Friday, June 29, 2007

Asch responds to Colla in the VN

Today's Valley News published Joseph Asch’s ’79 response to Colla’s ‘66 letter, found here, about the trustee election process.

Vote-Counting at Dartmouth

In a letter June 23, Dartmouth's former vice president of alumni
relations Stan Colla described how Stephen Smith, Class of 1988, won the
college's recent trustee election with 9,984 votes out of an overall total
of 32,941 votes cast, and then he opined that Smith's victory "might not
truly reflect the will" of the alumni. He tartly suggested "you can do the

Well, let's take Colla up on his modest proposal. But before we do
so, we need to note a fact that Colla curiously omits from his letter:
18,186 individual alumni voted in the election, and many of them voted for
more than one candidate. Under the approval method, alumni could vote for
each and every candidate that they thought qualified to be a good trustee;
each alumnus could cast up to four individual ballots. In this way, the
18,186 voters cast 32,941 votes.

Of the 18,186 voting alumni, the 9,984 who voted for Smith
comprised 54.9 percent of all voters. A convincing majority by any
calculation, no? Mr. Colla asserts that the three candidates nominated by
the college's Alumni Council split their support between them. Possibly
true, but irrelevant in this election: even if all of the voters who did
not vote for Smith concentrated their votes on a single candidate, that
candidate would have received the approval of only 45.1% of all voters.
Smith's victory was unmistakable.

Colla is confused - or he seeks to confuse us - about the
distinction between votes and voters. As an illustration, how would Colla
describe the results in the following hypothetical situation: Imagine that
all of the 18,186 voters in the recent election had voted for Smith, and
that many had voted for other candidates, too. Would Colla then say that
only a little more than half the "votes" (18,186 out of 32,941) had been
cast for Dartmouth's first African-American alumni trustee? Or would he
give Smith credit for a 100 percent victory?

As a graduate of Dartmouth's Amos Tuck School of Business, Colla
owes us a better effort in analyzing the statistics from the recent
election, especially given that I corrected him for the same obvious error
in an op-ed in The Dartmouth on September 29, 2005.

And, returning to the larger picture, the members of Dartmouth's
Board of Trustees owe it to alumni to respect the College's 116-year-old
system of governance, even though the choice of Stephen Smith by a decisive
majority of alumni voters is not the one that they favor.

Joseph Asch
Dartmouth Class of 1979

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A masterpiece of high art versus…hair

Two days ago, The Daily Dartmouth reported on the Hood Museum of Art’s recent purchase of the 1756 portrait of the Earl of Dartmouth, William Legge. What The D did not report, however, was the cost of this esteemed portrait by the artist Pompeo Batoni; according to Sotheby’s, this portrait was added to the Hood’s permanent collection for a mere £356,000 (about $712,000)—which is less than one half of cost of the temporary hair “art” hanging in Baker Berry.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Petition Trustees: An unfair advantage?

The following letter was written to the editor of The Valley News this past Saturday in response to Joseph Asch’s letter, published on June 12th. Word is that Mr. Asch '79 will be writing a reply to Mr. Colla '66, former VP of alumni relations, in the The Valley News very soon.

VALLEY NEWS - 6/23/2007
Alumni Not Truly Represented
Letter to the Editor By Stan Colla '66


To the Editor:
The problem with Joseph Asch’s vision of democracy in Dartmouth’s trustee nomination process (Forum, June 12) is that it might not truly reflect the will of Dartmouth’s alumni. The nomination process stipulated under the current constitution of the Dartmouth Alumni Association provides a distinct advantage to a single petition candidate running against the three mandated Alumni Council candidates.

In this year’s trustee election, Stephen Smith received 9,984 votes while the remaining 22,957 votes were divided up among the three Alumni Council candidates. Not to take anything away from Smith’s victory, but you can do the math. If you were supportive of the Alumni Council’s slate of nominees, you then had to figure out how you would choose among the three Alumni Council candidates. If you were not, you had only one choice.

Joe Asch knows this structural anomaly exists, and so do each of the petition trustees to be nominated within the past three years. None of them wants to change this part of the constitution because it would eliminate their advantage and, possibly, lead to the nomination of one of the Alumni Council candidates. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear Joe Asch claim that, under the current arrangement, Mickey Mouse, if nominated by petition, could be elected to Dartmouth's board of trustees. He might, for once, be right.

The proposed constitution that failed last fall under a relentless attack led by, among others, the then three petition-nominated trustees would have led to head-to-head races between candidates when a petitioner qualified for nomination. That would have gone a long way to ensuring that the will of the majority was known. As it stands now, a plurality of the votes, not a majority, can win the election.

For the record, I agree with Joe Asch and others that the wisdom of Dartmouth’s alumni needs to be better heard, acknowledged and used by the college. Because of their lifelong identification with their alma mater, the alumni have the privilege and the responsibility to offer their constructive feedback. However, this attempt to alter the board of trustees profile at Dartmouth through a flawed nomination process has
got to stop. If the board of trustees decides to take matters into its own hands because the alumni will not, that is their privilege and responsibility.

Dartmouth Class of 1966

Friday, June 22, 2007

1891 Agreement discussed in The D

Today’s Daily Dartmouth featured two counter editorials about altering or preserving the 1891 Board of Trustees agreement, a controversial issue which TDR has been covering for the past several weeks. One editorial is written by Joseph Asch ‘79 who argues that the 1891 agreement must be honored for the sake of maintaining a democratic trustee election process; the other editorial, written by John Mathias ’69, is critical of the current alumni trustee election process.

While Mr. Asch rhetorically asks “should responsibility for choosing Trustees be thrown back to the Board in violation of the spirit of the 1891 agreement?,” Mr. Mathias provides his own answer in his editorial, “From my point of view, after 116 years it could use thoughtful re-examination, careful study, and perhaps even robust public debate.”

Read both editorials yourself, and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Portman ’78 leaves the White House

Here’s an interesting article from about a former Dartmouth alum, Robert Portman. Portman ‘78, who just resigned from being the White House’s Budget director, was a member of the Rockefeller Center’s Board of Visitors several years ago; perhaps now that he is resigned, he will consider returning to his alma mater once more.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Five Books Vital to Appreciating Literature of the 1920's

The Wall Street Journal has published a list of books Jeffrey Hart, emeritus professor of English at Dartmouth College, considers "essential to appreciating American literature of the 1920s. " Fitzgerald and Hemingway made the shortlist; take this link to find out who else made the cut.

Last November, Professor Hart wrote an article for The Dartmouth Review in which he examined both Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Go here for that article.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Dartmouth in the WSJ (again)

Again, the WSJ's editorial page is covering Dartmouth's governance controversies:
A College Education

June 16, 2007
Any number of colleges and universities seem to be having PR travails these days, but this may be a case where the turmoil is healthy. The school year that is now ending has turned out to be something of a banner year for academic reform.

Consider the recent unrest at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. When the school's tour guides were informed in an email last winter that a century-old cross was to be expelled from the school's chapel, alumni and students mounted a "Save the Wren Cross" campaign. Press releases, a Web site, and a petition that collected 18,000 signatures led to a restoration.

This experience has emboldened what might be called the William and Mary electorate. A new organization is now asking if the governing Board of Visitors should renew the college president's contract. That's normally a rubber-stamp affair, but now college executives are being forced to defend themselves against charges of poor financial stewardship.

The merits of these disputes seem less important than the fact that there is now earnest and public discussion about the performance of college administrators, who, like career government bureaucrats, are usually adept at avoiding accountability. Stakeholders are suddenly feeling empowered.

That's certainly true at Dartmouth College, in New Hampshire, where alumni have used a petition process for the board of trustees to elect four independent candidates in recent years. These "petition candidates" have run against disciplinary procedures that lack due process rights, speech codes, and an increased budget emphasis on administrative bureaucracy at the expense of academics.

The Dartmouth administration responded last fall by proposing a new set of trustee election rules that would have made these outsider candidacies more difficult. The measure needed support from two-thirds of voting alumni to pass but failed to get even a majority. The year ended with the election of a fourth reformist, University of Virginia law professor Stephen Smith.

Elsewhere, market forces prevailed. Antioch College in Ohio -- which became famous for sundry curious radicalisms like requiring verbal consent before two students may kiss -- was designed to accommodate 2,700 students, but will soon close its doors indefinitely. Its enrollment, now around 300, is no longer sustainable.

The radical professoriate has also had a bad year. Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor who called Americans killed on September 11 "little Eichmanns," was recommended for dismissal. And Norman Finkelstein, who wrote "The Holocaust Industry" and professed the belief that "Schindler's List" was designed to blind Americans to current Middle East policy, was denied tenure at DePaul University.

Does it seem uncouth that students and alumni are pouring their criticisms into press releases? It shouldn't. Colleges and universities have largely brought this stakeholder activism on themselves -- when they decided to become instruments of fashionable politics instead of repositories of knowledge.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Food Court Larry Passes Away

His niece wrote TDR the following:
Dear Editor

Some time ago you had an mention on your website about my Uncle, Larry "food court" James who retired only last year from Dartmouth food service. I know he was well liked by all the students as we visited Dartmouth from Ireland now 3 years ago. I write to inform you that Larry passed away after a short illness today in Connecticut. He moved there only recently to be cared for by his two brothers, Robert and Arthur.

His mother Marion Lithgow James resides at Lebanon Center, Lebanon NH nursing home. He was very good to our grandmother and an Uncle and Great Uncle who will be sorely missed by all in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ireland.

[. . . .]

Laurie McGee
The Dartmouth Review extends its condolences to Larry James' friends and family in this time of mourning.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another letter in the Valley News.

The Following letter was printed in the Valley News on the same day that Mr. Asch's letter was printed. In his letter, Mr. Woolson catalogs one flagrant misstep after another that the Alumni Council and the Board of Trustees took within the last year or so.


Letter to the Editor by Raymond Woolson
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
To the Editor:

Predictably, it didn’t take long for the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, the Alumni Council and Hanover insiders to wail about their most recent trustee election defeat — the fourth in a row. And this came on top of the board’s loss of control of the Alumni Council and the humiliating defeat of its proposals to change the constitution last year, when the council couldn’t even raise a majority of votes in the largest alumni response ever. Now comes departing trustee William Neukom, who suggests that the 1891 resolution regarding trustee elections should be abrogated. Desperate people do desperate things!

Dartmouth Class of 1955 Grantham, NH

The Trustee Saga, Continued

The following letter, written by Joseph Asch '79, appeared in The Valley News on June 12th. Mr. Asch mentions the 1891 agreement, and the necessity of honoring it:

VALLEY NEWS - 6/12/2007
Letter to the Editor By Joseph Asch
Dartmouth's Democratic Agreement

Alone among alumni at institutions of higher learning, Dartmouth graduates elect almost half the members of the College's governing Board of Trustees. The alumni's preeminent role, which dates back to 1891, goes a long way toward explaining Dartmouth's enduring focus on its undergraduate students, in contrast to other schools where the quest for prestige has elevated research far above undergraduate education.

However democracy does not always bring about the results sought by the College's leaders. The current administration's policies have pushed to make Dartmouth, in President Jim Wright's acceptance-speech phrase, "a research university in all but name."

In response, the alumni have used their votes to disagree. Three trustees, nominated by popular petition rather than via the usual pliant nominating committee, were elected to the Board in 2004 and 2005, and a fourth petitioner won a place three weeks ago. Stephen Smith ‘88, the College's first elected black trustee, won his seat with a greater number of votes and the support of a higher percentage of voters than any previous petition candidate.

In 2006, a group closely allied to the administration proffered a new alumni constitution. This document sought, among other changes, to put obstacles in the path of Trustee candidates nominated by petition. However, despite massive campaigning in support of the document, the alumni refused to be told what to do. The proposed constitution failed to gain even a simple majority of alumni votes, let alone the two-thirds super-majority required for ratification.

With Smith's victory, it was only a matter of time before another attempt was made to stop the election of petition trustees. As a recent story in the Valley News noted, it seems that the Board of Trustees will soon try to impose changes by fiat to Dartmouth's method of governance. Any such effort would be a serious error.

In fact, any modification at all to the uniquely democratic 1891 agreement would be harmful to the College and to the basis for its historic strength. Today Dartmouth's famously loyal alumni can voice their opinions at the ballot box. If that option is abridged or taken from them altogether, then they would be left with only one way to express their discontent: at the cashbox.

Joseph Asch ‘79 Hanover, NH

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Trustee Meeting: Give Us Your Input

Even in the depths of the summer doldrums Dartlog brings you the latest:

The Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College held its annual meeting yesterday. The official news release can be found here. The headlining news is the election of Charles Haldeman '70 as the new Chairman of the Board. Haldeman is the CEO of Putnam Investments and has been on the Board since November 2003; he is a Charter Trustee. In addition to Stephen Smith '88, Stephen F. Mandel Jr. '78 will be joining the Board; he is the new Charter Trustee. Mandel is the managing director of Lone Pine Capital LLC. Finally, as far as actual Trustees go, Leon D. Black '73 and Jose Fernandez '77 were reelected to their second terms on the Board.

The big news of the day, however, is the announcement that the Board will be undertaking a comprehensive review of their own composition:
We believe it is timely once again to evaluate in a comprehensive manner the size and composition of the Board and the method of Trustee selection in order to ensure that Dartmouth has the optimal governing body going forward. The recommendations to the Board at the Minary retreat in September. In the course of its work, the Committee will gather information on the best practices followed by educational institutions and other non-profit organizations and solicit the views of trustees, emeritus trustees, alumni leaders, and others. Mindful that the Dartmouth alumni body is one of the great assets of the College, as part of our work the committee intends to consider ways in which communication between the Board and the alumni body can be expanded and improved and to explore opportunities for effective and consistent collaboration between the Board and alumni leadership.

The Committee is soliciting input for its evaluation, from alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and others, through this web form.
The web form can be found here.

The review was put into place by the Board's Governance Committee, which consists of five members: Christine Bucklin '84 (Chair of the Committee), Charles Haldeman '70, John Donahoe '82, Michael Chu '68, and James Wright. Curiously, no Petition Alumni Trustees sit on this Committee; of course, that could just be a coincidence.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Valley News Roundup

John Gregg, of the Valley News, presented a roundup of the current Board of Trustees debacle in today's paper. The article is a good quick presentation of the events to this point, but there is not anything in the piece that we have not already reported on this blog. The article has also confirmed what was first reported here: David Spalding '76 was the lone dissenter from the Association of Alumni's letter to the Board of Trustees. A few revealing quotes:
Any board, [Neukom, Chairman of the Board] said, “would be informed by a prior resolution, and informed by a continued history of parity, but not bound by it.”

Neukom was similarly circumspect when asked whether he believed the election of Smith and the three prior petition candidates -- the founder of a semiconductor company in Silicon Valley, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, and another conservative law professor -- had been good for Dartmouth. “It's not a question that I think I should answer,” Neukom said.

“Do I think that Dartmouth should populate its board with alumni? Do I think the alumni should elect them? Not necessarily. … It should be up to the board to decide what they need to best oversee the governance of the college,” said Routhier [former President of the Alumni Council], an executive headhunter in Connecticut.
If Routhier doesn't want alumni on the Board of Trustees, who does he want?