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Syndication Deals: Now for Class Newsletters, Too

I hope that, when we 1,095 of the Dartmouth Class of 2008 leave Hanover, and when our mailboxes are graced with our little class newsletters with little news items about the big things we all are doing, I hope that those news items are not pre-written by the public relations professionals in the Dartmouth Office of Alumni Relations. Don’t you? After the below e-mail landed in my Inbox, I see there is reason to be less than hopeful.

It was a message sent yesterday at 10:26 in the morning by Michelle Sweetser ‘99, via a College e-mail list, to the newsletter editors of every class. In it, Michelle reminds editors that the vote on the proposed new constitution is upcoming, and asks if they wouldn’t mind— Well, have a look:

>Communications with your classmates about the constitutional vote should >not require a major outlay of time. The Alumni Relations Office is >creating a number of articles about the constitution and upcoming vote - >including pieces about the constitution itself and the balloting process - >which will be available for use in your communications with >classmates. These pieces will be informational in nature and will not >endorse or condemn the constitution (although you and your executive >committee may choose to present a position in the newsletter or in other >communications with the class). Enclosed with this email are two of those documents; the executive summary of the constitution and a side-by-side comparison of the current constitution and the proposed constitution. Please feel free to use either or both in your upcoming newsletters. (It isn’t necessary to retype the documents for inclusion in your newsletter. I believe that in both InDesign and Pagemaker - I’m less certain about Pagemaker, as I haven’t used it in quite a while - you can bring in PDF documents as they are and place them on pages within the newsletter document. Less rekeystroking, in my opinion, is a wonderful thing.)
Those two documents? The ones created by the Alumni Relations Office, and which class newsletter writers should “feel free” to use? They were attached to the e-mail, and are this and this. One was written by the Alumni Governance Task Force (in conjunction, we have learned, with the Office of Alumni Relations) and outwardly advocates support of the much-criticized proposal. It does so in a painfully superficial way, without explaining the specifics of the AGTF’s proposed changes. The other purports to be a side-by-side comparison between the status quo and the envisioned new system, but as one might expect it misses some good things about the current system and forgets some bad things about the proposed system.

I don’t suppose anyone would challenge these documents’ right to exist. But it is plain to see that they are not neutral; that they are miles gone from regular old ‘Get Out The Vote’ material. It is plain to see that Michelle was mislead by whoever told her that the “the Alumni Relations Office is creating a number of articles” which will be merely “informational in nature.”

The folks who wrote this constitution are politicking to get it passed. Of course they are—no one expected differently from a committee which ardently believes it is right. But to offer, on the sly, pre-written pieces for insertion into class newsletters, and to do so under the guise of convenience for the editors, to spare them the “rekeystroking”? For those pieces to come from both 1) Dartmouth College’s Office of Alumni Relations, and 2) The Alumni Governance Task Force itself, two organizations which claim to be operatively divorced? That doesn’t seem right.

The complete message is just below.

>X-MailScanner: Found to be clean by mailhub2.Dartmouth.EDU
>X-MailScanner-From: suzanne.w.young@dartmouth.edu
>Approved-By: “Suzanne W. Young” Suzanne.W.Young@DARTMOUTH.EDU
>Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 10:26:44 EDT
>Reply-To: “Suzanne W. Young” Suzanne.W.Young@Dartmouth.EDU
>Sender: Class Newsletter Editors NEWSEDS@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU
>From: “Suzanne W. Young” Suzanne.W.Young@Dartmouth.EDU
>Subject: Letter from Michelle Sweetser ‘99
>To: NEWSEDS@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU
>List-Help: mailto:LISTSERV@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU?body=INFO NEWSEDS
>List-Unsubscribe: mailto:NEWSEDS-unsubscribe-request@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU
>List-Subscribe: mailto:NEWSEDS-subscribe-request@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU
>List-Owner: mailto:NEWSEDS-request@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU
>
>Dear Newsletter Editor -
>
>As you may know, Dartmouth alumni will vote this fall on a revised
>constitution for the Dartmouth Alumni Association, which includes a number
>of changes in the structure and governance of the alumni body. The
>constitution put forth for vote by all alumni is the result of years of
>work by dedicated alumni volunteers and the results of the vote will have
>major implications for how alumni conduct business for years to
>come. During the period of September 15 to October 31, all alumni will
>have the opportunity to cast a ballot for or against this proposal.
>
>I believe that it is important that our peers know about the constitution
>and the role that they have in setting the course for the future of alumni
>involvement with the College. As the class newsletter is the most-read
>piece of communication among alumni, you have a unique opportunity to help
>educate our alumni body and encourage participation in the balloting. I
>encourage you to dedicate space in the late summer or early fall issues of
>your newsletter to some informational pieces about the upcoming vote.
>
>Communications with your classmates about the constitutional vote should
>not require a major outlay of time. The Alumni Relations Office is
>creating a number of articles about the constitution and upcoming vote -
>including pieces about the constitution itself and the balloting process -
>which will be available for use in your communications with
>classmates. These pieces will be informational in nature and will not
>endorse or condemn the constitution (although you and your executive
>committee may choose to present a position in the newsletter or in other
>communications with the class). Enclosed with this email are two of those
documents; the executive summary of the constitution and a side-by-side
comparison of the current constitution and the proposed
constitution. Please feel free to use either or both in your upcoming
newsletters. (It isn’t necessary to retype the documents for inclusion in
your newsletter. I believe that in both InDesign and Pagemaker - I’m less
certain about Pagemaker, as I haven’t used it in quite a while - you can
bring in PDF documents as they are and place them on pages within the
newsletter document. Less rekeystroking, in my opinion, is a wonderful
thing.) More information can be found on the Association of Alumni website:

http://alumni.dartmouth.edu/leadership/association/

Given the importance of this constitutional proposal, I believe we have an
important role to play in creating a well-informed alumni body and
encouraging as large of a voter turnout as possible, whatever the results
may be. Please join me in getting the word out to alumni via our class
newsletters.

Sincerely,

Michelle Sweetser ‘99
President, Newsletter Editors Association
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