Zywicki Out At Dartmouth

This morning Todd Zywicki briefly noted at the Volokh Conspiracy, that he had been denied a second term on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. It’s difficult not to conclude that Dartmouth is pruning board dissenters. Zywicki’s personal statement about the decision on his website provides a history of the source of his removal:

..From 1891 to 1990, Dartmouth’s alumni held the right to reelect their Trustees based on their performance during their first term. A fair process. But in 1990 a small group of alumni insiders transferred that power from the alumni to the Board itself. The date is not a coincidence: the tenure of Dr. John Steel ’54, the first petition trustee elected to the Board, expired that year. The new regime—that the Board sits in judgment of itself—was adopted precisely so that any future petition Trustees could be removed after one term.
Since then, the prospect of removal at the end of their elected term is held over Trustees’ heads from their first day on the Board. Even those elected by the alumni specifically to provide an independent voice are aware that they must toe the party line or risk expulsion at the end of their first term.

Zywicki pointedly did not toe that party line during his term. He mentions “harsh language and judgments” that he offered during a speech two years ago at the John William Pope Center (and apologized for) yet there’s little doubt that his open and oppositional status was far greater a problem to the university, and to his chances for re-selection. He was elected as an insurgent petition candidate, arguing for a focus on undergraduate education at odds with the research and expansion plans of the administration and prior trustees (read more from 2007). He opposed the administration’s (eventually successful) plan to reduce, proportionally, the number of elected members (by means of doubling the number of appointed trustees).
He supported a lawsuit filed by the Dartmouth Association of Alumni that alleged that the college had abrogated its contractual arrangement with alumni by altering the composition of the Board of Trustees. When a slate of candidates was run against the Association leadership that pledged to end the lawsuit, he argued directly against them (here and here). Zywicki was an inconvenient trustee; it’s little wonder that the Board refused to reelect him, and why they would provide no explanation. The years 2004-2007 saw four successful petition candidates with ideas at odds with those of the college administration elected to the Dartmouth Board. Not content with packing that body with extra members, the college seems now intent on quashing any remainders of these years of dissent.

Anthony Paletta

Anthony Paletta is a freelance writer.

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