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Lest the old traditions fail!

I have resisted writing about the Trustee battles for some time now, deferring to my colleagues who are all well versed and eloquent on the subject. As the Association of Alumni elections draw near, however, I feel compelled to share my opinion. I am, in most ways, a typical student here at Dartmouth. Like my peers, I have good days and bad days. I have classes I like and classes I dislike; professors I seek out and professors I avoid. I ran around a bonfire 109 times as a freshman (well, almost). In the winter, I jumped into Occom Pond to get my polar bear pin. I have studied on the green, worked late in the library, and climbed Baker Berry tower. My experience at Dartmouth is ordinary, though the experience of being a Dartmouth student is in itself extraordinary. Upon matriculating in September of 2005, I joined an elite group of young people who chose to spend four years in the woods of New Hampshire broadening their minds with a liberal arts education. In May of 2009, I will join an even more elite group: that of Dartmouth alumni, dedicated to preserving their alma mater for future generations of students.

Since 1891, Dartmouth alumni have maintained the right to elect half the members of the Board of Trustees. Following the election of four petition trustees and the defeat of a constitution designed to prevent further petition candidates, members of the Board of Trustees announced their board-packing plan. This move is shockingly undemocratic and flies in the face of Dartmouth tradition. One of the best aspects of Dartmouth is the devotion and involvement of the alumni. This board-packing plan is a childish response to election results that certain members of the Board of Trsutees did not support. It speaks of a close-minded determination to make and implement plans with blinders on. A College with a long history of innovation should never be afraid of dissent or of diverse input, and yet that is exactly what the board-packing plan would prevent.

The issue faced during this Association of Alumni lawsuit is not the lawsuit. No Dartmouth alumnus/alumna wanted to see a situation where the Association of Alumni would have to take steps to prevent the Board of Trustees from limiting their influence. Alumni do, however, want parity. Zak posted that 92 percent of alumni are in favor of maintaining their right to elect half of the members of the Board of Trustees. The purpose of the lawsuit is to ensure parity on the board. A vote for the Dartmouth Undying slate would be to relinquish this cherished and beneficial avenue of influence. The choice could not be clearer and I can only hope that the alumni will agree with me, as their choice today will affect myself and all of my peers.

It has been suggested by the Dartmouth Undying slate that this lawsuit has sullied the reputation of the college. I would disagree most strongly with this statement. If anything, it reveals the intensity of love that Dartmouth students have for their College. Acceptance rates for the class of 2012 were at an all time low of 13.2 percent, showing the strength of Dartmouth’s attraction for intellectually driven students. Alumni have been energized by this debate and voting rates in the last elections have been high. An engaged and active alumni is tremendously valuable to the College and its students. When deciding which slate to vote for, I can only hope that all alumni reading this will reflect on the value of their input because to me, it is irreplaceable. A vote for the Dartmouth parity slate will send an important message to the Board of Trustees that their board-packing plan is unacceptable. That alumni have held a singular and crucial role in the governance of Dartmouth for over 115 years and they will stand together to maintain it. I will leave you with the words of a section of our alma mater that I find particularly appropriate:

Dear old Dartmouth, set a watch
Lest the old traditions fail!
Stand as sister stands by brother!
Dare a deed for the old Mother!
…..
Around the world they keep for her
Their old undying faith;
They have the still North in their soul,
The hill-winds in their breath,
And the granite of New Hampshire
Is made part of them till death.

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