Some Dartmouth Alumni Happy With Less Influence

Another vital chance to opine on the Dartmouth trustee-packing scheme has arisen. The Dartmouth Association of Alumni is now holding elections for their Executive Committee. The contest revolves centrally around the Alumni Association’s ongoing suit against Dartmouth’s alteration of the college’s board. Two slates of candidates are competing: one, Dartmouth Undying, which vows to end to suit against Dartmouth, and another, Dartmouth Parity, that vows to continue it. You’re likely familiar with the issue; if not, a simple comparison of how each side presents the issue might be informative.

Here’s Dartmouth Parity on the question:

Since 1891 alumni have elected half the members of the Board of Trustees, and, in doing so, they have kept Dartmouth on an even keel – and ensured that the College has remained a college, rather than becoming a university. Now, after losses in four consecutive trustee elections and the constitution referendum, the Board of Trustees has announced a plan to marginalize alumni, doubling the number of unelected trustees. Under this radical plan, trustees elected by the alumni would be outnumbered on the Board by a margin of two to one.

Aside from a few potentially disputable adjectives (“radical”), it’s an objectively accurate depiction of what has happened – and why a lawsuit has been filed.

Here’s Dartmouth Undying’s encapsulation of their candidates’ sentiments about the suit:

They are of one mind about ending the divisive, expensive lawsuit that their opponents support. Not only is this lawsuit diverting money and resources from undergraduate education, it is creating instability and disunity, which will hamper Dartmouth’s ability to attract the best candidates in the upcoming search for its next President. It is also disturbing to students who deserve better from their alumni.


Their platform additionally states that “our college is being attacked”, its “reputation.. sullied” and its “support base undermined.” It pledges opposition to “egregious slanders and continuing misinformation”, “the destructive lawsuit”, and to “destructive forces” which are also “substantially supported by outside interests.” So basically, the lawsuit supporters are hell-bent on destroying Dartmouth for the fun of it.

Dartmouth Undying doesn’t confront the lawsuit’s argument (a frank argument for board-packing would be refreshing to see, especially as the college never made one) but prefers to deplore its supporters with vague aspersions. Then again, I suppose it would be difficult for an alumni slate to be frank about their plan to consent ungrudgingly to their own marginalization. They might not get any votes that way.
More excellent commentary from trustee Todd Zywicki on the issues of internal alumni board power here and here.

Anthony Paletta

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer.

One thought on “Some Dartmouth Alumni Happy With Less Influence”

  1. The lawsuit supporters have other reasons than fun, but they really are hell-bent on destroying (or at least damaging) Dartmouth. Why else would some of them back legislation meant to give the state a veto over amendments to the charter — legislation that even its supporters acknowledge would not reverse the controversial expansion or prevent it happening again? Why else would some of them join an organization whose sole purpose is to organize alumni to withhold donations?
    The Board did argue for its decision to amend its bylaws regarding the way the new trustees will be nominated, although it did not have to do so. No one, including Dartmouth Undying, needs to argue for the validity of the majority-vote decisions of this corporation or any other.
    It is strange that you quoted that particular paragraph from Dartmouth Parity, because it is riddled with misstatements and is highly inaccurate. For example, alumni have never elected any trustees, only nominated them; they certainly have not nominated half of the board, only 4/9 presently, an intentional, permanent minority; the alumni nor anyone else has kept Dartmouth a college, since is has been a university since the 18th century (if you require a professional school) or the 1890s (if you require Ph.Ds) or the 1960s (if you require Ph.Ds in significant numbers); the Board has not “lost” elections, since it has no horse in the race and actually elects all non-ex officio trustees by majority vote; alumni are already “marginalized” as noted above; there are no “unelected” trustees but the governor, who is ex officio; there are no “trustees elected by alumni,” only trustees nominated by alumni.
    You made a mistake calling Zywicki’s embarrassingly ignorant commentary “excellent.” For example, the thrust of his (intentionally humorous?) gloss on the Dartmouth College Case (comically termed “Dartmouth I”) is that the Supreme Court decided a mundane breach-of-contract case in 1819. He attempts this gloss because the present lawsuit is based on a contract theory, of course — and Zywicki gives not the slightest hint that he is aware of the actual significance of the case, which is in Constitutional law. It is an interpretation of part of Article I.
    You should read the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff’s trial lawyers and determine for yourself what is “radical” and far-fetched.

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