one of eight elite Ivy League universities.

   Kim, a Harvard-educated physician, is known as a fast-paced visionary.

   He is credited with steering Dartmouth through a severe budget shortfall and attracting a $35 million gift to create the Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, which enlists the business, medical and engineering schools in finding better ways to deliver high-quality health care services.

   He also launched the National College Health Improvement Project, in which

32 colleges and universities are working to reduce high-risk drinking and other campus problems.

   The Dartmouth president also has a playful side: he once dressed in white leather, sunglasses and gloves to perform the robot dance in a Dartmouth Idol event.

   But Kim had failed to meet the high expectations of some students even before the hazing allegations.

   Columnist Peter Blair wrote last April in the student newspaper that Kim "is the man everyone loves to hate. In short, much of the campus is suffering from a shared psychological state that I like to call Kim Disillusionment Syndrome (KDS). KDS strikes students who are finally being disabused of the uncritical, starry-eyed illusions they used to possess about him."

   Given Kim's steps against hazing and other student problems, it was ironic that hazing allegations raised in January put an unflattering national spotlight on the prestigious school and his presidency.

   The Boston Globe published a front-page article in early March headlined "Hazing issue ensnares Dartmouth President." Kim later pointed out in a letter to the editor that he is setting up a task force of faculty, students and staff to combat hazing.

   On Thursday, Kim sent an email to students and faculty about hazing, reminding them such abuse is against college policy and New Hampshire law.

   He also said he created a way to report hazing online, and is setting up the committee to "identify the most effective ways of tackling the problems of hazing, high risk drinking and sexual assault."

   Thomas Stone, 73, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1963 and is a retired college professor, praised Obama's choice of Kim. "I have tremendous respect for his intellect," Stone said. "It will be the college's loss to see him go."