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The Verdict: Unconstitutional.

New information shows that the decision made months ago by the Executive Committee of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni to cancel the planned October 2006 annual elections—to stretch out their own terms by as many as six months—is, flatly, unconstitutional. Below, the necessary background reading, and then the new information.

On Saturday, May 26, the Executive Committee of the Association of Alumni released a letter declaring that they had decided to cancel the annual elections for 2006, and that they would extend their own terms, allowing them to preside not only over the balloting of the proposed constitution, but over the next trustee opening as well and, if the much-criticized constitution does in fact pass, guarantees that they will be inserted into all the new leadership positions contemplated by that beleaguered document. The next day, Sunday, I got to the coffee shop early, plopped myself down, and tried to wrap my head around the incredible move. Nothing but Mozart’s darkest opera provided sturdy framing. In “Ho capito, signor sì!”, I wrote:

…the leaders of the Association yesterday, as a result of their earlier procedural tricks, were squeezed into confessing that they have no hope of installing this unfair constitution if, before its ratification is certain, their own positions go up for a democratic vote.

Their move is wrong, and it produces in me and, I hope, you, a queasy feeling. But is it through any rational interpretation constitutional? No. The constitution governing the Association of Alumni [PDF] states the following in Article IV, Paragraph 1: “The officers of the Association shall be a president, two vice-presidents, secretary-treasurer, and an executive committee of seven members, all to be elected at each annual meeting upon the nomination of a committee on nominations appointed by the president.”

And the forcible black letters of the Association of Alumni meeting guidelines [PDF] include the following, in item 2: “In accordance with the Association’s constitution, at each annual meeting, the executive committee shall set the date for the Association’s next annual meeting.”

Pursuant to these rules, a slate of officers was elected at the last annual meeting of the Association, on Sunday, October 23, 2005. These officers, in accordance with the constitution, were elected for one year. And these officers, at the close of the October 23, 2005 meeting, in accordance with the meeting guidelines, set the date for the next meeting. The minutes [PDF] record the following: “As a final order of business, Mr. Walters announced the date for the next annual meeting: Homecoming Sunday, October 15, 2006.”

This planned meeting—planned as they always have been, each and every year—no longer exists. A missive distributed yesterday [PDF] by Merle Adelman on behalf of the entire leadership of the Association, cancels this meeting and promises to hold the election sometime in “the first half of calendar year 2007.”

* * *

The letter attempted to justify the cancellation of the annual meeting with a bit of dateplay. Merle Adleman wrote: “This approach is consistent with the current constitution of the AoA, which stipulates that officers be ‘elected annually at each annual meeting.’ The AoA operates under the same calendar as the College; therefore, the meeting must take place during the period from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007.”

For other reasons discussed in the above-cited post, the move remains against the rules, even granted this rationale. Yet simple logic tells us that, when a constitution demands something called “annual elections”, then those elections ought to occur, well, annually. There is not a word in the constitution about following the academic year. And now I have come to learn, via the superlative research skills of David Gale ‘00, that there is nothing in the Association’s history about following the academic year, either. Below, a list of every meeting for the last decade-and-a-half:

September 1990, special meeting
June 11, 1991: Annual Meeting
June 1992: Annual Meeting
June 1993: Annual Meeting
June 14, 1994: Annual Meeting
December 2, 1995: Special Meeting.
June 13, 1995: Annual Meeting
June 15, 1996: Annual Meeting
May 17, 1997: Annual Meeting
May 16, 1998: Annual Meeting
September 18, 1999: Annual Meeting
September 15, 2000: Annual Meeting
December 1, 2001: Annual Meeting (adjourned until a future date)
December 7, 2002: Annual Meeting
December 6, 2003: Annual Meeting
September 18, 2004: Annual Meeting
October 23, 2005: Annual Meeting
February 12, 2006: Special Meeting
This list tells a single, crucial, historical truth: The annual meeting of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni has indeed skipped academic years. Consider the academic year 1998 to 1999. No meeting; no fuss. There was no fuss because the Association works according to the calendar year. If there was ever any question over that, witness that not a single calendar year has gone by without an annual Association meeting. Academic years have been skipped; not calendar years.

The importance of all this is that the announcement made by Merle Adleman and the Executive Committee will place them very directly in violation of the Association’s constitution beginning October 15, 2006—the date of the planned (but now cancelled) annual meeting for the year 2006.

After that date, it is probable that they will no longer be legitimate officers of the Association.

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