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Chairman of Dartmouth Task Force Accuses Constitution Dissenters of Trying to “take over the board of trustees”

In an open letter to the editor of the New York Times railing against that paper’s coverage of the controversial constitutional proposal at Dartmouth College, the chief of the Alumni Governance Task Force which produced the document, Joe Stevenson, attacks those who have raised concerns with the overhaul. By name, he accuses trustees T.J. Rodgers, Todd Zywicki, and Peter Robinson of, in their opposition to the constitutional proposal, trying to “take over the board of trustees”, and implies that they did not offer input during the drafting process.

In keeping with the anti-democratic spirit of the constitutional proposal—as documented with chapter-and-verse citation here, here, here, and here—Stevenson posits that the only reason to oppose the proposal is membership in an unnamed conspiracy to “politicize and divide” alumni, an accusation which begs the question of whether the majority of voting Dartmouth alumni who elected T.J. Rodgers are also guilty of ‘dividing’ alumni, by voting differently from the minority who supported the formally-nominated candidates?”

The comment, in the event, seems to fall on numb ears. It comes from the chairman of a committee whose very first draft, thick with words that made the safety-valve petitioning process an impassable route to the Board of Trustees, came out only in September of 2005. That was several months after Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki were elected to the Board, and more than a year after T.J. Rodgers was elected, all after having placed themselves on the ballot by petition.

The letter also distorts the truth in implying that Rodgers, Robinson, and Zywicki were fruitlessly “pressed for their input” on the constitution. In fact, The Dartmouth reported in late October 2005 that T.J. Rodgers wrote a letter to the constitutional drafting committee on behalf of the petition trustees recommending changes which might cause the constitution to earn their support. This letter was leaked by a member of the committee—presumably because that person thought the world would be shocked that three trustees were taking private issue with a sudden attempt to cut down the process by which they earned their seats. Instead, the article revealed the willingness of the trustees to provide constructive criticism.

They have done so, the constitution remains a threat to open governance, and they now are opposing it publicly.

UPDATE: In response to a few e-mails, I should add that no one has actually confessed to leaking the letter from T.J. Rodgers to the AGTF. However, as I just wrote in response to one such e-mail, “it is rational to conclude that, of the two parties to the letter, the larger one whose interests would be served by the leak is more likely to have leaked than the smaller one—the sender himself—whose interest would not be served by the leak.” That, and people tend not to leak their own letters in ominous unmarked envelopes. They CC them.

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