Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Anti-Lawsuit Alum Accuses Conservatives of Misrepresenting the Issue

Drawing parallels to the issues of abortion (pro-life) and civil rights (special rights), Roger Klorese '77, in an op-ed piece in the Daily Dartmouth, accuses those opposed to the board-packing plan of changing the language involved to establish a bias. I love how the op-ed begins with:
As with other conservative movements, the take-over faction who has brought suit against the College is attempting to define its issues by changing the language. Their right-wing kin have biased the language in the discussion of abortion (who, after all, is “anti-life”?) and equal rights (because it is easy to get people to oppose “special rights” even if those rights are no more special when applied to those who seek them than to those who would deny them).
Of course, it's completely okay when the opposing side does the same thing (i.e. politicizing the issues as pro-choice and equal rights; who opposes choice and equality?) because they're the good guys and their "good" ends justify the means.

More after the jump.


Either way, Klorese claims that parity and democracy don't apply to the issue at hand. He says that an issue of democracy requires "a constituency forming a government from its own membership," and being an alumnus does not make you a member of anything. He continues later by saying that a board should be most well equipped to "drive forward the goals of the managing administration." What Mr. Klorese fails to realize, despite having served on the boards of SEVERAL non-profits, is that the board in question is a Board of Trustees which does indicate a membership. Those who invested in the college's interests (the alumni who at least paid 4 years of tuition) are the ones who form the constituency. What those non-profits failed to teach Klorese is that corporations often form their Board of Trustees by holding a vote of the shareholders or those invested in the future of the organization. Granted, the alumni don't actually own portions of the college, so the trustees don't necessarily have to represent them. Still, many believe the accountability to the alumni make this college great.

On parity, Klorese says that there must be two differing interests involved for there to be an issue, and the Board of Trustees is one interest. Unfortunately, Mssrs. Merriam and Webster disagree with Klorese's definition; they say that parity is "the quality or state of being equal or equivalent." I'm pretty sure that were the board's change in governance to pass, there would be an inequality of some sort that would disrupt the current parity between alumni elected and board appointed trustees.

All in all, even if the conservatives are changing the language to bias the issue, at least they're not making up new definitions for words to try and make a terribly articulated point. As Mr. Klorese would say, It's laughable that he's tossing around definitions without looking the words up first.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What Mr. Klorese fails to realize, despite having served on the boards of SEVERAL non-profits, is that the board in question is a Board of Trustees which does indicate a membership. Those who invested in the college's interests (the alumni who at least paid 4 years of tuition) are the ones who form the constituency. What those non-profits failed to teach Klorese is that corporations often form their Board of Trustees by holding a vote of the shareholders or those invested in the future of the organization. Granted, the alumni don't actually own portions of the college, so the trustees don't necessarily have to represent them. Still, many believe the accountability to the alumni make this college great.

In the last sentence of this excerpt, you basically concede Mr. Klorese's point. He's not the first to note that "democracy" isn't an accurate label for what the dispute is about, but he's one of the least articulate to do so.

It's about whether the alumni as a whole should continue to have a significant voice on the Board of Trustees. Their claims of entitlement to that have nothing to do with democracy.

As for "parity," his argument is simply laughable and I offer no defense of it. He says this:

For there to be an issue of parity, there must be two interests represented. Unless you count the regressive political and anti-educational agenda of the take-over clique, there are not two interests. There is only the interest of the College.

For "parity," one needs only two numbers. Appointed trustees and elected trustees are two such numbers. If those two numbers are equal, then there is "parity." If they're not, there isn't "parity." It's to the credit of the "parity" folks that they chose that word instead of "equality," which technically means the same thing but can be a lot more of a loaded term.

It's also that Klorese decided to make the argument about conservative movements. As this post rightly points out, lots of people with causes, regardless of their politics, try to describe their cause in terms that few people could disagree with. The American Association of Trial Lawyers recently changed its name to the American Association for Justice. "Dartmouth Undying"--what does that mean? They must be opposed to people who want to kill Dartmouth.

The "Board Packers" have explained the expansion of the Board of Trustees in terms of "diversity," "additional perspectives and skills," etc., and have argued that an expansion in the absolute number of Trustees is a good thing, while dodging the question of why the didn't keep the proportion of elected and appointed Trustees when they did the expansion.

There's marketing and trickery on both sides of this. Klorese points out one aspect of it, but the op-ed is pretty weak overall and seems to be driven by a visceral dislike of conservatives rather than a concern for honesty in framing the terms of the debate.

Anonymous said...

Accidentally omitted a word from the above comment, if anyone's actually reading it.

It's also unfortunate that Klorese decided to make the argument about conservative movements.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you're qualified to comment on the "honesty" of the framing of the debate if you call the two groups"appointed trustees" and "elected trustees"... Because, except for the two trustees ex officio, they are all elected trustees. For less than half of Dartmouth's history, the elected trustees have been nominated by one of two methods. One is by alumni, and those nominees have always been a minority of the board, which is what the alumni asked for when they entered the 1891 Agreement.

Those in favor of the expansion are not dodging the question of why the proportion was changed. The Board said allowing alumni to nominate a trustee prevents it from electing the particular individual it believes it needs at any given moment. Every nomination given to alumni is one nomination the Board does not get to make. This is simple and obvious.

There is marketing on both sides, but only the pro-law suit side is overwhelmingly characterized by "trickery".

Anonymous said...

except for the two trustees ex officio, they are all elected trustees

Please explain.

Anonymous said...

@4:28:

The board is made of 18 people. Two are made members automatically by virtue of their offices ("ex officio"). One of those, the governor, is ex officio according to the charter. The other, the president, is ex officio by tradition. That leaves 16 people ("the elected trustees") who are all elected by majority vote of the board in accordance with the charter. Alumnus status is preferred for the elected trustees, and all current elected trustees are alumni.

Every elected trustee must be nominated before he can be elected by the board, and any nominee from any source who goes before the board for election but gets less than a majority vote will not be elected. Those nominated by a particular committee of the board (it is not the whole board) are called "charter trustees." Those nominated by alumni (all alumni are now eligible to cast a ballot on the nominee, but the 1891 agreement originally excluded some) are called "alumni trustees."

The charter says:

And also that the said trustees and their successors, or the major part of any seven or more of them, which shall convene for that purpose, as is above directed, as often as one or more of said trustees shall die, or by removal or otherwise shall, according to their judgment, become unfit or incapable to serve the interests of said college, do, as soon as may be after the death, removal or such unfitness or incapacity of such trustee or trustees, elect and appoint such trustee or trustees as shall supply the place of him or them so dying, or becoming incapable to serve the interests of said college; and every trustee so elected and appointed shall, by virtue of these presents, and such election and appointment, be vested with all the powers and privileges which any of the other trustees of said college are hereby vested with.

The words "seven" and "twelve" have been changed to "ten" and "eighteen."

Anonymous said...

Those trustees nominated by alumni and later elected by the Board are FIRST so chosen in a different OPEN ELECTION in which all alumni vote, not just trustees! These are the ones people often mean when they speak of "elected" trustees. The Board calls these individuals "alumni trustees". What is meant in both cases is "trustees, regardless of whether they are alumni, who are selected by all alumni rather than chosen by the 5-person governance committee of the Board."

4:28 said...

Thanks. I didn't think "appointed" was such a deceptive shorthand for being chosen by a committee of the board as opposed to chosen by the alumni, but I wasn't aware of those details.

Anonymous said...

It's not, unless your first name is Scott.

Anonymous said...

Meachem, impeach'im. What an idiot.

Anonymous 11:17 said...

@4: 28, there is nothing wrong with calling them "appointed" if you call all of them appointed, is there? The Board refers to all of them as "elected trustees," however. Alumni Trustees and Charter Trustees are nominated differently, but that should not be news to anyone.

Controlling Giants said...

May be, but can you argue with his logic? Somewhere in all that charter gobbledygook it does look like the Trustees have to vote on replacements for members who die or go crazy.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice that the Association has backed down from its demand for a jury trial?

Even though the Association's first claim -- breach of contract -- is a claim in law, it describes its causes of action in the structuring conference as nothing more than "Equity claims" and declines to ask for a jury.

Is the Association giving up on the 1891 Agreement without a fight?