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The Official Line, Cut

A member of the Dartmouth Alumni Governance Task Force, in response to this post, writes the following in an e-mail to me:

I just read your post about the council’s constitutional amendment and am dismayed by the animosity. The amendment to the council’s constitution allowing its members to vote via the internet should the association version of the new constitution differ from what it just approved is generally a good thing for the association and all alumni.

Why? Very simply because the association is not bound to voting on exactly what the council has just approved.

All of the facts in my initial post remain true, but I thought I’d respond to this small piece of spin, because defusing it will do a great deal to reveal how some folks in favor of the constitution have contorted procedural propriety in order to achieve ratification of their document in spite of what is clearly widespread dissent. The old ‘O, what a tangled web’ advice applies not only to lies, but to the sort of underhanded politicking that has got an unfair constitutional overhaul this far.

So how does the e-mailer’s rationale hold up? Not well. For one, at the Alumni Council’s meeting on Friday, the possibility for substantive changes to the constitution—the one currently dubbed ‘final’—was allowed. Then, the next morning at the public meeting, the line became “technical changes only” and the example given was that a comma could be out of place, and why wait a half-year for the Council to meet again to approve a corrected version? Unfortunately, that rationale doesn’t hold water. For one thing, the constitution has already been through several revisions. In fact it has ostensibly existed in some form for years. Months ago we saw something called the “penultimate draft” and—can you imagine what came next? The ultimate draft, of course. I suppose we are being told that it depends on what the meaning of ‘ultimate’ is. But view the thing in all of its professionally-typeset glory. It was always intended as the ultimate draft.

Mind also, that at the very same Saturday meeting, it was admitted that such minor errors as an out-of-place comma would actually trouble no one being fixed immediately and without a re-vote.

But there is an elephant in the room. It is the amazing fact that this eleventh hour bargaining amendment would be entirely unnecessary had the folks in charge not abused their power and, in a special vote on February 12, 2006, cancelled the public Association debate on the constitution and lowered the voting threshold for passage. Save for Executive Committee or AGTF fiat, that means that what the Council approves is what goes out to alumni. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and Dartmouth alumni have been disenfranchised again.

The AGTF member quoted above refers to “the Association version” of the constitution. Please know that no such thing exists, and perhaps never will; all of these dishonest, abusive efforts thus far have been toward ensuring that the Alumni Council, which approved the final draft unanimously on Saturday, has as much power as possible. Since there shall be no public debate, the version the Council approved will be the one alumni see on their ballot—along with, pursuant to another illiberal rules change, a short op-ed in support of the constitution, to the exclusion of any dissenting voices. If there is debate on the substance of the constitution now, it will happen only in the upper echelon. And then alumni will be told what’s changed in the new version.

The standard line on this eleventh hour bargaining amendment holds no water. I imagine the real reason it was passed is so that desperate bargaining can continue with opposers of the constitution, but this is only speculation. What I do know is that fair-minded people should not deign to sit down at a bargaining table set on such contorted, and abused ground.

€œFix out-of-place commas? € Oh, Karl Rove would be proud.

UPDATE (5/24/06) - News of the amendment is now online here and, although the text of the amendment itself is not given, the word ‘technical’ appears no where in the announcement. Were the amendment for technical changes only, posting the text of the amendment would go a long way toward dispelling concerns such as mine.

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