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Comments on the Sunday Vote

The creaky old Inbox weighs rather decisively against the amendment up for vote on Sunday, though the majority of folks say they’ll be merely sending their regrets. Sunday afternoons in New Hampshire are hard to come by.

However, I thought I’d spotlight two correspondents who plan on voting for the amendment. Chris Hjermstad e-mails:

It seems to me that the single amendment on Sunday should be approved. What it does is set up all future amendments for all media voting. I don’t think the four [other amendments denied a hearing and mentioned in the Rodgers-Robinson-Zywicki opposite-editoral] should be voted upon at a strictly in-person meeting any more than any other matter. Am I missing something? If people think that dropping the approval level to 2/3 is disingenuous, I think they are paranoid. I think the 3/4 bar is too high and 2/3 is just fine. We should not piece meal this thing.
The other amendments were proposed by petition and were denied the chance to be considered at this Sunday meeting. They would have: 1) Adopted Robert’s Rules of Order to guide future meetings 2) Enabled all-media voting for constitutional amendments 3) Stated outright that members need not be present in Hanover to vote on any alumni business and 4) Enabled all-media voting for the elected officers of the Alumni Assembly. Read them again; it will not take long, for their simplicity. They amount to: All alumni can vote, always. How facile, and in that ease how elegant. Compare to this.

Responsible representation, we’ve learned, is possible only when everyone has a chance to be heard and to vote. Recognizing the inevitability of the “all-media” supporters and (the erstwhile petition candidates for the Executive Committee of the Alumni Assembly), the duly elected committee crafted an “all-media” amendment, billed it boldly as such, and gave it two poison pills. First, the Executive Committee itself would not be subject to the broad will of Dartmouth’s roaming alumni—only amendments, and second, the approval threshold will, with precisely the same reasoning that causes glowing green swine to swim the breast stroke through Winter skies, be lowered from 3/4 to 2/3.

Some have opined that the lowered threshold thrashes equally upon both sides’ shores. That is not so. The first, next, and possibly only amendment to be considered under this Sunday’s rule change will be the Alumni Governance Task Force’s draft constitution. That constitution is a seperate and far-from-resolved matter. It is spotted with tweaks and tucks that will, in every instance, make success more difficult for petition trustee candidates and other outsiders. It is a stacking of the deck Caesar’s Palace would be proud of. This amendment up for your consideration on Sunday addresses itself to that very document. A document which, it must be tirelessly repeated, itself demands an all-media ratifying vote, making this amendment procedurally useless. It does not affect both insiders and outsiders equally: it is targeted, and its single net effect is to make a new constitution easier to pass.

Yet should that constitution fail and should the petition status quo remain, this amendment has the “establishment” covered: They supported, you see, all-media voting, but not for their own offices. With such a track record already writ, alumni cannot in sobriety trust the very same people to later on introduce the promised “all all-media amendment.” Indeed these democratic reforms should not be adopted piece meal. They can be had all at once. This is not an auspicious beginning, because proposed is only one small element of all-media voting attached at the hip to the highly contentious proposal of lowering approval thresholds.

Meanwhile, Anton Anderson of the Alumni Governance Task Force e-mails:

I find it quite distressing that these three [trustees of aforelinked comment] are doing exactly the sort of crude power plays that they’re accusing of others. Anyone in the Dartmouth community who hasn’t been living under a rock knows exactly who these guys are; I laughed out loud when I read their ever-so-humble assertion that they were merely “ordinary alumni who have had the occasion to watch recent events in Hanover closely”… In my opinion, this is akin to a Supreme Court Justice weighing in with his/her opinion (asserting their First Amendment rights, like an “ordinary” citizen) on a political candidate. While I suppose it’s their right to do it, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
It is important to make a distinction between the passive act of writing down a series of thoughts, and the active process of gerrymandering. The latter is a power play indeed, and in all instances an immoral one. The former, especially when such a writing not only explicitly refuses to commend a particular vote but also carries a clearly-worded divorce between its words and their writers’ offices, is something that, as Anton notes, is a universal right. In fact, where the trustees saw disingenuity and misleading hucksterism in these efforts to bring wider democracy, where they saw partisan strings attached to the very reform efforts on which they based their campaigns, they are fulfilling nothing more than their charge in making such activity public.

In this space I have pointed out a good half dozen instances in which descriptions of this amendment and its special meeting were inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading. The very last article from The Dartmouth on the subject ends with a rhetorical exclamation point that is, in fact, simply wrong: It claims that only through the adoption of this amendment will the matter of ratifying the AGTF’s draft constitution be brought to all alumni. How can uninvolved (yet informed) alumni be refused their chance to speak in the face of such false advertising?

[Edit: Joe Asch also notes this story in Dartmouth Life, where task force member Kelley Fead writes that “The trustees also have taken an interest in the task force’s work, and several have met with the committee members individually and in group,” indicating that in offering an opinion the trustees are not unjustly ‘meddling’ in constitutional business.]

I agree wholeheartedly with Chris Hjermstad when he says that the four other amendments ought to be put to an all-media vote. But we musn’t forget what those four amendments amount to: All alumni can vote, always. An entirely forthright Executive Committee would have drafted an amendment from those simple, clear, ringing words. Instead, what is on the table is a pair of poison pills offered for the consideration of those Carnival revelers present at the Sunday meeting. It remains to be seen if the Executive Committee on Sunday either takes it upon itself or is prevailed upon to scrap its amendment in favor of a simpler and truer all-media amendment.


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