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Dartmouth Witholds Funds, Mailing List, from Elected Officers of Association of Alumni

Association sought to warn 68,000 former Dartmouth students of Board’s effort to reduce or eliminate elections; was rebuffed by College acting in support of the effort.

In a letter dated July 6, 2007, Dartmouth Vice President of Alumni Relations David Spalding informed Bill Hutchinson, president of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni, that it would be “duplicative” if the Alumni Association were to press on with a planned letter to alumni about the Board’s present effort to “reevaluate” its composition in the wake of recent elections, all of which have been won by independent candidates critical of the status quo at the College. Dartmouth’s Office of Alumni Relations had a role in supporting the losing candidates in the most recent election, and in supporting a proposed constitution which was rejected by alumni last year but, if passed, would have impaired petition Trustee candidacies. The Board’s present contemplations, limited to a small internal Governance Committee on which the president of the College also sits, are widely seen as an end-run to achieve what the failed constitution did not.

The Association of Alumni requested the list of its members—all former students of Dartmouth—as well as funds to support the mailing. It was denied both, a move evidently without precedent. Last year, when alumni groups were headed by supporters of the proposed constitution, ‘official’ mailings were paid for and execute by the College which openly advocated in favor of the constitution.

In the letter, which is presented above and is downloadable, Mr. Spalding insists that the rationale for the rejection is simply that other elements—notably Chairman of the Board Ed Haldeman—have already used College resources to communicate with alumni.

Those communications, though, were without exception implicitly supportive of the effort to reevaluate the composition of the Board, while the Association’s communication—which was eventually sent with private funds and through a privately held mailing list—warned of the likely deleterious effects of the effort.

Withholding the College’s mailing machine—routinely used to communicate on such matters when the Association was dominated by ardent supporters of the Administration—therefore appears to be viewpoint censorship.

The battles lines being drawn at Dartmouth are set in even bolder relief than in the five previous elections, in which T.J. Rodgers, Peter Robinson, Todd Zywicki, and Stephen Smith were elected to the Board as petition Trustees; and in which a constitution aimed at preventing future petition candidacies was shot down. The Board of Trustees has ultimate power over the institution, and is responsible for supervising the president. Yet the power center within the Board is a small Governance Committee, on which the president himself sits. It is in this Committee that the effort to possibly reduce democratic participation began.

The fight, then, is largely over who has the right to ‘steer’ Dartmouth: students past and present, commonly referred to as stakeholders, who might exercise their right through regular elections, or the president of the College. Regular democratic elections for half of the Board began in 1891. This is the first time they have been seriously threatened.

Relatedly, Dartblog can report that the Administration has informed the Association that it will no longer support its retention of an attorney. As a matter of propriety, Dartmouth’s Alumni Association has always kept representation. The relationship between the Association and its lawyer has now been dissolved, and the Association divested of any power it may have had to challenge a disenfranchisement move in legal fora.

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