Friday, July 27, 2007

Routhier attacks Smith

Rick Routhier, who heads the Nominating Committee, has published a letter today to The Daily Dartmouth responding to Trustee Stephen Smith’s recent editorial in that same paper. Routhier is upset that Smith editorialized about his campaign fees rather than focusing on “real issues” such as “reforming the [trustee] election system…that he feels is so unbalanced and unfair.” In Smith’s defense, much of the current upheaval about the trustee election system has focused on the exorbitant amounts of money candidates spend to campaign; moreover, those who desperately want the system changed point to Smith with a critical finger, claiming that he “bought” the election and that this clearly reflects a flaw in the electoral system. In his editorial, Smith merely sets the record straight, and therefore hushes the criticism of those who undermine the legitimacy of his victory.

As to Routhier’s point, “It will be a telling sign of his leadership whether or not he makes an effort to lead the reform of a system that he feels is so unbalanced and unfair,” of course this would be a great idea, except for one problem: the already established Governance Committee of the Board is leading such reforms—a Governance Committee composed of five individuals, including President Wright, Chairman of the Board Ed Haldeman, and three alumni trustees. Unfortunately, the powers that be excluded Smith—and the other three petition trustees, for that matter—from the Governance Committee, which is steering the effort to alter the Board’s structure and/or composition.

Mr. Routhier, perhaps you can request to have Smith added as the sixth member of the Governance Committee? That would be the most effective way for him to answer your questions below and lead the reforms that you want him to lead.

To the Editor:

In his recent guest column Professor Stephen Smith decries the latest “establishment” challenge to alumni rights (“Countering Campaign Charge,” July 17).

Fortunately, Trustee Smith is now in an excellent position to make a real difference, if he chooses to focus on real issues.

Whether he spent $20,000 or $200,000 is not the issue. Is it conceivable that Professor Smith can approve of the need for any candidate to raise any money in order to participate in a Trustee election?

Trustee Smith should therefore take the lead in reforming the election system — a system he claims he had to fight so hard to beat (again, great rhetoric). He might begin by suggesting simpler hurdles for petition candidates to access nomination. He might then suggest specific ways in which the College could support all candidates fairly. He might also suggest a method by which the Alumni’s Nominating Committee could become more representative itself, perhaps through the direct election of its members by alumni.

It will be a telling sign of his leadership whether or not he makes an effort to lead the reform of a system that he feels is so unbalanced and unfair.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Approval vs. Preferential voting

Remember the Asch-Colla debates about alumni governance and the Board of Trustees? Mr. Colla ‘66 finally responds in The Valley News to Mr. Asch ‘79’s last letter. In it, Mr. Colla ’66 challenges the approval voting system for electing trustees (in which voters vote for candidates they think are acceptable), and asserts that preferential voting, where you rank your candidates, should be applied in its stead.

One crucial point that Mr. Colla '66 misses about approval voting is that voters not only vote for all candidates that they approve of, but they also indicate which candidates they do not approve of, and thus do not want on their Board. That said, Trustee Smith, who won the election with 55% of the vote, received the least percentage of disapproval votes among the rest of the candidates: 45%, while the other three slated candidates of the Alumni Council received disapproval votes of greater than 45%.

VALLEY NEWS - 7/22/2007

Letter to the Editor By Stanley Colla '66

Clarify Dartmouth Elections

To the Editor:

Joseph Asch (Forum, June 29) is correct that Stephen Smith received
“approval” from a majority of voters in the last alumni trustee election
(just as T.J. Rodgers did in 2004). Under current rules, candidates can
also win such an election with only a plurality of voters, as Peter
Robinson and Todd Zywicki did in 2005.

Recent trustee elections have divided the Dartmouth community. Asch and
others have described the situation as “insiders” versus “outsiders.” The
“outsiders,” declaring themselves independent of influence from the current
administration, have an agenda: either change the direction of Dartmouth
College as they see it or change the leadership. Stephen Smith claims to be
independent of this “outsider” ideology, but he has backers who think
otherwise. When T.J. Rodgers was seated on the board, he said that he was
elected to represent the views of those who voted for him.

Our current voting method exacerbates this divisiveness in two ways. First,
the current election structure requires the Alumni Council to nominate
multiple candidates for an open seat. There is no such requirement for
petition candidates. It is unlikely that you will ever see more than one
petitioner for an open trustee seat because having only one candidate
channels dissident votes toward that individual.

Second, under the approval method, voters may vote for every candidate whom
they think is acceptable. However, in the last election, we do not know how
many of Smith’s “approvers” also voted for other candidates. Further, under
the approval system, a voter does not indicate any “preference” for one or
more candidates over others by ranking them. Thus, we do not know how many
voters who voted for Smith and another candidate actually preferred Smith.

A simple example will explain why these two things matter. Let‚s say that
two-thirds of Smith’s “approvers” voted only for him, but that the
remaining one-third voted for him and another candidate. If one-half of
that latter group actually preferred the other candidate, then Smith’s
margin of support has been undermined by nearly 17 percent. While the
splitting of votes may have been irrelevant in the last election, it is not
so clear how Smith would have fared had he been in a contest against only
one other candidate.

The point is not about preventing petitioners from being elected to the
Board of Trustees. Instead, it is about gaining clarity on alumni
preferences. If we truly want to know the will of the alumni, we should
move to preferential voting in all trustee elections and enable
head-to-head contests when petitioners challenge Alumni Council candidates.
Let the candidates declare their issues and stake out their positions; then
remove as much uncertainty from the results as possible by allowing the
alumni to tell us whom they prefer. Past evidence suggests that given the
opportunity to choose between two candidates, more alumni will participate.
I trust that greater clarity and more participation are outcomes that both
sides would champion.

Stanley Colla

Dartmouth Class of 1966


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Trustee Stephen Smith denies that he “bought” the election

In a recent issue of the Daily Dartmouth, Mr. Smith denies the charge that he “bought” the most recent trustee election.
The leading charge is that I essentially “bought” the election. The amount I purportedly spent keeps going up, but the current claim is that I spent “as much as $200,000.”

With all due respect, claims that I “bought” the election are not only absurd but insulting to alumni. As I told the Associated Press last month, I spent approximately $75,000 — the same amount Sandy Alderson reported spending. Almost half of what I spent went to gathering signatures because, unlike my opponents, my place on the ballot was not guaranteed.

From start to finish, I spent money only on four items: letters to alumni, a website, ads in College media and a trip to Hanover. Although I am flattered by the unintended compliment, I used no public relations or political consultants to prepare my campaign materials, as some have speculated. (Evidently, the Dartmouth Writing and Composition Center knew what it was doing when it named me a “proficient writer” as a sophomore!)

I personally wrote my two alumni-wide letters (which cost $32,000 each), my thank-you letter to alumni who petitioned to get me on the ballot (which cost $5,000), and the content on my website (which a computer whiz-kid from Ohio designed for me for $1,600). My two print ads cost $3,900. I traveled to Hanover via Jet Blue ($125) and a rental car from Boston ($200), spending the night at my fraternity after a late night of pong (priceless).

Seen in light of the facts, claims that I outspent the field may soothe bruised egos, but they just are not true.

Truth be told, I was badly outspent because the administration spent lavishly to defeat me.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Issue Online; Parkhurst Laffs to Follow.

What has been circulating for some time in print and also possibly via samizdat--our Commencement issue--has finally landed on the intertubes. You'd better digest it quickly, though, because a summer issue is in the hopper.

Meanwhile, get your laugh on at the redoubtable Ask Dartmouth web site. This is a treasure whose "Answer" persona combines the clich├ęd banter of a insurance company rep with the winning disingenuousness of Professor Harold Hill.

But it's hasn't been the laff riot they had hoped it would be, apparently, despite the devil-may-care references to Captain Kangaroo. So, go ahead: sling 'em a humorous question. You may live to see it rise above its current Carlos Mencia level of drollery.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dartmouth in The New Criterion

The New Criterion in its inimitable way not only offers congratulations to new Board member Steve Smith, but gives a shout out to colleges and universities across the country to take notice of one of the more important innovations in Higher Education championed by Dartmouth: Alumni Stewardship.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Haldeman's open letter on the Board's composition

Chairman of Dartmouth's Board of Trustees, Ed Haldeman '70, has written the below letter, released today, to put the alumni at ease about the Governance Committee's desire to alter the composition and structure of the Board. Read through his seemingly conciliatory letter, the questionnaire he mentions, and the Q&A on the Governance Process, and let us know your thoughts or any other questions you may have. The forthcoming issue of The Dartmouth Review (to be published in late July) will hopefully clarify some of the foggier areas of Dartmouth's governance, and provide the transparency that you may be missing after you follow the above links.


Dear Fellow Alumni,

Several weeks ago, I wrote to you to let you know that the Governance Committee of Dartmouth's Board of Trustees has undertaken a thorough review of both the composition of the Board as well as the means by which we choose new trustees. Today, I wanted to provide you with a quick update on where things stand with that process and also make sure you know how to ensure your voice is heard in this process.

The Governance Committee has sent questionnaires to trustees, emeritus trustees, and alumni leaders to solicit their views. A copy of the questionnaire is posted on the Dartmouth website at:

The Committee also has begun gathering information on best practices followed by other educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

To hear the views of as many Dartmouth alumni as possible, we also created a special page on the College website where you can provide any thoughts you have about the composition of the Board and the selection process for
trustees. You can find the page at:

Already, we have heard from many alumni through this site - which I believe reflects our alumni's deep commitment to, and passion for, Dartmouth.

Since we announced the review process earlier this month, members of the Governance Committee have had the opportunity to speak with alumni at Commencement, reunions, and other College functions. A number of topics and questions have repeatedly come up in those discussions, and I thought
it might be of interest to summarize the recurring issues, which I have done in the attached Q & A.

As chair of the Board I intend to maintain an active dialogue with my fellow alumni. The Board is committed to communicating directly with you about critical issues facing the College, and we want to hear your views.

One of the highlights of my visit to Hanover in June was seeing the graduating seniors gather on the Dartmouth Green for Commencement. I could see on their faces not just pride about their accomplishment and anticipation about the future, but also a common bond that united them as a class. It reminded me once again what makes this College so special and why I believe it is so important to preserve that for future generations of students. All of our alumni are critical to that mission, so please let us know what you think.


Ed Haldeman

Sunday, July 08, 2007

David Spaulding withholds media lists from AoA

This past Friday July 6th, Frank Gado ’58 wrote this important letter to the editors of The Daily Dartmouth, which reveals the disturbing hand the administration is playing in the 1891-Agreement imbroglio. Pay special attention to Gado’s last two paragraphs, in which he explains that David Spaulding, who is employed by the College, is deliberately withholding media lists from the popularly elected Association of Alumni’s (AoA) Executive Committee. These media lists would allow the AoA to inform alumni about the current dispute over the 1891 Agreement, and it would allow the AoA to assess the alums’ response to the current Board’s structure.
To the Editor:

At the May Alumni Council meeting, Rick Routhier, chairman of the nominating committee whose candidates lost the recent alumni trustee race, pronounced the electoral process broken. In tandem, William Neukom, outgoing chairman of the Board of Trustees, promised help in the form of a report by the Board’s Governance Committee. After the Board’s June 8 meeting, the Governance Committee announced that it was seeking comment on how to “improve” the Board (“Trustees reassess Board’s composition.” July 3). This had all the signs of a fig leaf for a decision already made.

Among its first semi-public acts, the Governance Committee has distributed a questionnaire to the upper echelon of the Alumni Council, pointedly ignoring the Executive Committee of the Association of Alumni, the only alumni body elected by all alumni. Any honest assessment would recognize that the Council itself is the root of the problem. In five successive elections, the Council’s unanimous endorsements have been rejected by a majority of alumni. The Council’s views are incongruent with those of the alumni it pretends, unconvincingly, to represent. But the Governance Committee apparently believes that the “problem” is that alumni are not electing the “right” candidates or making the “right” choices; hence, instead of curtailing the Council, the governance committee wants to curtail the alumni.

Equally disturbing is the administration’s role in this affair. At the most recent EC meeting, David Spalding, the Association’s elected secretary-treasurer and the College’s Vice President for Alumni Relations, asserted that the e-mail lists of alumni were the College’s property, and he — not the EC — would rule on access to them. He then denied a request to e-mail resolutions on the alumni trustee matters to the Association’s own members or to authorize funds for a postal mailing that included a questionnaire of the EC’s own creation.

Any honest effort by the Governance Committee to evaluate alumni representation on the Board of Trustees should include placing a petition trustee among its members and, in observation of the 1891 accord, conference with the Association’s duly elected Executive Committee to obtain and present the alumni’s views.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What the petition candidates really want?

For some insight into the so-called “true” motivations of the past four petition candidates, here are Alumni Councilor Mike Houlahan’s '61 thoughts:

"The petition candidates express nostalgia for the simpler and less diverse Dartmouth of several decades ago. Most of us who graduated during that period have very fond memories of our Dartmouth experience; however, most of us also realize that the diversity of today’s Dartmouth makes it a fairer and more tolerant place and that the clock can’t and shouldn’t be
rolled back. We realize that Dartmouth has been made stronger by allowing admission to our daughters as well as our sons. And we know that the College’s educational strength and relevance to national needs are better served by encouraging students from a much wider range of backgrounds to be admitted on a needs blind basis."

For those interested, I comment further about Houlahan’s claims here.