Friday, April 25, 2008

Alumni Council letter to alums

This letter below was sent out to Dartmouth alumni yesterday. It is written by Rick Silverman '81, who is the president of the Alumni Council (not to be confused with the Association of Alumni, or the AoA). In the letter, Silverman brings up the AoA election, and reminds alumni that the Council disapproves of the AoA's lawsuit against the College. In his letter, Silverman cites the Alumni Council's amicus brief, submitted to the Grafton County Court. The misleading content of that brief was later countered by the AoA's own brief, also submitted to the court.

This AoA election, many know, will determine the fate of the lawsuit. The letter, after the jump.

From: Rick Silverman '81
Date: Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 2:14 PM
Subject: Dartmouth Alumni Council President's Message

Fellow Alumni:

As you know, the Dartmouth Alumni Association will hold its annual election
from April 28 through June 5 to select a new Executive Committee. This
year's election is highly contentious. Please take the time to understand
the positions of the candidates by visiting

The Alumni Council has been an active participant in the discussion of
College governance, and I'd like to update you on our activities.

In response to the lawsuit initiated by six members of the association
against the College last fall, the council filed an amicus brief opposing
the litigation. The brief argues that the association Executive Committee
lacks authority and standing to sue on behalf of alumni, and urges the court
to dismiss the lawsuit as contrary to the best interests of Dartmouth and
her alumni. The council suggests that issues concerning the College should
be resolved within the Dartmouth family, and not by the courts.

In December, the council voted 62 to 1 (with one abstention) to issue a
statement condemning Dartmouth Trustee Todd Zywicki '88 for inappropriate
and harmful remarks he made in October at a conference of the John William
Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can
view the text of the resolution and a transcript of Zywicki's speech at

President-elect John Daukas and I were also among a number of alumni who
testified, at a January hearing held by the New Hampshire legislature,
against a proposed bill designed to end Dartmouth's autonomous control of
its charter. Introduced by Representative Maureen Mooney, R-Merrimack, and
supported by Alumni Association Executive Committee member Alexander Mooney
'93, the bill would have repealed a 2003 law that gave Dartmouth the right
to amend its charter without state approval. That bill failed, thereby
maintaining the College's independence.

In addition to its work on governance issues, the council also

-Updated its mission statement to reflect its commitment to communication:
"to sustain a fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of
information and sentiment between alumni and their College, and to enhance
and inspire alumni involvement that furthers the mission of the College"

-Made important changes to its constitution, which we feel will help the
council collect alumni sentiment more efficiently and share it effectively
with administrators and trustees, and similarly provide feedback from the
College to alumni. Learn more at

-Improved the Alumni Council Web site, adding a "Council President's Page,"
where I post details of important council activity

-Created an Alumni Liaison Committee (ALC), which will serve as the
communications hub for the council, administration, and trustees.

The Alumni Council and its members continue to work hard to keep you updated
on College issues and to gather and send your feedback to the administration
and the board. We appreciate the extensive communications we received in
response to the association's lawsuit and the statement made by Todd
Zywicki. To reach us, you can communicate with your council representative
(class, club, or affiliated group) directly, or you can email me at We look forward to hearing from you.

For Dartmouth,

Rick Silverman '81
President, Dartmouth Alumni Council


Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

As a member of the Association executive committee who voted to file the lawsuit, I have no direct comment on either our filings before the Court or the Council's brief in that matter.

But as Council president Silverman's letter describes the new mission of the Council to include sustaining a "fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of
information and sentiment between alumni", I was disappointed his own communication provided only a half-informed rendition of the status.

Silverman notes that his Council brief argues the Association and its executive committee lack standing to sue on behalf of alumni, and that the suit should be dismissed. However, he fails to inform his alumni audience that the Court has already ruled that the Association does in fact have standing, and that the College's request for dismissal was denied.

When I questioned Mr. Silverman on this earlier today, he suggested that alumni were already aware of these additional facts.

It is a shame that College resources, being the email mailing list server, as well as information that should arguably be accessible to the Association, being the email addresses of its members, have been provided in support of Mr. Silverman's one-sided rendition.

Anonymous said...

Dartlog Observer says:

It is interesting that this "Council update" comes immediately before the start of the alumni Association election. Silverman's opening paragraph is all about that election, which is the province of the Association and not the Council. Clearly this is an attempt to influence that election by following up with a one-sided opinion statement regarding the Association lawsuit. The College has therefore supported a communication meant to influence the outcome of the alumni election.

One can understand the College providing resources to support its side in the lawsuit. But it crosses the line in supporting the messaging activity of one side over the other.

Robert Mugabe '46 said...

Get real. What do you expect him to say and do?

The animated corpse of Daniel Webster said...

I generally with Mr. Dreisbach. It's at least a little bit misleading to speak of the amicus brief in the present tense.

The letter states: The brief argues that the association Executive Committee lacks authority and standing to sue on behalf of alumni, and urges the court to dismiss the lawsuit as contrary to the best interests of Dartmouth and her alumni. The council suggests that issues concerning the College should be resolved within the Dartmouth family, and not by the courts

True, it's not as if the Alumni Council doesn't still feel this way or as if the brief no longer has the same words printed on it, but phrasing it in the present tense like that makes appear as though standing is still a live issue in the case. It's not.... unless that's an appeal or something.

I also disagree with this post's characterization of the Alumni Council's amicus brief as misleading. The brief made an argument, the AoA made a counterargument, and the judge was persuaded by the AoA's argument. Both briefs were highly selective in their use of facts, and the AoA brief rightly called out the AC on that, and the judge sided with the AoA.

Anonymous said...

What's New reiterates:

"The College [read Administration]has therefore supported a communication meant to influence the outcome of the alumni election."

Tim Dreisbach '71 said...

Mr. Mugabe: I expect the president of the Council to keep his nose out of alumni Association business entirely, or alternatively to provide full information as his organization's mission statement promises. Is it wrong to expect such behaviour as "reality"?

By the way, I applaud many of the initiatives the Council has undertaken during Rick's tenure.

Robert Mugabe '46 said...

Mr. Dreisbach: Look at what outside meddling has done to my country. Mr. Silverman must keep his resolve.

clifford said...

It's not misleading to speak of the amicus in the present tense. The court is permitted to use the brief in its decision this summer. The court is not bound by its prior statements regarding standing, especially since it did not refer to the Council's argument that the Association has not been the proper representative of alumni to the board since it deputized the Council.

Mr. Silverman's rendition far more accurate than the communications from self-appointed "representatives" of alumni to the board.

Anonymous said...

Dartlog Observer says:

The closest ones to being "self-appointed representatives of alumni to the board" are charter trustees and officers of the Council, both groups chosen by their peers without any say by all alumni. As their ardent supporters argue, this is not a democracy.

Anonymous said...

To Robert's point, what irony. When the Council engages in the politics of alumni Association elections, and files a friend of the court brief in a case where it is neither plaintiff nor defendent, who is the outside meddler?

Jimmy Carter S'46

Jiminy Cricket said...

Friend of the court briefs are always filed by parties that are neither plaintiff nor defendant. The Alumni Council knows that if anyone sues the board, it should be the Council. The Council had a duty to alert the court to the fact that the majority of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association are not authorized to represent alumni to the board.

If only Council had known the truth about who is behind the suit at that time, it could have alerted the court to that sham being perpetrated against it. Chalk one up for the Hanover Institute...or maybe it is time for another amicus brief.

Robert Mugabe '46 said...

"The Alumni Council knows that if anyone sues the board, it should be the Council."

Of course, since the College chooses the Council through its current councilors, the Council is in the best position to represent the alumni body and perform such duties as suing the board, which, it would never do, of course, because of the board's supreme position.

Morgan Tsvangirai '74 said...

It is time to be better.

Anonymous said...

The only people who represent all 60,000 alumni are President Hutchinson and the other directly elected officers and EC members.

All alumni had the chance to vote and the recent alumni and trustee elections have seen the highest alumni voting rates in years. A huge mandate.

The Alumni Council has self-importance and wrote its own "mission statements". What a joke.

The Presidents of the council have all ran against themselves and the council members are basically volunteers and appointments.

The Trustees have exerted their power.

The Association and alumni have been vocal to preserve their heritage and rights.

The administration is pushy and trying to get its way.

The Alumni Council is defective and laughable: its one power of nomination has been constantly refuted election after election. Had they put up decent candidates all along, then the Trustees and Alumni would not have come to blows.

The COUNCIL is a failure and must be entirely scrapped and reformed.

The ASSOCIATION must take control of this absurd situation as the only legitimately elected and representative group historically speaking for all alumni.

Karl Marx said...

Good for you for speaking the truth. The AC is just a bunch of butt-kissers who don't even begin to think for themselves.

For example, how can they call themselves "representative of alumni opinion" when they voted UNANIMOUSLY for a constitution that the alumni (with a 38% turnout!) voted against by 51%.

We haven't seen a People's Parliament like this since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Anonymous said...

Dartlog Observer says to Anon 8:49:

Or alumni can step up and begin demanding more open "all member" elections in the choice of their class and club representatives on the Council, in order to get Councilors who are in fact "more representative".

Anonymous said...

"The AC is just a bunch of butt-kissers who don't even begin to think for themselves."

How about "of themselves" then? They want their kids to get accepted.

clifford said...

If you have a problem with how councilors are elected or how the council operates, then propose reforms. Council's methods of election do not make its authority, as officially given by the Association of Alumni in the 1910s, any less legitimate. The Council's power of nomination has never been "refuted." It has nominated alumni in every election since it was created.

It does not matter and nobody cares that a few thousand alumni (not 70 thousand) voted for the AoA officers. The type of election system used does not give the officers a power their forbears gave away a long time ago, and it does not give them a mandate to sue the board of trustees.

Anonymous said...

To Clifford-- One simple reform... require classes and clubs to conduct open, all-member elections in order to have a seat... has been proposed, and rejected.

One argument is that the organizations themselves should decide. Another is that it is too "messy". A third that has been advanced is that it opens the door for the uninformed, less-deserving masses.

clifford said...

Anonymous 10:54: why are you complaining here, then? You tried and failed. Go ahead and try again if you want, but stop confusing your objections to the Alumni Council with the illegitimate and meritless law suit against the Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College.

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