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The Soma and the Damage Done

Andrew Seal, editor of Dartmouth’s progressive Free Press publication, updates himself on the Dartmouth governance debate and gives this take on the “leadership arc” envisaged in the constitutional proposal which will go out to all alumni for a vote on September 15:

The presidential power arc (going from vice president to president-elect to president to past president) really bothers me because it is, quite simply, the most blatant sign that there is a massive distrust among the drafters of this constitution of the dynamics of personal choice. This complete lack of faith in the alumni body of Dartmouth College is what this structure, or any structure so ordered, reveals. The presidential power arc takes the elected candidate and just, well, sort of holds him/her for consideration for awhile, until s/he is either changed or at least influenced by those further up on the presidential ladder, or until his/her campaign platform has become less relevant or less important. It’s a cooling method, and while insulation from the passions of an inflamed public can be a great thing in government, the iciness of this particular measure is, I think, a little out of proportion to the danger of the situation.
In this post, I described the “leadership arc” in similar terms:
The areas of concern are plenty, but the tenor is this: Every seat of power has been essentially pre-ordained. There is token democracy, but wherever alumni are permitted to elect someone, they are merely deciding who will occupy the perpetually in-the-minority sect of a given committee. Wherever there are executives and leaders, these seats have been filled not through any €œstarter € election but by taking the in-crowd currently in power and transposing them into the new governance system, with the added benefit of putting them on a power €œarc € that will ensure that any mandate for change is made opaque and wobbly by the time that elected person reaches office. It is a sort of political soma pill, something quite new and quite dangerous. […]

[If the constitution is ratified, a]lumni will not see an elected president until 2009. This is a result of the constitution ‘s €œpresidential arc € system, which aspires to subdue any possible shake-up in the power structure once all alumni are enfranchised. The current crop of insiders is actually preserved under this system. Because the president, who will be initially appointed, holds power both before he actually becomes president and after he leaves the office, a single election sets off an extended tour of duty during which a president is responsible to no one —no provisions for recall are in this constitution.

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