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The Scripted Proponents

Dartmouth’s Alumni Council has occasionally courted criticism as an unelected and fundamentally unrepresentative group with disproportionate power. Members of the task force which drafted a controversial proposed constitution have publicly agreed with this sentiment, and have explained that their proposal would liquidate the Council in favor of a more representative body. (One member expressed to me his great surprise that the Council would vote to endorse the constitution, since it eliminates that body.)

I have since learned that these claims are disingenous. The proposed constitution enlarges, arrogates more power to, and renames the Alumni Council. So no wonder the Council voted almost unanimously to endorse the constitution. What the proposal most certainly does not do is liquidate the Council. (Consider the fact that, in the re-named Council envisaged by the proposal, the Assembly, only 25 to 31 members are guaranteed to be democratically-elected. The remaining 98 to 106, a controlling supermajority, are not so guaranteed.)

The memo obtained by Nathaniel Ward ‘05 at Dartlog is not going to help the impression that the constitution is just an effort to steel a system against the voices of ordinary alumni. The memo is a mass e-mail from Alumni Council President Martha Beattie, sent out by the director of Dartmouth’s Alumni Leadership office Patricia Fisher, to all Alumni Councillors. “The summer vacations are behind us,” Ms. Beattie writes, “and we need to act. Some of you have responded to my first request to advocate for the proposed constitution. I admire your efforts…”

But they have not been enough, she implies. “As official representatives of the alumni body of Dartmouth College it is our duty to report to our constituency, explaining our vote, and asking them to vote yes along with us!”

Gosh, what a strange definition of “representative.” Do representatives ask their constituents to “vote yes along with” them? Or should constituents tell their representatives what to do?

To Ms. Beattie’s point. She says “I am asking each of you to send out an email.” But not personal e-mails—pre-written ones that offer narrow arguments in favor of the proposed constitution. “I have pasted below three letters of advocacy,” she says, “written by fellow councilors.” Then: “You can choose one letter, copy it word for word and state that it was written by a fellow councilor.”

Ms. Beattie even tells alumni councillors how to distribute these mass messages: “As Alumni Councilors you are in the position to request class email lists by bv virtue of your representative duties. All you need to do is to email or call Bonnie Bourdon, [e-mail address and phone number removed]. Please do this as soon as you can…”


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