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David Gale’s E-mail About the Constitution

David Gale ‘00 has sent around the attached e-mail offering his arguments (backed by chapter-and-verse citation) against the proposed constitution. My understanding is that David only sent this message to a few hundred or so, so do read and forward on as you see fit.

– Forwarded message from David S. Gale 00 –

>Date: 11 Sep 2006 14:49:02 EDT
>From: David.S.Gale.00@Alum.Dartmouth.ORG (David S. Gale 00)
>Subject: My Thoughts on the AGTF Proposal
>To: David.S.Gale.00@Alum.Dartmouth.ORG (David S. Gale 00)

Fellow alumni,

Please forgive me for sending out a mass blitz.

Starting this Friday, we will be given the choice to vote on whether or not to modify the Alumni Association’s constitution, and, if so, how. For those of you who have heard enough, let me summarize the rest of this e-mail: I will vote against the AGTF proposal, and for at least some of the other amendments, and hope that many other alumni (yourselves included) will vote the same.

By now, many of you have probably heard at least some of the rhetoric that’s been flowing from both opponents and proponents of the AGTF proposal. Each side claims that their position protects democracy (and several other nifty buzzwords). All too often, the rhetoric fails to point to specific language in the proposal to back up their claim; I’ve found this to be especially true of the proponents. (Naturally, I believe this is because the actual text
*doesn’t* support their arguments…) Throughout the rest of this e-mail, I will refer to specific sections of the AGTF proposal; you can check my interpretations against the actual document, which is available at ([pdf].

First, some background: I’ve been watching alumni politics since the last attempt to replace the constitution, which failed in 2003. I was at the Association’s annual meeting last September, when the Alumni Governance Task Force (AGTF) presented its first public draft (to much outcry); I’ve been one of the most active commenters on the AGTF’s blog ( and the Association’s blog (; I even set up a section on my personal website devoted to Dartmouth Alumni politics ( Pleasantly, some of the items I’ve critiqued on the AGTF blog were addressed in the March and April drafts; unfortunately, the document is still very weak in several key areas.

The most important area is Trustee elections, since that’s the only area we alumni have direct control over the college; everything else we do is advisory, at best. The AGTF proposal [section 7.4] requires that anyone who desires to get on the ballot through petitions file the petitions before the Nominating Committee determines its slate of candidates—if the alumni are disappointed with the nominated slate, it’s already too late to “write-in” a better candidate. This is clearly a step backwards from our current system, where petitions aren’t due until sixty days after the nominated slate is announced. Further, if there are multiple trustee openings (as happened just a couple years ago), section 7.8 of the proposal requires petitioners to determine which position they are running for, even though all trustee positions are equivalent; it also creates the possibility of two great candidates being nominated for one position, while two mediocre ones are nominated for the other, which is clearly not ideal. Currently, if there are multiple openings, all candidates run in one pool, allowing us to elect only the great ones.

If the only problems with the proposal were with the Trustee election system, I’d still be opposed due to its importance; unfortunately, there are numerous other problems. For instance, although we will be asked to vote for candidates for more positions each year (1 officer of the Association [section 4.2]; 5 members of the Assembly [section]; 2 members of the Alumni Liaison Board (ALB) [section 6.2.1]; 2 members of the Nominating Committee [section]; and 1 member of the Balloting Committee [section]—a total of 11; currently, we only vote for the 11 members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee), *all* of the positions we can vote for are effectively powerless. The Association officer is the vice-president, who has no active responsibility until a year after his election [section]; the others, except for the Nominating Committee members, are all in the minority of the body they’re part of [sections 5.2.1, 6.2, &, and &, respectively]. If we disagree with the direction the heads of the alumni governing body have chosen, we cannot effect change through elections.

Nor can we effect change through constitutional amendments, realistically—the AGTF proposal requires potential amendments to pass through the Assembly, though it doesn’t require them to be voted on in a timely manner (so the Assembly leadership could refuse to bring an unfavored amendment up for a vote at all, effectively killing it) [section 11.2]. Only after the Assembly votes are the alumni given the opportunity to express their opinion and vote, and if the amendment doesn’t get the Assembly’s approval, nearly 2,000 alumni must petition for it [section 11.3]. In comparison, the current Association constitution requires about 660 alumni to petition for an amendment, and it is then brought to us for a vote (as is the case with four amendments this fall).

Finally, it must be noted that section 12.8 establishes the current Association Executive Committee as the vast majority of the Transition Committee, with full control over the change from the current constitution to the new one. This is, of course, the Executive Committee which has indefinitely postponed the vote for its successors (, which was originally scheduled for October 15th, this year. The transition period would extend until the end of June, 2007 [section 12.1]; we will be voting for a new Trustee this spring ( The rules for how such an election would happen during the transition period are vague at best [section 12 doesn’t address the issue]; I cannot predict what would happen, but given the Executive Committee’s demonstrated willingness to discard democracy in order to achieve its own ends, I can only shudder.

For all these reasons, I ask you to vote against the AGTF proposal, and to encourage our fellow alumni to do the same. Again, I have provided as many references as I could; please, check my arguments for themselves. The four petition amendments are short; I recommend reading them ([pdf] and the statements in their favor ([pdf]—I stongly support the second and fourth ones, and feel that the first and third ones are reasonable (though not as important).

Thank you for your time, and, if you desire, please feel free to pass this message on to other alumni. If you have questions or comments, I can be reached at .

David Gale, ‘00

– End of forwarded text –


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