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Dartmouth Trustees: Consider This

As Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees meets today to attempt an unexplained seizure of power from the College’s stakeholders, they should consider the letter below, printed this morning in The Wall Street Journal, from one of the first women at Dartmouth. It isn’t just business colleagues and friends who will look with shame on the Trustees’ effort to dilute the democratic process; it is Dartmouth’s alumnae.

I wish to commend you on your Sept. 1 editorial “The Illiberal College” and Joseph Rago’s “The Weekend Interview with T.J. Rodgers: Mr. Rodgers Goes to Dartmouth” on the same day. Both pieces reflected deep research and considerable thoughtfulness.

I write as an unlikely supporter of a “conservative cabal.” I graduated as the first (full-term) female from Dartmouth, at the age of 20 — Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, numerous citations and other honors. I received a master’s from the London School of Economics, and then spent 23 years working for the U.S. Congress.

I don’t really give a fig whether Dartmouth sports teams may ever call themselves “Indians” again; I think it’s silly for alumni/ae to spend 30 years fighting over such an issue. I’m not particularly interested whether the Dartmouth swim team survives (though I see no reason why it should not, at an institution that just raised almost $50 million in the past year from alumni).

What I do care about is undergraduate education at Dartmouth. The Dartmouth I left in 1975 still had small class sizes and world class professors. It taught undergraduates to think. The professors didn’t, as a rule, write blockbuster novels, impose their airy concepts on others or have teaching assistants run their classes. I still know the name of every professor under whom I studied, and they know mine.

Most alarming is the trustee election process. Without delving into the arcana involved in this process, it is plain and simple that the “haves” are determined that the “have nots” should not be represented on the board of trustees. Keep in mind that the “have nots” are also Dartmouth alumni, and have run and won fair elections processes. Now, the “insiders” intend to steal rights won during hard-fought races — from the very people who contribute to the well-being of the college!

I have been through such academic fights before (Phi Beta Kappa is a stunning example), where “beauty contests,” pomp and circumstance, and the willingness to grovel the lowest are the main qualifying factors for “elective” office; the reward for which is the occasional upscale lunch or dinner. I learned while working in Congress to always “follow the money.” My money will not be going to Dartmouth until it reforms itself into what it was intended (and used to) be.

F. Marian Chambers
‘76 (graduated ‘75)
Wichita, Kan.

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