Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cleary Disclosure of Crime

Late yesterday afternoon the crime statistics for last year (2006) were released. Of possible interest:

  • Alcohol related arrests were up last year but alcohol related disciplinary action was down.
  • There was only one drug arrest.
  • The acts of burglary were up over the last few years, though in 89% of cases there was an unlocked door involved.
  • The number of sex offenses showed very little change from the year before.
The complete report can be found here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Merkel Leaves the College


“I didn’t even have time to pick my raspberries in my garden.”

That's right everyone, and with those words Sustainable Dartmouth's Coordinator Jim Merkel decided to leave Dartmouth College. The College hopes to find a replacement by early Winter.

Merkel was a former Defense Department engineer who left his job to "live more simply," writing a book along the way. Dartmouth hired him in April of 2005 as their first Sustainability Coordinator. Merkel was predictably pleased with his performance, wishing only that his position had had more teeth.

Here's what Christine Tian had to say about the Sustainability saga last year, and here's Jeremy Teicher's take.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“It’s like a moral cost versus the actual cost”

A community cookout followed yesterday's Convocation. Some 4000 people were estimated to have attended. The meal was advertised as a "waste free event." Not advertised were the higher costs of the meal, which included buying special new reusable plates.

According to The Daily Dartmouth, Sustainable Dartmouth estimated that there would be 700 lbs. less waste than the cookout from last year. Not noted by the Daily D, however, was the absence of compost bins at the Homeplate dining hall yesterday evening. Which should teach us all an invaluable lesson: reducing waste is good, but hype about reducing waste is better.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Convocation, Part Deux

As Emily pointed out, earlier today Convocation took place in Leede Arena. The keynote speaker was Bruce Duthu '80, former head of the Native American Program at Dartmouth. A few notes:
  • Travis Green (SA President) is hands down the worst public speaker I have ever had the misfortune of listening to. His speech was fine, as far as speeches at these sort of events go—lots of platitudes, but that's to be expected. The problem lay in his delivery. He sounded like a cheap robot trying to ape another robot.
  • The keynote speaker, N. Bruce Duthu '80, delivered a surprisingly good address on humility. It did contain a couple overlong anecdotes, but after Mr. Green's disaster anything would have wowed.
  • President Wright took the opportunity to deliver a lengthy harangue on the history of race at Dartmouth, as a bonus he included his two cents on affirmative action.
  • The opening prayer was unintentionally funny as the College Chaplain, Richard Crocker, opened with the line, "God of Truth we are all smart, but we are not all wise." Apparently Crocker forgot that Wright's address last year was a diatribe against the idea of absolute truth.
  • Go here for the transcripts.
A more exacting look at the 2007 Convocation will follow in the next issue of TDR, the second of this Fall.

Convocation, welcome freshmen!

Today, about two hours ago, the College’s convocation ceremony was held in Leede arena. The ceremony, which is meant to bring the freshmen together and officially welcome them to the College, will feature speeches from President James Wright, Student Body President Travis Green ’08, and a keynote address from N. Bruce Duthu ’80, who is a Visiting Professor in the Native American Studies Program at Dartmouth.

Though no transcripts of the speeches are available online yet, once they are, I will post them on dartlog so that our readers may comment on them.

Some of our readers may remember that two years ago—my freshmen year—the student body president, Noah Riner ’06, gave a speech about character which ended up causing a huge stir when Riner dropped a line about Jesus Christ “dying on the cross for our sins.” Click here for the Review’s treatment of the matter at that time; perhaps this year’s speeches will give us all something to talk about too—when speeches of this sort are not branded as “controversial,” then they are often called something infinitely worse: boring.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Prof Hart on alumni governance

Longtime advisor and intellectual mentor to the Review and its writers, Professor emeritus of english at the College, Jeffrey Hart, comments on the trustee governance reform below.

Professor Hart’s analysis will appear in the forthcoming freshmen issue of TDR, which will be available online very soon. In the meantime, read his piece below and please let us know what you think; for those of you who too hastily boil this trustee issue down to merely politics, you will be surprised to find Professor Hart deviating from the “party line.”

Reform Was Needed

This knot is difficult to untie, especially if you don’t arrive with preconceptions. As always one must depend upon fact and analysis.

During Jim Wright’s tenure as president of Dartmouth we have seen four petition candidates defeat the official nominees. A main reason for this must be a widespread impression among alumni voters outside Hanover, indeed hundreds and thousands of miles away, that President Wright has not been doing a good job. I’m close to daily events here, and that impression is far from the truth.

In fact, after the demagogic and divisive tactics of James Freedman, President Wright has brought an era of good feeling and considerable positive achievement. But the petition candidates have sometimes issued complaints about today’s Dartmouth that are contradicted by the facts.

Many of the alumni voters must be unaware of that.

There do remain important things to do, and that task will be interesting, creative and unifying. None of the last four petition candidates mentioned these, and I will return to them in a moment.

The recent changes in governance had two parts: 1) the petition method of electing alumni trustees; and 2) the size of the Board of Trustees. I will address the petition process first.

Clearly, the petition process was seriously flawed:

1. The candidate in effect was self-nominated, requiring only 500
signatures to gain a place on the ballot, a microscopic basis for
nomination relative to the size of the alumni body.

Voters know nothing about the petition candidate except what the
candidate chooses to tell us. (After I voted for one candidate, I found out
more, and regretted my vote.)

Though the petition process has been described as “democratic,” this road to nomination does not resemble democracy. Where else can you get on
a ballot with a handful of signatures?

2. The candidates provided a “platform” as the basis for the candidacy
consisting of things that needed change or are cause for future concern,

a) the criticism by petition candidates about present conditions at
Dartmouth has included class size, availability of professors, excessive
number of administrators, student-professor ratio, the threat to free
speech. Statistics are available that demonstrate these concerns to have
no basis in fact. And I can attest that freedom of speech is no longer
under attack.

Though those complaints have little basis in fact, alumni voting have way of knowing that. In normal democratic elections, such claims would have been challenged in public debate.

The fact that incorrect allegations just sit there unchallenged during a petition election is a serious flaw. In no other “democratic” process would that be true.

IMPORTANT: In future trustee elections incorrect statements about conditions at Dartmouth should be corrected by e-mail to all alumni.

3. Great concern has been expressed by petition candidates that Dartmouth might become a “research university” to the detriment of undergraduate education.

a) Undergraduate professors conduct a great deal of research and
publication. Rather than harming their teaching it enhances it.
Publication is important, and reputation enhances authority. For
example, when I was an undergraduate at Columbia, what Lionel
Trilling said in the classroom was more important because he had
written The Liberal Imagination. Its assumptions provided context and
so even when he was wrong in class, his mistakes mattered..

b) Dartmouth already has first-class graduate programs in business and
medicine. Dartmouth offers good graduate work in the hard sciences. Thus Dartmouth in many respects is already a respectable small University in some fields. But this is not true in the liberal arts.

4. And here is the task for the immediate future on which all alumni can
agree. For Dartmouth to offer graduate degrees in literature, for example,
competitive with Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia, a large
financial investment in faculty recruitment would be required.

In a practical sense, what a PhD candidate wants is a professor with the
authority to pick up the phone and get the candidate a serious job
interview. That authority comes from publication. Such a professor will
also provide excellent intellectual guidance.

Dartmouth has been completing major expensive construction projects. The next step should be the construction of a liberal arts faculty of national and even international distinction.

For an endowed chair in, for example, Shakespeare to be named after a donor should be as attractive as a building.

This would not at all imperil undergraduate education. In fact it would enhance it.

There’s nothing wrong with that other small university, Princeton.

5. CONCLUSION

a) The reform of the petition procedure by nominating no more than two
official (Charter) candidates and requiring the winner to have an
absolute majority was a good start.

Voters should be informed by e-mail when false allegations are being
made.

b) The number of trustees on the Board has been increased from 18 to 26, while retaining the number available to petition candidates at eight. Since two trustees are ex officio, eight constituted half of the 18 member Board.

The wisdom of the change can be debated in good faith. Given the incorrect claims made by recent petition candidates it can be justified.
It is also disturbing that this issue has attracted the attention of a politically partisan press. The internal workings of such an institution as Dartmouth should not have a national political coloration.

But – and there always seems to be a “but” in this matter, the agenda of a Board of Trustees seems to be frozen before the meeting even begins. The
only useful item in the extensive treatment of all this in The Wall Street
Journal
was the Joe Rago (congratulation!) interview with trustee T.J. Rodgers, who maintained that the Board meetings are “scripted.” That is,
knew items cannot be placed on the agenda by trustees.

If that is true, it’s fair to ask, “What the hell is going on here?”

I can’t adjudicate that question.

The relevance of the 1891 protocol mandating that 50% of the Board be
elected by alumni vote very likely will be settled in court. Indeed, I understand that preparations are being made for the legal challenge.

We can certainly live with the result, while going ahead to major recruitment for the liberal arts faculty.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Telluride comes to Dartmouth

Let’s take a break from the recent trustee fracas: Dartmouth students and members of the Dartmouth community may be interested to know that a slice of the Telluride film festival has come to Dartmouth’s campus. The Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts tells us that “for the 22nd consecutive year, The Hopkins Center brings a sampler of the Telluride Film Festival to Dartmouth with premieres of six new and important films Sept. 21-27. This is a unique opportunity for filmgoers in the Upper Valley to have a sneak peek at the latest in international cinema—often months before they're released.”

Today’s film, “I’m Not There,” is a documentary about the legacy of Bob Dylan: “In his poetic treatment of the iconic Bob Dylan, Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN) provides a Finnegan's [sic] Wake-like meditation on 1960s film culture, subtly probing the political-cultural reality essential to Dylan's career.” Another film of note, to play this Thursday, is “Persepolis,” the screen adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s charming graphic novel about growing up as a young girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

The films will be displayed in the Arthur M. Loew auditorium, which is directly below the Hood Museum of Art; also, tickets may be purchased at the Hopkins Center’s box office which, of course, is located in the Hop.

For more information, and blurbs about the films that will be playing, be sure to click here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Contest: Ask Dartmouth

The latest post at Ask Dartmouth serves up a vertiable verbal tango to dance around a rather innocuous answer to a straight-forward question. The inquistor asks, "What percentage of this year's graduating class is headed to medical schools?" The logical response would have been in the form: "##.#%" end of story. Instead, we get:


According to statistics from Dartmouth’s Career Services office, there were 82 members of the Class of 2007 who applied to medical schools; 70 of them (85%) were accepted. Over the past five years, an average of 65 members of the graduating class have applied to medical schools, with an average acceptance rate of 86 percent. Presently at Dartmouth Medical School are 45 students who received bachelor’s degrees from the College, representing 14 percent of the Med School’s student body.
I couldn't help but marvel at how A.D. managed to do everything except answer the question which had been asked.

For those of you keeping score at home, the correct response would have been in the neighborhood of 7% (based on around 990 students graduating). Your guess is as good as mine as to why this simple fact was excluded.

So here's a contest for Monday morning: What's your favorite Ask Dartmouth non-response? The submitter of the best one will win some nominal prize TBD.

UPDATE: The offending post seems to have been taken down from the site. Will repost with further updates.

UPDATE 2: Here is the original post, for what it's worth.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Here comes the Sun

Annie Karni has written a very readable round up of negative reactions to this past weekend's unpleasantness in the New York Sun.

By the way, and this may not be apropos, but the Sun's arts section is really top-notch. If you enjoy the back of The New Republic, The New Criterion, The Hudson Review, or any magazine of that kind, you'll probably enjoy the Sun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Haldeman and Chu to speak in New York on September 24

"Cash bar"??!? What's a diploma worth?
From: Dartmouth Alumni Relations
Date: Sep 12, 2007 4:09 PM
Subject: A Conversation with Dartmouth



Please Join Us!

The Office of Alumni Relations and the Dartmouth Alumni Association of
New York cordially invite you to an evening with Ed Haldeman '70 and
Michael Chu '68, members of the Governance Committee of the Dartmouth
College Board of Trustees.

Hear directly from the trustees on the recently announced changes in
College governance and share your thoughts and questions; connect with
fellow alumni, and learn more about life at Dartmouth today.

Monday, September 24, 2007
The Roosevelt Hotel
New York City
6-7:30 pm

Reception
6-6:30 pm (cash bar)

Program
6:30-7:30 pm

RSVP to eastcoast.events@alum.dartmouth.org or call (603) 646-3497.

Damn it feels good to be a gangster

Being on the governance committee is sweet. As the commenter wryly observed below, "Nick, why don't you be quiet already about 'democracy'? Since when has any nonprofit needed to have a 'means by which they might be contradicted'? Why would you think the board owes you something?" I know, right? There comes a time in any powerful person's life when he realizes, "Hey. Wait. I don't have to answer to anyone. Why the hell didn't I think of that sooner?" Then you go absolutely gangster on the hoods crimping your style. Press the red button on your office phone and say your pleasure. "Hey, could you fire those attorneys? Yeah. Just fire 'em. Thanks. Buh-bye." Gangster!

But gangsterhood is in decline, I'm sad to say. Time was that no wise guy worth his salt would even let someone say "blog" in his presence, or badabing--fuhgeddaboudit. Now, sweet mother of pearl, they're doing podcasts. This one has some adorable swagger, such as when Christine Bucklin asks alumni to keep the cash coming, a request issued in the same tone she might use while asking a hapless waiter to warm up her soup. But, even for that, I wouldn't invest thirteen minutes in it.

Instead, why don't you read the National Association of Scholars' stern reprimand of this weekend's debauchery?
Faced with the results of four successive elections in which the independent candidate beat the administration’s hand-picked candidate, the Dartmouth administration clearly had to act. The appropriate action would have been for President James Wright and his compliant chairman of the board, Charles E. Haldeman, to resign their positions. The Dartmouth alumni had, in effect, voted no confidence in their leadership in four consecutive elections. Instead of resigning, however, these individuals conspired to diminish the role of the Dartmouth alumni in governing the College. Their recourse, when faced with serious criticism, was to build a Chinese wall to keep the critics out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Getting away with it

What a wild, crazy, no-holds-barred, anything-goes weekend for collegiate governance. As a majority of the trustees voted to do away with the means by which they might be contradicted, I imagined that they snapped on little black burglar masks, similar to the one pictured in the graphic I've usefully included.

Packing the board was perhaps conceived as a judicious compromise in the face of no-so-hot press in billions of periodicals around the world, the message being, "We didn't technically curtail democracy, see?" Once again, brilliant move. These men and women fall somewhat short of Søren Kierkegaard in their grasp of human behavior and motivation, but they are at least entertaining in their efforts. (See also: Ask Dartmouth, Vox the Vote.) Seriously, this cannot be said for many, and for that at least they must be congratulated.

Perhaps the logic was that alumni, still being able to pick eight trustees, would not notice the extra eight charter trustees slathered onto their Salisbury steaks. However, alumni do not fetishize lucky number eight per se. It was a nice figure when it made up a goodly chunk the board. Suddenly, though--no offense--it looks a little measly. The thing about alums is they grin ear-to-ear when their votes influence college governance. They're very particular vermin that way.

As soon as the hamburglars of Parkhurst and Blunt recover from the raucous celebration party they probably threw this week, they should scan the internet and see how they're doing in the court of public opinion. And what a sobering experience that'll be.

*Well, to begin on a note of hope, we have the college press office's release (no link). Right on, lots of strengthening going on here, we see, mm-hmm, very well put you incredible nitwits.

*The Association of Alumni executive committee issues a bold statement to the press.

*The ennui-filled ironists at IvyGate, after calling this publication "nativist" (include me out), dabble in earnestness for long enough to say:
The Dartmouth administration, meanwhile, is frankly up to no good. Last spring they introduced a measure which would have curbed the power of alumni to determine the trustees. Shockingly, the alumni declined to vote away their own voting rights. Now the administration has sunk to a new level of insidery skullduggery: they've convened an ominous-sounding "Governance Committee" to "reform" the process of trustee-elections.
*The Valley News account of Wright's visit does not make it sound as if divisiveness has disappeared or anything cool like that.

*The New York Times chimes in.

*Review chairman James Panero over at New Cri takes another thwap at the Parkhurst piñata:
This is a dark day for the school. What's so unfortunate is that people like Ed Haldeman will risk destroying Dartmouth to save his consolidation of power. It is interesting to note that Alumni giving reached record levels of participation after the election of the four petition candidates and the defeat of the new constitution. I gave a donation to the school for the very first time. But Haldeman does not care about such statistics, nor does he care if he turns off thousands of loyal alums in the process. Haldeman has called the petition elections "politicized, costly, and divisive"--these are elections that alumni voted in. Are their votes divisive?
*And, as already noted, the Wall Street Journal's editorial.

The other paper of record on alumni governance

Please read the no-nonsense editorial below about the recent trustee scandal at the College. It appears in today’s (9/11/07) Wall Street Journal; it is reproduced in full below as it is unavailable online to non-subscribers.
Dartmouth Diminished

September 11, 2007; Page A18

Given the bad habits of contemporary academia, it was probably an historicalaccident that the 1891 agreement allowing Dartmouth College alumni to electhalf of the school's governing board of trustees lasted as long as it did.The decision this weekend by Dartmouth's board to bulldoze that arrangementis nonetheless breathtaking for its audacity.

Elections at Dartmouth were tolerated for 116 years, so long as the alumni were electing rubber stamps as trustees. In recent years, however,reform-minded candidates began to use a petition provision to get on theballot. They bucked the status quo by focusing on issues like academic standards and free speech, and they were forthright in their views. Since 2004, there have been four open and fair trustee elections, and independentcandidates won all of them. A year ago the college tried to rig the processto make it more difficult for petition trustees to be elected, and alumnirejected that effort in a referendum too.

And so, unable to convince through argument and persuasion, DartmouthPresident James Wright and a band of trustee loyalists forced through agovernance plan that will allow them to run the place as they please. T.J.Rodgers, the CEO of Cypress Semiconductor and one of the alumnus trusteedissenters, had predicted as much on these pages 10 days ago. The exercisewent ahead as he had guessed -- behind closed doors, with minimal publicdebate or alumni consultation. It's safe to say the vote wasn't unanimous,but the college is even barring trustees from disclosing that detail. Youraverage banana republic is more transparent.

The plan will pack the 18-member board with eight more trustees selected bythe board itself. With the influence of elected trustees thus diluted, powerwill be further consolidated in a small executive committee that willcontrol the agenda. For good measure, the college also declared that it willrun future trustee elections on its own terms.

The architects at least had the courtesy to acknowledge the real motivationsbehind this putsch. "We do not believe that having more elections is in thebest interests of the College," they wrote, because of "divisiveness." Inother words, the independent trustees were willing to dissent from theinsular uniformity of modern higher education, so they had to be neuteredbefore they might actually make a difference.

Elite academia loathes oversight or accountability. President Wright, aproduct and wholly owned subsidiary of the Dartmouth faculty, may have madehimself the new mascot for this attitude. But we doubt Charles Haldeman, the chairman of the Dartmouth board and CEO of Putnam Investments, could everrun his own company this way, even if he wanted to.

At least this fracas strips bare the pretense that alumni have any collegerole beyond writing checks. Dartmouth's reigning lords no doubt believe theycan ride out any lawsuits or alumni anger that arise from their power play,and they may be right. There are always rich alumni donors who care moreabout getting their name on a building or getting their kid admitted thanthey care about budget accountability or student access to tenuredprofessors.

It's nonetheless a sad sign of the times that another institution ofallegedly higher learning has exhibited such hostility to critical inquiryand debate.

Endowment Growth

I haven't been on here in forever, and I hope the undergrads don't mind a crusty alum posting out of the blue, but I wanted to say something about an item in Ed Haldeman's latest e-mail, and I don't know if it went out to undergrads.

Here's the quote (I don't have a link, unfortunately):
Recently we've been talking a lot about governance at Dartmouth. This morning I attended a Dartmouth Investment Committee meeting along with other Trustees and alumni who serve on the Committee. I am pleased to report that over the past two fiscal years (fiscal year ends June 30), the College endowment increased by more than $1 billion dollars. The percentage increase over this two-year period was approximately 38 percent. As of June 30, 2007 the total value of the College endowment was approximately $3.7 billion. I thought you would want to know about this good news.
Leaving aside the question of whether giving more money to Wright and company is a good thing, there are two things to say about this.

First, while those numbers sound impressive, according to CNN Money, from 2005 to 2006 Dartmouth's endowment growth rate was next-to-last in the Ivy League (ahead of only Harvard), and we're in the middle of the pack when measured among all the colleges and universities with endowments over a billion dollars.

So this isn't a matter of particularly brilliant management or generosity from alums, but rather of a rising tide lifting all ships.

And second, now that the economy is strong and the endowment is growing, and now that we're looking at "governance," it might be a good time to take a look at how we manage the spending that comes out of the endowment, which underwrites 20-30% of Dartmouth's annual budget.

As some may remember, only five years ago, the College tried to eliminate the swim team, cut course offerings in the humanities, and stopped staffing the Sanborn Library because the Administration had assumed that the dot-com boom would continue forever and was facing a budget shortfall because they had overspent from the endowment.

With the subprime lending market's crash now causing serous hiccups in the broader market, there's no time like the present to take a serious look at how we take money from the endowment to cover operating expenses.

Monday, September 10, 2007

AoA Press release

This just in: the Association of Alumni has issued the following press release--

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 10, 2007

Dartmouth Alumni Association Leaders Condemn Trustee Power-Grab

Legal options are being explored with top DC law firm

HANOVER, NH -- A majority of the Dartmouth Alumni Association's Executive Committee has condemned the changes in the make-up of the school's Board of Trustees announced on Saturday. The statement echoes results of an alumni poll conducted by the Association in August, which showed over 92% in favor of maintaining the parity between "charter" (Board-selected) trustees and trustees elected by the alumni body.

As the Board's action on Saturday effectively wipes out an agreement between the trustees and the Association dating back to 1891, the Executive Committee is consulting the law firm of Williams and Connolly about its legal options. Dartmouth Trustees and administrators have already been advised to preserve all documents related to the Board's most recent action.

The Executive Committee had gone on record consistently in urging the Board of Trustees to maintain this historic balance between alumni-elected trustees and those chosen by the Board itself, called charter trustees.

Frank Gado, an Association officer, said today: "The actions of Dartmouth's Trustees are more in keeping with the conduct of a totalitarian state than with a college dedicated to educating leaders of the world's greatest democracy. When you come right down to it, Dartmouth doesn't trust its graduates with a meaningful vote."

The Alumni Association leaders who are preparing for a potential lawsuit insist they are saddened by its prospect. All express their belief that, had the trustees' study group conferred with their alumni counterparts in good faith, solutions consistent with the historic 1891 agreement were available. Instead, all overtures were ignored. A single meeting with the Association's governance committee occurred after the trustee group had already completed its study and was just days away from finalizing its report to the full Board.

Dartmouth Trustee Chairman Charles "Ed" Haldeman maintains that the enlargement of Dartmouth's Board must be done without adding seats elected by alumni. These elections, Haldeman says, "increase rancor" and "divisiveness" and have become too costly.

In response, Gado added: "Surely no strife generated in an election could compare with the rancor and divisiveness that have flared because of the trustees' unilateral stripping away of alumni rights. And the many hundred thousands of dollars consumed by this fight will overwhelm the $75,000 spent by each of the two frontrunners in this year's trustee race."

Undemocratic expansion of the Board is not the only issue being contested by the Association. Executive committee members Tim Dreisbach and David Gale have pointed to the Report's interference in the affairs of the Association, designed to operate independently of the College.

"I'm very disappointed," Gale remarked, "that the Board, rather than telling us which issues they'd like addressed and working with us to find solutions, has decided to mandate certain changes which they expect us to compel a super-majority of alumni to approve before we're allowed to manage further Trustee elections."

Dreisbach similarly questioned the right of the trustees to rip up the Association's constitution and redraft it to their liking. "What the trustees are now dictating for alumni elections accomplishes what was rejected in last year's constitutional referendum, strengthening the advantage of nominated candidates over petitioners. Is the Board teaching us that elections don't count if those in power don't like the results?"

‘Where exactly is the beef?’

“Presently ALL the trustees (except President Wright and the Governor of NH) are alumni,” Thomas Luxon argues in the comments, adding that “the trustees expect that the 10 additional trustee positions will be filled by alums.” “Where exactly is the beef?” he wonders.

The debate over the composition of the Board is not about whether trustees happen to be graduates of the College. Instead, the debate centers around how many of those on the Board are chosen by all the alumni.

It cannot be assumed that a Board composed entirely of graduates necessarily represents the alumni body’s vision for Dartmouth. In fact, that the alumni have elected reform-minded trustees four times running suggests that the alumni do not believe the current Board adequately represents their vision.

An all-alumni Board is hardly certain in any case, since the recommendation holds only that that “alumni status should be an important criterion for serving as a Trustee [emphasis added].”

The information machines at work

Now that the Governance Committee—whose members include President James Wright and Chairman of the Board Ed Haldeman—has decided to sidestep 116 years of the College’s governance history and tradition, the PR people at the College are flooding the inboxes of alums with this article, and these two interviews, on which I briefly elaborate below.

Though the majority of the AoA’s executive members have denounced the Governance Committee’s decision to change the Board's size, this article has been sent to Dartmouth alumni stating that all alumni leaders have endorsed the Committee’s decision. In reality, the AoA’s president, William Hutchison, is in the minority of AoA leaders in his support of the Board’s expansion.

In addition, here is a (slanted) interview with Chairman of the Board Ed Haldeman which hits on the following points: the recent change to the Board’s composition, the 1891 agreement, and petition trustees—this interview does not give credit to an interviewer, nor does this one which is a separate interview in podcast form with Haldeman and Christine Bucklin, who chaired the Board's Governance Committee.

AoA condemns Board's expansion

The Association of Alumni’s executive committee, which represents the 68,000 living Dartmouth alums, has come out against the Governance Committee's decision overhaul the 116 year precedent of parity on the Board of Trustees. As Chairman of the Board Ed Haldeman declared several days ago, the Board will expand its membership from 16 to 24 trustees by adding 8 charter trustees. That makes 8 competitively elected trustees and 16 appointed trustees. We still await word from the AoA about its official course of action in light of the Board’s violation of the 1891 agreement.

Also, the Board’s expansion is receiving national press with this piece in today’s New York Times.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Words of Wisdom

Rising sophomore Jake Baron wrote to the Valley News this past Friday with his thoughts on Dartmouth’s governance upheaval. Of course, Jake’s letter was written prior to the Governance Committee’s final resolution to increase the Board’s size by eight appointed members—-Jake, however, still adds some sobriety to this otherwise maddening debate: he insightfully reminds readers that the real issue with which the Board should concern itself is not reconfiguring itself, but rather reconfiguring the quality of life and the quality of education at the College.
DARTMOUTH'S EXCELLENCE IS SLIPPING

To the Editor:

This week, the Governance Committee of the Dartmouth
College Board of Trustees will announce the results of its
"governance study," undertaken to remedy the "increasingly
politicized" nature of recent trustee nomination elections and
the allegedly "divisive" effect of these elections. But the
committee would be deluded in thinking that major changes might
help, because the changes themselves are likely to incite a
firestorm of rancor that will dwarf the reaction to recent
elections. One alum, John MacGovern, anticipates a lawsuit before
the Supreme Court if major changes are made. To keep the peace,
the committee's best action is no action.

Well, not exactly. The entire board should take bold and
swift action to address the falling standards of excellence at
the college. Courses are routinely oversubscribed, especially in
the most popular departments. Numerous "star" professors across
diverse departments have left Dartmouth recently, such as Ronald
Edsforth of war and peace studies, Michael Gazzaniga of
psychology, and Allan Stam of government. Administrative growth
has far outstripped faculty growth over James Wright's tenure as
president (see "Large Classes, Misplaced Priorities," The
Dartmouth, April 16). These hard facts should be
sobering, but some trustees are well insulated. Responding to an
Aug. 7 student meeting with trustee Brad Evans, David Nachman,
Class of 2009, wrote that Evans appeared unable "to ascertain
what was really going on at Dartmouth." The four
opposition "petition trustees" just want to take their jobs
seriously. They want to assume the proper duties of a board
member at any institution: to carefully monitor the institution's
health and step in when its administration is failing. The
"divisive" debate in which they have engaged only proves their
devotion. Whatever the power-jockeying Governance Committee does,
whether the president and board insiders make a
self-preservationist grasp or not, the alumni rancor will only
recede when Dartmouth's real problems are fixed. President Wright
can run, but he can't hide.

JAKE BARON

Dartmouth Class of 2010

Hanover

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A LETTER FROM ED HALDEMAN, CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, TO THE DARTMOUTH COMMUNITY

Dear Members of the Dartmouth Community,

Earlier today, the Dartmouth Board of Trustees took several steps to strengthen the College's governance. Given the intense debate about this issue in recent months, I wanted to write to you as soon as possible to tell you what we've done and why.

Let me start by saying Dartmouth has never been stronger than it is today. It's one of the most selective institutions in the country. Our commitment to teaching has never been stronger and student satisfaction is at record highs. The student-to-faculty ratio now stands at 8:1. We have expanded the faculty by 15 percent since 2000 and maintained competitive faculty compensation, reflecting the College's sharp focus on its academic programs. Once current building plans are completed, we will have invested $1.1 billion in new and renovated state-of-the-art facilities since 1998.

Like its peers, however, the College confronts new challenges. We are facing increasing competition for the finest students and the best faculty as well as for the financial resources needed to support the College. And, we operate in an increasingly complex and highly regulated environment. Having the strongest possible governance is a critical factor to ensuring Dartmouth's continued success in the years ahead.

The changes we are making preserve alumni democracy at Dartmouth by keeping eight alumni-nominated trustees. They expand the Board with eight additional charter trustees, adding alumni to meet the needs of the College. And, they address the destructive politicization of trustee campaigns that have hurt Dartmouth. These changes represent a balancing of competing interests. They are true to Dartmouth's founding principles. And, they will ensure that, moving forward, the College has a strong, effective, and independent governing body.

Over the past three months, the Board's Governance Committee conducted a thorough review of this issue. We carefully considered input from many alumni, current and former trustees, faculty, parents, students, and other members of the Dartmouth community. We consulted with experts in college and non-profit governance and carefully evaluated practices among 30 leading colleges and universities. And, we developed a report to the full Board, which I encourage you to read for yourself at www.dartmouth.edu/governancereport.

After reviewing the Governance Committee's recommendations - and after much thought and deliberation - the Board of Trustees concluded that Dartmouth should strengthen its governance by taking steps to:

* Expand the Board by Adding More Alumni to Better Meet the Needs of the College: We are expanding the Board from 18 to 26 to ensure it has the broad range of backgrounds, skills, expertise, and fundraising capabilities needed to steward an institution of Dartmouth's scope and complexity. Dartmouth has been at a competitive disadvantage to its peers, with one of the smallest Boards of any comparable institution. We have had 18 members on our Board, versus an average of 42 trustees at peer schools and an average of 34 at other liberal arts colleges. We also are giving the Board more flexibility to select trustees who offer the specific talents and experiences that the College needs, which elections don't ensure. We will accomplish both of these goals by adding eight new charter trustee seats to the Board.

* Preserve Alumni Democracy by Retaining Alumni Trustee Elections: We are maintaining alumni trustee elections at their current level and preserving the ability of alumni to petition onto the ballot. Dartmouth currently has the highest proportion of alumni-nominated trustees of any peer institution and is one of the few schools that allows alumni to petition directly onto the ballot. The Board believes that this gives Dartmouth's alumni an important direct voice in our governance and fosters greater alumni involvement in the College. Dartmouth will continue to have one of the most democratic trustee election processes of any college in the country.

* Simplify the Alumni Nomination Process: Dartmouth's trustee elections have become increasingly politicized, costly, and divisive. It's not the results of these elections that are the problem, but the process itself. So we are charging the Alumni Council and the Association of Alumni to develop and implement a process for selecting alumni trustee nominees that preserves elections, maintains petition access to the ballot, and adopts a one-vote, majority-rule election process.

* Improve Direct Board Engagement with Alumni and Other Stakeholders: A larger group of trustees representing even more diverse backgrounds will help us enhance Board engagement with key areas of the College including academic affairs, student life, and alumni relations. We are therefore creating new Board committees focused on each of these three critical areas. This will facilitate greater interaction and communication with individuals in each of these three areas.

While we will continue to have eight trustees nominated directly by alumni, a significant number of seats on the Board, I know some will ask why we didn't simply expand the Board through an equal number of charter and alumni trustee seats. Given the divisiveness of recent elections we did not believe that having more elections would be good for Dartmouth. We also believe that the Board needs more trustees selected for the specific talents and experiences they can offer the College - which elections can't guarantee. We will still have more alumni-nominated trustees than most other schools and the opportunity for regular contested elections. But we think this is the best balancing of Dartmouth's interests.

I know there are strongly held views on all sides of this issue. And I respect that many of those views are driven above all by a desire to do what is best for Dartmouth and its students. But some of the recent rhetoric in this debate has become so harsh and divisive it is now doing harm to Dartmouth. I want to urge everyone who cares about Dartmouth to debate this issue in a reasonable and respectful way. As President Wright has said, there is far more that unites us - as friends, faculty, students, and loyal alumni of the College on the Hill - than divides us. Above all, we have a shared love of and dedication to Dartmouth.

One thing that has made Dartmouth an enduring and successful institution is that its history has always been one of adapting to meet new challenges and needs, while still preserving what is unique and special about Dartmouth. That is why a board originally composed of twelve New England men, half of them members of the clergy, today consists of eighteen men and women from many parts of the country and walks of life. That is why Trustees who once served for life now serve four-year terms. And, that is why elections once open only to "graduates... of at least five years standing" are now open to all alumni.

In these and many other respects, Dartmouth's Board has made fundamental changes to its governance structure and procedures throughout the College's history. The changes we're making today are no different. They are driven by what is best for Dartmouth and its students, and what is necessary to ensure the College continues to meet the new challenges it faces in the 21st century.

I love Dartmouth. I honestly believe there is nowhere else in the world quite like this great College. We need to protect Dartmouth and ensure it continues to prosper for future generations of students. I, and the entire Board, are intensely focused on helping Dartmouth to continue building its world-class academic program. That is what drives us forward. And, I look forward to continuing to work with all of you - alumni, faculty, students and parents - to build on Dartmouth's unique and pre-eminent place in American higher education.

Sincerely,

Ed Haldeman
Chair, Dartmouth College Board of Trustees
____________________________________________________
LINKS:

Governance Committee Report web page:
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/features/
governance/
Governance Committee Full Report:http://www.dartmouth.edu/~news/features/ governance/report-083007.pdf

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Classic, classic e-mail

Speaks for itself, though more poignant, if poignant is the word I'm looking for, read in light of the Dartlog post entitled "92%" (below).
From: Governance Response, Governance.Response@Dartmouth.EDU
TO:
DATE: 09/05/07 5:20 PM

RE: Governance Committee Message


The Governance Committee appreciates your taking the time to write to us about Dartmouth governance. Please feel confident that we heard your views, as well as those of other alumni, and we took them into account as we made our recommendations to the Board. We are working hard to determine what governance structure will best allow Dartmouth to maintain our proud tradition of excellence and our unique position in higher education.

We have heard from many alumni who care deeply about Dartmouth. There are strongly held views on all sides of this issue. We believe a shared love for and dedication to Dartmouth drive these passionate views. Indeed we approach this task with a deep commitment and love for Dartmouth ourselves. Although not everyone will agree with all of the actions the Board will eventually take, regardless of what they are, our hope is that Dartmouth alumni will continue to feel the special bonds that make our College unique.

Thanks,

Christine, Michael, John, Ed, and Jim


Dartmouth College Board of Trustees Governance Committee

Christine Bucklin '84, Chair
Michael Chu '68
John Donahoe '82
Ed Haldeman '70
Jim Wright '64A

92%

Ninety‐two percent of Dartmouth College alumni responding to an opinion survey say they want to keep their right to elect one‐half of their alma mater’s trustees, a right they have enjoyed since 1891. The Association of Alumni of Dartmouth College, through its Executive Committee, conducted the survey via U.S. Mail.

On September 7, Dartmouth’s board of trustees will consider a report from its Governance Committee that many involved alumni fear may restrict alumni’s role in the selection of future trustees and could dramatically affect the composition of the board.
--AADC Press Release

Lawyering

Slap on your least decrepit horsehair wig and peruse these legal posts.

First, we have Kate Stith-Cabranes '73, a former Dartmouth trustee and professor at Yale Law School, writing that the 1891 Agreement was no contract.
Indeed, not only does the Board have the authority to alter the selection of Trustees, it has the obligation to do so if it concludes, in the exercise of its fiduciary responsibilities, that the current process is not serving the interests of the College.
Bold words. John Bruce '69 took issue with her citation in a letter to the Independent.
An attorney sent me a PDF of the Shortlidge v. Gutoski, 125 N.H. 510 (1984) case Ms. Stith-Cabranes references. This is short and easy to read, even for a lay person, and it's very puzzling in that the case makes no reference to any supposed inability of unincorporated associations to contract. The case covers the well-known problem of members' liability in an unincorporated association for the association's debts (which of course implies the ability of said association to enter into contracts). This is a separate legal issue and makes no implication as to the ability of unincorporated associations to contract.
Meanwhile, trustee Todd Zywicki had this, and more, in response to Stith-Cabranes.

As Professor Stith-Cabranes seems aware, her “response” is actually a comment on an argument that I never made in my essay—-whether the 1891 Agreement was also a legally-binding “contract.” I did not characterize or refer to the 1891 Agreement as a “contract” but as an “agreement.” The difference between an “agreement” and a “contract” is important. According to the Restatement (2d) of Contracts Section 3, “an agreement is a manifestation of mutual assent on the part of two or more persons.” An “agreement” may or may not also be a legally-enforceable contract, and in fact, “agreement” is often used interchangeably with the idea of a “promise.” Professor Stith-Cabranes, therefore, misrepresents my position in a legally-relevant way.

My use of the term “agreement” thus was deliberate, even if Professor Stith-Cabranes confuses the two and has caused others to believe that I was making a legal argument as well. In fact, I didn’t make any legal arguments in my column—I simply followed Chairman Haldeman’s precedent and expressed my personal opinion on the meaning of the 1891 Agreement and moral and fiduciary duties that I believe it entails, wholly independent of the question as to the legal status of the agreement.

Finally, Scott Johnson of Powerline took stock of the exchange.
I think that Professor Zywicki has the better of the argument on the merits, but powerful prudential considerations also come into play. Regardless of the merits, the powers-that-be at Dartmouth are threatening to take an extraordinarily imprudent step in forsaking the 1891 agreement. For the Board to curtail the historic role of alumni in electing trustees under the present circumstances would amount to a confession that, because the administration has not prevailed in recent elections, it must resort to the exercise of raw power. Such an exercise of power is befitting of a tyrant rather than a serious educational institution. By itself it would, I believe, blacken Dartmouth's name among reasonable alumni as well as disinterested observers.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Digital Dartmouth: sightings


  • "Dartmouth College officials today reported that the total return on the College's endowment was 23.7 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007. This includes a 24.3 percent return on the investment assets portion of the endowment, which represents about 97 percent of the total." [Office of Public Affairs]
  • David Nachman: "The Board of Trustees is not around to merely rubber-stamp the administration's goals and select a new president every decade. The Board should be actively thinking about the college - and making decisions, and the alumni should be thinking about the Board - and electing some of its members." [Super Dartmouth]
  • John Bruce: "At this point, Dartmouth is close to being out of control. I hope some adults step in. The guy on whose watch this is happening is James Wright. He's going to have to go at this point. I don't see any alternative." [In the Shadow of Mt. Hollywood]
  • A while ago, George Leef offered a view into T. J. Rodgers's experience with board membership. [Phi Beta Cons]

Monday, September 03, 2007

What's News—

It's been rather a good weekend press-wise for those who'd like to keep petition candidates around. Saturday saw the double-whammy in The Wall Street Journal, comprised of (former Review editor) Joseph Rago's interview with T. J. Rodgers and an editorial on The Illiberal College. They are both available online.

But the first of the month also means a fresh issue of New Cri. And the very first thing you'll read in the September issue is "A putsch at Dartmouth?," which includes this key paragraph:
This might seem like a parochial story, of interest only to Dartmouth alumni. In fact, it is an episode that has national significance. As we noted in this space last April, college faculties and administrations represent “an entrenched, sclerotic, and self-perpetuating hegemony.” For more than a hundred years, the alumni at Dartmouth have been enfranchised to challenge that hegemony. That right is now under threat by an administration concerned above all to preserve its perquisites and resist change. The deliberations of the Governance Committee are due to end this month, so by the time you read this we may well know whether Dartmouth has chosen to preserve its heritage of openness and democratic rule or to surrender to the forces of the academic nomenklatura.

Get psyched on the moose

I've just noticed that Student Assembly has produced two astonishing video advertisements in favor of the moose qua mascot. Both feature testosterone-filled soundtracks. There are clever cinematic techniques, such as when the word "Yale" is superimposed over a photograph of a tutu-clad bulldog. This is meant to redound to Yale's discredit. Eleazar Wheelock is derided as "too fat," the lone pine as "dumb." I don't want to give away too much of the magic, though. These little spots clinch it for the moose. Go, get converted.