Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yes: We Want to Preserve Democracy at Dartmouth

TDR Editor-in-Chief Emily Esfahani-Smith recently blitzed out to the class of 2008 in response to the earlier blitz from Bonnie Lam '10 obtained by The Dartmouth Review.

>Date: 22 Apr 2008 21:18:16 -0400
>From: G. Emily Ghods-Esfahani
>Subject: Your voice: Democracy at Dartmouth
>To: (Recipient list suppressed)

The class of 2008 may be the first class in 117 years to be disenfranchised by the College, as this compelling letter points out.

If the right to vote for your College's trustees, and the right to voice and hold an opinion--two fundamental tenants of democracy--matter to you, please read and circulate this very important letter.

If you would like more information or would like to be listed as a signatory on the letter, don't hesitate to contact me.



UPDATE: The letter below was written by Diane Ellis and Joseph G. Braunreuther III.

The attached letter can be read below the fold:

Dear alumni,

We are current Dartmouth students from diverse corners of campus. Some of us are record-holding athletes; others presidents of Greek houses; still others of us are academic leaders. We have written and circulated this short letter in the hope of expressing our view that debate, dissent, and discussion at Dartmouth is good, and that the recent attempt, called "the Board-packing plan," to reduce the importance of democracy at Dartmouth is wrong.

We want to offer a simple quote. "Such a notion offends the obligation of good faith and fair dealing implicit in any contract." This is a precise quote from a New Hampshire Superior Court in an order handed down this past February. (Page 13, Paragraph 2.) The Judge was reacting to one of the trustees' arguments in favor of the Board-packing plan, which would permit Dartmouth's Board to pack itself with appointees, diluting the influence of fairly elected trustees.

Now that the Board is being forced to rationalize its plan to a judge, it is finding that it simply cannot.

As the current generation of Dartmouth students, we are disappointed that our administration and trustees would embark upon any course of action that "offends the obligation of good faith and fair dealing," let alone one which substantially involves disenfranchising us.

So while our views on the issues facing Dartmouth differ widely, we all agree that the Board-packing plan is wrong. We advocate its reversal. Because changing the rules is never a fair way to win the game. Because depriving the Classes of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 of the right to vote for half of Dartmouth's trustees is not just insulting to us: it is insulting to the tens of thousands of alumni who give generously to the College every year in the expectation that their voices, not just their dollars, count for something.

Most of all, the idea of packing Dartmouth's Board with appointees violates the principles Dartmouth has taught us. Among them is democratic rule. If the trustees' plan goes forward, oversight of our College will be transferred—transferred from the whole body of 69,000 alumni, who know and love our College, to a "Governance Committee" made up of five self-appointed people. That may be how the Harvard Corporation runs things. But it is not right for the Dartmouth Community.

We therefore respectfully ask that, since we cannot yet vote, you consider our plea: please do not allow the Class of 2008 to be the first in 117 years deprived of the power to elect half of Dartmouth's trustees. Please oppose the Board-packing plan. With open and civil debate inspired by open and fair elections, the Dartmouth Community can come together to work toward an even better College.


Anonymous said...

Amen. Well said.

Anonymous said...

Late Nite Letterman says:

Will there be two tables on the Green, where students can sign one letter or the other?

Wanna bet that in the absence of the second letter, the first one would have been central to a PR campaign portraying thoughtful students as overwhelmingly against the alumni lawsuit. Recall that a recent alumni magazine asked ten "representative" students to comment on this, and the editors could not one in favor of the alumni suit. Now with a second letter, watch the predictable disparagement of this opposing voice as coming from students ignorant and mislead.

John said...

as coming from students ignorant and mislead

Well, the word IS "tenets" (not "tenants") :-)

dartbroad said...

The letter is typical undergrad pap -- not compelling at all. The "precise quotation" is obiter dictum and reflects the judge's thought that if the alumni lacked the capacity to form a contract in 189, letingt the Board point that out as a way of preventing the alumni claim from going forward would not be fair. The judge did not say the Board or its arguments offended fair dealing.

We shouldn't expect undergrads to understand this, though, because the alumni association (or, more precisely, the Hanover Institute hacks who have taken over the alumni association) also do not understand it.

This letter proves that the lawsuit and the controversy are far too complex for the understandings of those without college degrees. No one will be "disenfranchised" (Ghods), there are no "appointees," there are no "fairly elected trustees" by alumni, the Board is not finding it difficult to rationalize its plan, there is no "democratic rule" in a private educational corporation, there is no "self-appointed" committee, there is no "right to vote" for half the Trustees, etc. etc. If these people did not get the benefit of the doubt as ignorant undergrads I'd suspect they were liars or paid shills.

Anonymous said...

I hear that Hanover residents aren't allowed to vote in Trustee elections either, even though what the Trustees do probably has more effect on them than on the alumni. Is someone investigating this?

Also, what's this about the College taking away people's right to "hold an opinion"? If they're lobotomizing '08s in the basement of Parkhurst, then you should probably get law enforcement involved. That sort of thing is a bit too much to be handled by bloggers and voting.

tenets said...

What you have heard is absolutely true. The Board of Trustees, the Wright Administration, and the Association of Alumni have conspired to disenfranchise Hanover residents -- good taxpaying Americans -- by prohibiting them from voting in Trustee elections unless they are alumni.

In response, the Hanover Rotary Club are now preventing all Dartmouth alumni, no matter where they live in the world, from voting in officer elections unless they also happen to be members of the Club. So much for Democracy.

dartbored said...

Bonnie Lam will surely be president of the Alumni Council someday. Emily Esfahani-Smith won't be.

It looks like the College is setting itself up for another loss to its alumni.

tenets said...

Dartbored, what's the College got to do with a myth-ridden letter sent by conservative students? When was the first loss to alumni, in 1891? Pls. explain.

Anonymous said...

Late Nite Letterman says...

"predictable disparagement"

So predictable.

Anonymous said...

DartbOARd says:

Why does DartbROAd raise criticism of one student (Ghods) writing in the Review in order to criticise a different letter written by a different student.

DartBored might have me as an evil twin, but the label DartBroad is an affront to womyn.

@ Dartbored said...

Why would people elect Bonnie Lam to the Alumni Council when they won't elect her to anything now? Will her opportunism look better in a few years?

DartBored said...

Who said anything about elect?