The Dartmouth Review grew out of a series of incidents involving a board of trustees election and the editor of The Dartmouth (the college daily) in the Spring of 1980. Long dissatisfied with the liberal trend which eliminated many old traditions and diluted the educational vigor of their college, a group of dissident alumni decided to run their own trustee candidate, John Steel, against the Alumni Council's official candidate.
Unlike many schools, Dartmouth College maintains a relatively small board of trustees of only fourteen members. (A historical note: it was an attempt to pad the board of trustees which brought on the famous Dartmouth College case with Daniel Webster arguing for the college, "It is a small college, but there are those of us who love it.") As such, the election of a single trustee can have a much greater effect than at most schools. The dissident group evoked a rarely used clause in the college's charter permitting the alumni to hold an election for certain trustee seats upon the submittal of a petition.
The college and its president, John Kemeny, fought the alternative candidate by illegally opening ballots and generally trying to discredit the opposition. Meanwhile, Greg Fossedal, the editor of the college daily, was under heavy fire for his support of Steel. As editor, he refused to allow an editorial attacking Steel to be run in his paper. To appease the opposition, he instead permitted his other editors to print an editorial note in the paper's fortnightly magazine which had its own editor.
The following week Fossedal wrote a column, Stainless Steel, supporting Steel's candidacy. The editorial page editor, Matt Joiner, refused to run the column. Fossedal fired Joiner and in retaliation the paper's publisher fired Fossedal. Many of the top editors of The Dartmouth resigned in protest and The Dartmouth Review was founded.
The staff which left The Dartmouth included the advertising manager (Rachel Kenzie), two news editors (Dinesh D'Souza and Keeney Jones), the national prize-winning cartoonist (Steve Kelly), and other staffers including myself, Wendy Stone, and Shawn Bolan. Jeffrey Hart, an English professor at the college and a National Review editor, and his son, Ben were also among those involved with the paper at the beginning.
By this time, two weeks remained until commencement, and the date which was set before the first issue. I spent two days drawing up a design while other staffers worked on writing articles and obtaining advertising. The design was a mix of the designs of MIT newpapers I had worked on: The Tech, thursday, and the MIT/Wellesley Review. One element of the design was identical to the back page of thursday, a quotes column called the last word.
When I went to MIT in the late seventies, thursday was on its way out, and it went out of business permanently during my senior year. It had been founded during the ferment of the late sixties in response to the stuffiness and the, by the standards of the time, conservativism of the mainstream paper, The Tech. thursday was known on the MIT campus during the late seventies for personal attacks which bordered on the libelous and perhaps most of all for its sex survey in which two female staffers rated twenty or so of their partners. Their office, cluttered with marijuana pariphenalia, contrasted sharply with The Tech's $50,000 typesetting system and banks of old Royal manual typewriters. They represented one of the last of a dying breed, the college radical newspaper, of which The Berkeley Barb is probably the best-known example. Through all this, the best-read page on the MIT campus, better read evn than The Tech's front page, was thursday's the last word.
The quotations included in the last word are not solely political. I have always tried to keep the column more humorous than profound. Nevertheless, my personal beliefs have shaped the content of the column. I make no excuse for the recurrence of such themes as the superiority of strength to weakness, of reason to superstition, of the exceptional to the ordinary.
Gordon R. Haff
New York City, July 1985