Anyone looking for a prime example of official huckster-speak should take another look at Dartmouth’s press release concerning the board restructuring. It makes the college’s reduction of alumni voting rights sound like, well, a warm bath.
First there’s a lot of mush about Darmouth’s unusually small board, which Dartmouth’s governance committee found was putting “the College at a competitive disadvantage versus its peers.” Well, perhaps. Then it explains the remedy:
By adding eight charter trustees nominated by the Board, Dartmouth will still have a smaller Board than many of its peers, but the Board will have more flexibility to add trustees who offer the specific talents and experiences that the College needs, which elections don’t ensure.[italics mine]
You can read “talents and experience that the College needs” as meaning “not those of Peter Robinson, T.J. Rodgers, Todd Zywicki, or Stephen Smith.” In that sense, yes, elections would ensure very little for an administration at odds with its alumni. Yet Dartmouth goes on to assure that it’s not eliminating democratic processes; it’s merely reducing them – strategically and tastefully, of course. It all sounds rather gentlemanly – although elections “ensure” nothing, they’ll keep holding some anyway. Let’s read on:
Retaining Alumni Trustee Elections and Reaffirming the Important Role of Alumni Nomination of Trustees in the Governance Process
The Board determined that it would retain the significant number of alumni-nominated trustees on the Board as well as the contested ballot election process that the College has used to select them. Dartmouth has the highest proportion of alumni-nominated trustees of any peer institution, and is one of the few schools that selects alumni trustees via contested ballot elections. The Board believes that having alumni-nominated trustees and elections gives Dartmouth’s alumni an important direct voice in the College’s governance and fosters greater alumni involvement in the College. Under the changes adopted by the Board, Dartmouth will continue to have one of the most democratic trustee election processes of any college in the country. [italics mine]
True, and if I was to replace a third of Congress with my own appointees, we could still call American governance pretty democratic – compared to the Arab League.
Happily, the New York Sun today reports that alumni are less than pleased with the colleges’ blandishments.
One alumni quoted in the story noted “It’s like abolishing the House of Commons and making it all the House of Lords.”
Leaders of the Dartmouth Alumni Association are mulling a suit. All luck to them.