Monday, April 28, 2008

AoA Election Begins Today

The AoA election, which begins today, is essentially a referendum on the Association led lawsuit. The lawsuit is in response to the Board of Trustees' announced intention to change the proportion of alumni-elected trustees to appointed trustees from 50/50 to 33/67 (the proportion does not include ex officio trustees). There have been claims that the lawsuit is sullying Dartmouth's name, but the lawsuit would not have been necessary had the Board honored an agreement with more than one hundred years behind it. Let this be clear: we are not against expanding the Board; we are against the unproportional expansion of the Board. Every time the Board's size has been increased since 1891, the increase has been proportional.

More, beneath the fold.

This is an important juncture in history of the College. The next president must recommit the College to the undergraduate experience, to the importance of a liberal arts education. This, coupled with increased transparency in the administration, is what we—along with many students and alumni—are looking for. This concern has largely fueled the recent victories of petition trustees. Now the Board is changing the rules mid-game. The reason Chairman Ed Haldeman '69 gave for not increasing the number of alumni-elected trustees was the contentious nature of recent elections. The last few U.S. presidential elections are recent proof that elections become most contentious when more oversight is needed in the governing process. From whom will the increased oversight come, if not from alumni? For this reason, The Dartmouth Review has endorsed the petition slate in the AoA election. Their names, below:

Officers:
J. Michael Murphy '61
Bert Boles '80
Paul Mirengoff '71
F. Marian Chambers '76

Committee Members:
Frank Gado '58
Zach Hafer '99
Alexander X. Mooney '93
Richard Roberts '83
Marjory Grant Ross '81
John Steel '54
Charles J. Urstadt '49

More information on the petition candidates can be found here.

To vote, go here.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

The last few U.S. presidential elections are recent proof that elections become most contentious when more oversight is needed in the governing process. From whom will the increased oversight come, if not from alumni?

How is more oversight needed in the U.S. governing process, and what's your basis for saying that the last few U.S. presidential elections have been especially contentious?

not anonymous said...

Thank you, A.S., for noting accurately that the election is a referendum on the lawsuit. Your endorsement might carry more weight, however, if it applied a similar interest in accuracy to the descriptions of the two main classes of trustees: alumni-nominated and Board-nominated. All of those tustees are “elected” (or “appointed,” to put it pejoratively) by the Board per the 1891 agreement, whose plain language specifically created that distinction.

In addition, the correct proportions of elected trustees for now and then are 8/16 (50/50) and 8/24 (33/66 or 1/3). There is no relevant fraction in this debate that has a denominator of 67, so that is probably a typographical error that should be corrected. If you are trying to reflect the fact that the president is elected by the Board, which does not seem a very accurate way to explain it, the fractions would be 8/17 and 33/67.

The opinion that the Board is changing the rules mid-game is a bit partisan, but excusable in an endorsement of this kind. Mid-game for Dartmouth really is about 1889, so the whole system of alumni trustees is a far better example of a mid-game change. Dartmouth has existed longer under its Board-only system of trustee nominations than under its current mixed alumni-Board system.

There already is oversight of Dartmouth governance the same way there is oversight of all nonprofits in the state, from the attorney general. If more is needed, no rational person would argue that it should come from self-interested outside voluntary or lobbying groups such as the Alumni Association or the Hanover Institute.

The Review’s endorsement would live up to its goal of transparency if it noted which of the endorsees is under an obligation to an outside group that would appear to affect her or his honesty.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Another Meacham Above says:

"Dartmouth has existed longer under its Board-only system of trustee nominations than under its current mixed alumni-Board system." AND IT WAS FOUNDERING BEFORE 1891.

Before the Board elects any new trustee, it should trust 70,000 alumni choosing nominees for these seats via elections where issues are raised openly, at least as much (parity) as they rely on five appointed governance committee members meeting behind closed doors.

Has no one heard the opinion about dishonest outsiders before? How refreshingly new.

Anonymous said...

VOTE FOR PARITY!



VOTE FOR PETITION SLATE!




VOTE TO KEEP YOUR RIGHTS!




If you keep parity, then split hairs later about who you want ON the board and elect those people. For now, your vote is for the right to representation itself!

Only a fool would vote to end her or his own rights without a fight.

A. J. Schlosser '07 said...

I for one am looking forward to voting against the lawsuit. I think that Mr. Erickson's belief that contentious elections are a sign of the need for oversight to be without basis. If anything, the oversight needs to be over the elections themselves. The last four elected trustees, all of whom have in some way violated the oath that they gave to support the College, won by gaming the system with vast financial resources and outside support from well-known conservative groups.

Todd Zywicki, when he thought the cameras weren't rolling, made it abundantly clear that his campaign was ideologically-driven, and that his goal is to transform the American university into a place where predetermined ideas about God and country are inculcated into people who should be developing skepticism and learning to think critically. Zywicki, ever the good Straussian, fancies himself a philosopher-king.

The Dartmouth accurately reports today that the seats more or less purchased by the last four petition trustees put the College in a difficult position, where it had to either leave the elections biased towards vocal, motivated minorities with financial support or change the system. When it changed the system, it knew that it would be facing a battle.

I think that it is unfortunate that the Board felt it necessary to reduce the amount of direct alumni influence over its composition. At the end of the day, however, it is the Board that makes such decisions about itself and the College. I don't want the Board's prerogative to oversee the College to be undermined by alumni bickering and special-interest groups. In fact, this brings to attention several fallacies incredibly levied by the pro-lawsuit crowd:

1. That Dartmouth is a democracy. It is not. Dartmouth is a private, non-profit corporation run by a Board of Trustees. Its alumni are neither constituents nor citizens. There's no need to elaborate on this. Those who compare it to a sovereign political entity--Frank Gado and a few of the ramblers who frequent this blog--are either stupid or disingenuous. Perhaps both.

2. That what's important is alumni participation. When past presidents have lauded alumni participation, they have meant alumni support. Participation qua participation has nothing to do with support. For instance, the participation of Rodgers, Robinson, Zywicki, and Smith, all of whom have unequivocally violated their oath to the College, has not constituted support. Nor has the participation of Alex Mooney, John McGovern, or Joe Malchow, who are on public record as having traveled to Concord to argue before a committee that the New Hampshire legislature should have the final say over Dartmouth's charter.

3. That Dartmouth owes us anything. Dartmouth acquiesces to our demands, because, unfortunately, some "philanthropists" feel that they should receive something in return for their gifts. A gift, however, expects no recompense. If it does, then it is a simple economic exchange, not a gift. I disagree vehemently with those alumni who feel that to donate to the College is to purchase a share of power, a stake in its control. That's not how philanthropy works. (It should be noted that the institution handling the pro-lawsuit group's finances is dedicated to making philanthropy exactly that--an economic exchange, a purchasing of political power.)

4. That the pro-lawsuit party would be on Daniel Webster's side in Dartmouth v. Woodward. Only the laziest or willfully mistaken reading of history could allow one to draw such a conclusion. The current Dartmouth v. Association of Alumni is similar to Dartmouth v. Woodward, but only in the sense that Dartmouth is again attempting to defend its integrity against outside political interests.

5. That parity is a right. First, the question of the contract is one that will be decided by the case. Second, parity on the Board is a privilege, not a right. For over a century, Dartmouth offered its alumni the unique opportunity for direct oversight. Alumni exercised that power judiciously until 2004. The Board recognized that an influx of well-funded political interests had learnt how to take advantage of this privilege. I don't agree with how they chose to address that problem, but I understand why they did. I don't blame them any less than I blame the alumni who elected Rodgers, Robinson, Zywicki, and Smith, four of the most irresponsible trustees in the history of the College. In any case, I refuse to take from Dartmouth by force what has been accorded to me as a privilege.

6. That this isn't a political question. It has always been one. The voice of "dissent" is a well-oiled political machine funded by right-wing groups. Their aim is to overturn what they perceive to be the liberal bias in education. Dartmouth is a great place to start, as Zywicki said in his speech to the Pope Center. Before you vote, ask yourself if you are voting to further your politics or if you are voting to further Dartmouth. They are not always mutually exclusive; but, in this case, they are.

Few minds will be changed today, but let everybody speak nonetheless. I hope that others will join me in voting to end the lawsuit. Let's not leave the fate of Dartmouth in the hand's of a New Hampshire jurist.

non anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:22 wrote that Dartmouth was foundering before 1891. Who cares? The weather was colder before 1891, and more people were farmers. What does that have to do with the lawsuit?

let's get this over with said...

Aaron,

Point conceeded on Robinson, Zywicki, and Smith being irresponsible (and, though you didn't say it, I will...unqualified). Please point out what Rodgers has done that you deem to be equally irresponsible. By all measures, Rodgers is supremely qualified to be a trustee of any insitution (to the same extent that Haldemann and others are) and, though he has stepped on some toes, he has not done anything markedly irresponsible or, perhaps more accurately, immature.

On a side note, is anyone else having trouble logging on to the website to vote this morning? It's now 10:25 on the east coast and the website says the election has not begun yet...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:38, voting to end the lawsuit is just that: a vote to end the lawsuit. Shouting about "rights" will not make them any less imaginary.

he said she said...

Before we get this over with, slate member Chambers has been quick to point out what she sees as a conflict on the other side. Wouldn't the Review only achieve transparency if it mentioned the members of its own slate who are wearing multiple hats?

Anonymous said...

1. The alumni association is a partnership and it owns rights: including the contractual agreed upon right to elect half the board. I will not surrender my 1/60,000 right in the association. I will not surrender the association's right to half the board. I am a life member of the association and we have a representative democracy that we elect yearly. All 60,000 alumni have the opportunity to vote and more and more take advantage of that franchise every year.

2. Alumni participation has gone up and up every year in pursuit of our rights to representation on the board. Donation rates have gone up as well. If alumni rights are curtailed, then participation rates will plummet. USN&WR ranking is directly related to participation rates. By destroying alumni support, the administration has been wrecking its own ranking. Alumni participation and support have a direct link to endowment size, another contributing factor in our public ranking. By taking alumni rights, the administration may take a hit on its endowment which has swelled since 1891 when the alumni agreements were cemented. If you argue that Dartmouth is already so rich it does not need alumni support anymore, then you may have a nasty argument there: to wit - steal alumni money for a century in exchange for alumni board representation, and then, when rich enough, fire the alumni representatives from the board.

3. Dartmouth owes its founders and the King/New Hampshire its chartered goals. Dartmouth owes Alumni Parity on the board, as agreed. Dartmouth owes donors the promises implied or explicit in the gifts. Dartmouth owes the nation whose taxes subsidize and support it a high quality product not polluted by leftist ideology. Coeducation came in - a great thing - which overthrew the Conservative Dartmouth. Along with co-education, however, came a politicized leftism which usurped power at our school. It is the LEFT that first co-opted Dartmouth and they will destroy it to "save" it.

4. Daniel Webster needed the Supreme Court to save Dartmouth from insiders and cronies once. Now, the left has co-opted Dartmouth and stolen its seal. Rather than allow dissenting voices to moderate the College, it will pursue any means to keep power.

5. Parity is a right after the ideological Dartmouth of the 19th century failed the college and begged Alumni for funding. The agreement for half the board was struck. Now, rich, Dartmouth wants to tear up Dartmouth's Magna Carta. The alumni say no. It's true we could wait until leftist Dartmouth destroys itself and its endowment 100 years for now. I for one choose to fight for the bargain that was struck.

6. Politically leftist Dartmouth preaches civility but practices McCarthyism against the "Hanover Institute". Leftist Dartmouth preaches modesty but revels in its billions and half billionaires on the board. Leftist Dartmouth preaches public values but steals itself away in a palace guarded by lawyers and advertising hacks. It's true the insiders co-opted Dartmouth for its leftist causes years ago and the outsiders are on the libertarian or right wing. But once PARITY is taken away there is no more alumni influence at Dartmouth. Once they come for us, they will come for you, and you, and you. If you are voting for your leftist politics in this election: be careful what you wish for. If you wish to preserve your alumni rights, then vote for PARITY and then run for office yourselves in open, free and fair elections.

merovingian said...

A.S., what do you think of the reports that Bert Boles spoke at an Opus Dei conference in February?

A. J. Schlosser '07 said...

'Let's get this over with':

If you look at the Dartmouth College Fund web site, which lists all donors to the College by class year every year, Rodgers, along with Robinson and Smith, did not donate to the College in 2007. Zywicki did, but, as you know, in a speech to the Pope Center, he encouraged people to do otherwise.

All are violations of the obligations that trustees owe to the College.

I live on the paltry income of a graduate student fellowship, and yet I've been able to forgo a few coffees here and a few bottles of wine there and donate to my alma mater. It was not much, but, as it stands, I've now donated more to Dartmouth than three sitting trustees.

'He said she said':

You're right. Frank Gado, for one, is an officer of the Hanover Institute. His obligations to that registered corporation are legally binding and take precedence over his obligations to the unincorporated Association of Alumni.

'Anonymous 10:40 AM':

Thanks for admitting that your only interest is in overthrowing what you perceive to be a leftist dictatorship in the academy. That certainly gives us all insight into the rest of your confused arguments. Comparing your kampf to the plight of the Jews under the Nazi regime was especially tasteful.

not anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:40, you are smoking that crazy weed again:

1. The alumni association is not a partnership, it is an unincorporated association. It does not have a contract with the Board, so it has no rights, contractual or otherwise, to force the Board to do anything. It certainly would not have a right to half the Board, even if the 1891 agreement ("five" out of "twelve") were a contract. If the 1891 agreement were a contract, it would be carried out according to its terms to the extent they do not cause the Board to violate the charter: alumni would have a right to nominate trustees, not elect them. "Representative democracy" is a specious and irrelevant argument regarding any and all private corporations.

2. Rising alumni participation is more likely a result of student satisfaction, rankings, publicity efforts, or fundraising, and possibly the personality of President Wright than it is a result of the "pursuit of our rights to representation on the board." The administration has not expanded the Board, the Board has. The Board was aware of the risk of controversy when it did so.

No alumni rights are being curtailed or taken. You really should take a step back and see if you can find a contract in there anywhere. The myth that alumni somehow purchased some of the Board's charter rights is a recent one created by a few people seeking any kind of foothold they could against the Board. Even those mythmakers have never said that they paid for their supposed purchase with donations, they said it was a promise to raise funds. You are even more desperate and sleazy than the plaintiff when you say that Dartmouth's acceptance of donations becomes "stealing" when the Board amends it bylaws.

3. The Board does not owe alumni anything. Get that into your head. Nothing. It owes the nation nothing as well, and your paranoid rant about "pollution" by "leftist ideology" suggests that you are a member of that sad and deluded minority that agrees with disgraced Trustee Zywicki. The only people "destroying" Dartmouth to "save it" in their narrow, septic minds are the people behind the lawsuit, namely the Hanover Institute and its five allies in the Exec. Comm. majority.

4. Webster did not save Dartmouth from insiders and cronies and you are not worthy to claim to be an alumnus/a of Dartmouth if you think otherwise. Webster saved Dartmouth from outside interference. He kept it independent from the state, and today it needs to be kept independent of private groups outside the corporation, including the Alumni Association and the Hanover Institute. What have you got against "pursuing any means to keep power"? Isn't that what the four petition trustees are doing when they violate their oaths by filing court papers in support of the plaintiff against the very Board to which they owe duties of loyalty?

5. "Parity" is still not a right even though you like to hear yourself say it is, over and over again. Can you explain why your vision of the "contract" is not the same as that advanced by the plaintiff in the lawsuit? Does the sharp difference (see #2) suggest that everyone who dislikes the Board is grabbing at straws for some way to damage it? Can you provide us with a copy of "Dartmouth's Magna Carta"? Or is that a figment of your imagination as well? How do you know any bargain was struck if the original parties never said so?

6. There is no "McCarthyism" against the Hanover Institute and its secret committees. All of the allegations are true: the head of the lawsuit is on the unelected board of the Institute, and the Institute is doing most of the paying of lawyers. The Hanover Institute is far more to blame for the involvement of lawyers and advertising hacks than Dartmouth is, since the Hanover Institute is paying the trial lawyers for the plaintiff's suit and is doing all the advertising for the plaintiff, in secret.

Once the Board's valid amendment of its bylaws regarding nominations is put into effect, alumni will continue to influence the Board. Alumni will be able to nominate 8 trustees, and the Board will continue to be made up almost completely of alumni. In fact, the likely proportion of alumni will rise from 8/9 to 11/12 as the Board expands.

You wrote "Once they come for us, they will come for you, and you, and you." That not only brands you as a stupid idiot (the Board is not "coming for" anyone) but appears to be a mildly offensive reference to PastorNiemöller's poem about the Holocaust.

A true libertarian or right-thinker, someone who opposes the Socialist transfer of wealth by government and stands up for private property rights and the independence of the private corporation in America, will vote to end the lawsuit. The Board of Trustees is empowered by its historic Charter to make its own decisions no matter how much they anger groups of outside agitators. The request of some of those agitators that the state judiciary overturn a valid Board decision, passed by majority vote, is nothing more than an offensive and unjustified power-grab. The fact that it is being done through secret funds and hidden loyalties is just icing on the cake. Every Dartmouth alum should vote against it.

A.S. Erickson said...

@not anonymous

All of those tustees are “elected” (or “appointed,” to put it pejoratively) by the Board

In a trivial sense, yes, the board does appoint both Charter Trustees and Alumni Trustees; however it never fails to appoint the Alumni Trustee chosen by alumni in an election.

In addition, the correct proportions of elected trustees for now and then are 8/16 (50/50) and 8/24 (33/66 or 1/3). There is no relevant fraction in this debate that has a denominator of 67

I was just applying the rules I learned in elementary math. With a number like sixty-six-point-six-repeating it is generally the practice to round up rather than down.

Mid-game for Dartmouth really is about 1889

Fair enough. I was talking about the contentious recent elections, which—I think you'll agree—were the catalyst for the Board's changes. Before the contentious elections the Board had decided to increase its size proportionally.

There already is oversight of Dartmouth governance the same way there is oversight of all nonprofits in the state, from the attorney general.

We're talking about two different kinds of oversight. Yes, the College has oversight in the legal sense, bud does it have oversight when it comes to retaining its essential character? Does it have oversight to make sure it doesn't become a b-side Harvard? This is the kind of oversight that only alumni can supply. Notice that I did not say the Hanover Institute or AoA. These are two institutions looking to make sure that alumni retain an equal share on the Board, but it is alumni in general who vote on the Alumni Trustees.

The Review’s endorsement would live up to its goal of transparency if it noted which of the endorsees is under an obligation to an outside group that would appear to affect her or his honesty.

This meme has been floating around with increasing frequency. We get our funding from individual donations from alumni. Some agree with this particular editorial stance (most probably), others (like Prof. Jeff Hart and former TDR President Kevin Hudak) do not agree.


@merovingian:

I hadn't heard that, but I'm not sure it really matters all that much. Though, I'll admit, my knowledge of catholicism is anything but deep and learned.

not anonymous said...

@A.S., the Board's duty to elect trustees is enshrined in the Charter. I would hardly call that trivial. The fact that the Board has always elected the alumni nominee is our fault: alumni have never proposed someone quite bad enough to justify rejection. It would be unfair to hold the Board's generosity against it, just as you would find it unfair if you were sued by a great-uncle for failing to send a birthday card one year. Gifts do not simply ripen into obligations.

If you're talking about "oversight" but not "in the legal sense," maybe you should shoot an email to the people who are paying the lawyers for the Alumni Association. They seem to be muddling the same distinction. The amount of soft, nonlegalistic "influence" from alumni is set by the board, and it will reach a new peak when alumni have captured 24 of the 26 seats.

The "transparency" meme is not the one you are thinking of. I only asked that you note "which of the endorsees is under an obligation to an outside group that would appear to affect her or his honesty," not anything about the Review's funding.

merovingian said...

I don't know, having one third of the Gang of Six and one half of the Petition Trustees wearing their Catholicism on their sleeves seems a bit overrepresentative.

A. J. Schlosser '07 said...

Does it have oversight to make sure it doesn't become a b-side Harvard? This is the kind of oversight that only alumni can supply.

That claim seems to me to be absolute rubbish. First, alumni are already very active in the administration of the College. The charter Trustees are alumni. There is a myth, perpetuated in no small manner by organizations like the Review, that alumni involved in the administration are cronies of the administration, as if the administration is some beast separate from Dartmouth.

The alumni do not have a monopoly over the determination of the best interests of Dartmouth. The students, the faculty, the administrators, the alumni, and society at large all share some responsibility. It is preposterous to suggest that only alumni are capable of understanding Dartmouth and its needs as an institution.

There is no "essential Dartmouth." Everybody experiences Dartmouth differently. If you could point me to the formal truth to which we would all surely be obliged to bow, I would gladly do so, and congratulate you for accomplishing what millennia of human thought has failed to do. In the meantime, I'll allow that Dartmouth can mean different things to different people, even if there are certain traditions to which most people feel a kind of affinity. As a collection of traditions, however, Dartmouth must preserve only those which bring the community together, and abandon those which no longer serve that purpose.

There is no better example of the inanity of clinging to traditions that have long since lost their power to bring people together and feel a sense of common pride or worth than the Review's famous defense of the divisive Indian mascot. It is sad to lose traditions. It is wonderful to abandon traditions that no longer serve their purpose. But I do understand, like you said, that the particular financial situation of your paper obliges a little sensationalism and demagoguery here and there. You must occasionally give those knees some rest, though.

Anonymous said...

Candidate Boles spoke to Opus Dei on its anniversary about "how his practice as a partner in a major national law firm is influenced and guided by the example of St. Thomas More and offered suggestions on how lawyers might live up to the highest standards of professionalism and ethics while practicing at the highest levels of their profession."

What Would More Do with an attorney who ignores practices that are highly questionable under New Hampshire ethics rules 1.13 and 1.7 and ABA Model Rule 1.8(f)?

hip-hop said...

Doesn't the pro-lawsuit slate have an official statement that speaks reverently of John Sloan Dickey? Here is what Dickey wrote the chair of the Committee on Trustee Organization, which sounds like a forerunner of the current Governance Committee:

Needless to say the more "political" the process of appointing trustees to a college becomes the more likely is it that the board will either lose its sense of independence in favor of becoming increasingly a representative body or, if and when the board asserts an unpopular independence, it will stir up one political storm after another among the alumni as opposition candidates exploit the issues. It cannot be said that such troubles are necessarily fatal to an institution but there have been quite a few situations where they have seriously and sometimes disastrously impaired the greatness of an institution of higher learning and almost always they sap the energies of all concerned that might better be put to other uses.

John Sloan Dickey to Harvey P. Hood, February 2, 1959.

hip-hop said...

Yep, the joint statement of the Hanover Institute slate speaks highly of Dickey:

*Boles* "Tucker was followed by two other outstanding Dartmouth presidents: Ernest Martin Hopkins and John Sloan Dickey. Both considered alumni indispensable in making Dartmouth a great college."

*Mirengoff* "Presidents Tucker, Hopkins and Dickey believed and lived this principle throughout their terms of leadership. Never once did any of them question the alumni right to nominate 50% of the Board of Trustees."

A.S. Erickson said...

@ not anonymous:

I would hardly call that trivial.

I suppose we have different definitions of trivial then. For my part, the distinction will continue to be trivial until the Board does reject an Alumni Trustee.

As far as oversight goes. There is the kind of oversight to make sure an institution doesn't break the law; the attorney general provides this. But there is also a non-legal type of oversight that has nothing to do with law-breaking. This kind of oversight is more parochial. I'm making no legal assessment.

The "transparency" meme is not the one you are thinking of.

I'm sorry. I did a poor job of reading your original comment. I don't know where they have received funding from, and I do wish that were out in the open. I don't think it would change much. In every election there is money at play, that's part and parcel of the democratic process. But, again, it would be better if all the funding was out in the open so voters could draw their own conclusions.

@Mr. Schlosser:

That claim seems to me to be absolute rubbish.

Hello to you too. I would only point out the fact that no part of the Dartmouth Community has had a better run of it in the last quarter century than the administration. I'm not sure I have the years exactly correct, so I'll approximate: from the late eighties to the late nineties the number of administrators increased from 400 to 650.

It is preposterous to suggest that only alumni are capable of understanding Dartmouth and its needs as an institution.

Fortunately for myself, then, I never made that assertion.

There is no "essential Dartmouth."

I disagree. It's true that everyone experiences Dartmouth differently, but that doesn't change the fact that Dartmouth is what it is. It's one of this country's preeminent undergraduate institutions; it has a thriving outdoor culture; it has great professors; and many other things. Dartmouth has many facets and all of those facets will change over time. What won't change, I hope, is Dartmouth's essential character.

A. J. Schlosser '07 said...

Mr. Erickson, you refer to a well-known and troubling statistic, but it has nothing to do with the aspect of your argument with which I took issue: that the College is not capable of meaningful oversight. It is one thing to claim that bureaucratic bloat exists at Dartmouth, a statement with which most would agree, and another thing altogether to conclude from this that the only solution is alumni participation. You suggested as much when you wrote:

Yes, the College has oversight in the legal sense, bud does it have oversight when it comes to retaining its essential character? Does it have oversight to make sure it doesn't become a b-side Harvard? This is the kind of oversight that only alumni can supply.

Pointing to problems in the administration in no way conclusively proves that it, the faculty, the students, or other such groups are incapable of this kind of oversight. There are problems in the alumni body, too. For instance, the Hanover Institute, as well as one of the candidates that you endorse, sought to give the State of New Hampshire control over Dartmouth's charter. What is best is probably a multiplicity of different groups, under the final direction of an independent Board of Trustees, working together--which includes having healthy disagreements--for a better Dartmouth. The alumni have a monopoly on neither goodwill nor good sense.

As for evidence of Dartmouth's "essential" charater, you point to several characteristics, all of which are also shared by other institutions. Something cannot be essential if it is not unique. You write:

It's one of this country's preeminent undergraduate institutions; it has a thriving outdoor culture; it has great professors; and many other things.

You could have just described Middleburry, Reed, or even Princeton. Those characteristics, while wonderful, are hardly exclusive to Dartmouth.

You also point to the fact that Dartmouth exists as proof of its essential character. Certainly, Dartmouth exists. There is, however, no formal truth about that existence that can be accessed by any human intellect. To suggest that the pro-lawsuit candidates defend some "essential" Dartmouth, when you cannot even describe what that essential nature is, sounds more like faith and zealotry than it does reason. It is impossible for any one group to claim that it, and not others, is the true defender of the essential character of the College, a statement that is as incoherent as it is presumptuous.

The only thing that makes sense is to suggest that all of us hope to preserve what we like about Dartmouth, that some of us hope to implement what we think we might like, and that others seek to bring back what they once liked or think they would like to have again. Hence the disagreements. No one configuration will last forever, no one is best, and no one is worst; all depends upon the context of the situation.

When change is proposed, it is the responsibility of those who propose the change to demonstrate why the change is legitimate and necessary. I think that the Board has done that well. In any case, none can deny that the Charter of the College gives solely the Board the authority to determine its size and composition. The pro-lawsuit party argues that a contract exists where there is little or no evidence of a contract, a contract that would curtail, if it is even legal, the rights and duties clearly outlined by the Charter. Given the choice between a real and physical charter and an invisible, dubious "agreement," I choose the former. It is up to the pro-lawsuit party to demonstrate why I should not, and as I have already pointed out, their arguments have left much to be desired.

DartBored said...

Sorry, everyone. I'm still stuck on some basics. Is the anti-lawsuit argument either of the following:

1. We are going to win, so let's not waste time, money, and image.
2. We are going to lose, but we think the alumni should be less involved in governance no matter what may have been agreed to in the past, so let's stop now.

A.S. Erickson said...

@ Mr. Schlosser:

It is one thing to claim that bureaucratic bloat exists at Dartmouth, a statement with which most would agree, and another thing altogether to conclude from this that the only solution is alumni participation.

You're right, the only entity of putting a halt to the bloat is the Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, they have seemed supremely uninterested in this problem. This is a reason why the trustee elections are helpful. Following the election of T.J. Rodgers the College stepped back from its policy of free speech as long as it doesn't offend anyone, literally any one person. You may disagree about the importance of free speech on campuses, but if you don't then the alumni election process has produced good effects. As far as the attempt by state legislature to take control of the College charter, this paper in no way supported that move.

As for evidence of Dartmouth's "essential" charater, you point to several characteristics, all of which are also shared by other institutions.

You are right again—if you leave off the last item in my list. Dartmouth is a unique blending of many characteristics.


When change is proposed, it is the responsibility of those who propose the change to demonstrate why the change is legitimate and necessary. I think that the Board has done that well.

I disagree pretty strongly with that last sentence. I've heard strong and interesting arguments from many people about why the structure of the Board should be changed so radically—but none of those arguments where made by the Board and its members. The Board is not interested in a debate about the best way to govern a college; I would welcome such a debate. I'm a reasonably open and fair-minded person; if they produced convincing arguments, then I would be convinced. The problem is that they bi-passed all debate on the subject, an extremely contentious subject (all members of the AoA save David Spalding were against changing the proportions). I would have welcomed such a debate, but the Board wasn't looking for a debate of ideas. They were tired of losing election, and so they decided to do what any person or group of persons with their power would do: they changed the rules. I'm not disappointed with them for being averse to bad publicity. I'm disappointed with them for supplying reasons—other than the contentious elections, which seems rather flimsy to me. I welcome your thoughts, though this will probably be my last comment in this thread.

clifford said...

@ Dartbored: no.

clifford said...

@ A.S.: The structure of the board has not changed radically, except where it has adopted Zywicki's and Rodgers's proposals to form new committees.

It is the size of the board that has changed with the expansion from 18 to 26. This is four more seats than observers expected in 2003, when the board proposed to expand from 16 to 22.

A. J. Schlosser '07 said...

Mr. Erickson, there was never a speech code at Dartmouth. While there may have been an embarrassing influx of politically correct tendencies, there was no speech code. In the freest society, there are consequences for speech. The other side of the coin, after all, is the right to denounce speech that you abhor, even if you do so in a manner that will invite yet more criticism. (I am reminded of the Review's offensive Indian-scalping issue from not long ago, one of your lower points. The response was multifaceted, mostly reasonable, sometimes understandably hostile, and on rare occasions equally as offensive as the issue itself.)
You are right to suggest that combating whacky political correctness gone wild is low on my list of priorities. I leave that to the tabloids.

As far as the attempt by state legislature to take control of the College charter, this paper in no way supported that move.

Yet you endorse for the Association of Alumni Executive Committee one of the men who was instrumental in that effort, Alex Mooney. I'm not sure how you can explain that one.

Dartmouth is a unique blending of many characteristics.

I did not deny that Dartmouth was unique. I rejected your untenable claim to an understanding of the truth of its essence. Nuance. You cannot claim that alumni are solely capable as guardians the bright, white truth of Dartmouth's formal nature, because you haven't a clue as to what that nature is.

I'm not disappointed with them for being averse to bad publicity. I'm disappointed with them for supplying reasons—other than the contentious elections, which seems rather flimsy to me.

You're right to feel that the Board has argued its position poorly. I was writing quickly when I suggested otherwise. What I meant to suggest was that, even if the Board itself has been weak in terms of justifying its decision, its decision is nonetheless understandable and justifiable, as many people have already argued. If we're limiting things to what the particular groups have said themselves, then the pro-lawsuit party's position is even weaker: they offer little more than a few confused emotional appeals and a laundry list of unelaborated principles. Their tactic has ever been to pluck at the heart strings of alumni who are rightfully loyal not to some administration or another but to what they believe Dartmouth as an institution that transcends space and time to be; the rest of their partisans, perhaps a majority, perhaps a minority, are the frothing right-wing ideologues typified by some of the comments on this blog.

DartBored said...

@Clifford: Thanks. But why is everyone keeping this third reason secret? It might help me decide how to vote.

clifford said...

@ Dartbored: what reason does anyone need to be against a lawsuit? I generally don't like people suing the board of trustees of my college, especially when they hide behind other people's names to do it. What do you mean by "we" in your examples?

DartBored said...

@clifford: Thanks again. So, the other argument may simply be that it's not right to sue the board period.

But, even if one has absolutely no reason to be against the lawsuit and is, I respect his right to vote for the anti-lawsuit slate. My question was more of a practical one: how does one convince others who are undecided?

My guess is that most people who are anti-lawsuit agree with my argument #2. They will accept reduced involvement in governance to avoid giving more involvement to people they don't agree with.

The problem began when alumni involvement became more than ceremonial, I think.

And by "we", I mean people who are anti-lawsuit.

clifford said...

@ Dartbored, you might come up with better arguments if you did not start with a prediction of the outcome of the lawsuit, or with the assumption that one should choose sides based on the likely outcome.

My guess is that most people who are anti-lawsuit would say (a) let's not give these radical ideologues and more influence and (b) "let's not waste time, money, and image".

dartbored said...

@clifford: So you are saying anti-lawsuit people are using both of the arguments I listed above. That's fair. I've heard them both over and over.

I didn't intend to predict or assume outcomes. But it's hard to get involved in this without thinking it through to the end.

clifford said...

@ Dartbored:

Anti-suit groups such as Dartmouth Undying or the Board are not using the arguments you listed, and I did not say they were. I am sure you could find one person against the lawsuit who has said those things, however.

Instead of basing the validity or worth of the suit on predicted outcomes, let's base it on the intentions, methods, and agenda of its organizers. Malicious acts do not become acceptable simply by achieving their goals, however unexpectedly.

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