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Who doth not answer to the rudder shall answer to the rock

Nathan Bruschi €˜10 offers a lovely column this ayem insisting that Dartmouth’s Board of Trustees has no good excuse for expanding itself without permitting additional elections—and that opposing this Board-packing plan in court is the only way to ensure the continuing health of the College.

Mr. Bruschi writes:

David Shipler ‘s letter to the editor demonstrates a lot of what is wrong with the expansion plan for the Board of Trustees ( €œThe Conservative Campaign, € May 5). He postulates that the motive behind the AoA lawsuit — designed to maintain parity between elected and appointed members on the Board — is €œto allow inroads by a highly publicized and pervasively ideological brand of conservatism. € This encapsulates the perverse logic of those in opposition to the lawsuit — the assumption that we only support democracy insomuch as we agree with those who get elected.

I confess that I once supported the anti-lawsuit position. I remember being happy that the Board was going to expand itself to stop seemingly delusional and disconnected petition candidates from overtaking the Board. I remember being upset when I learned that the supporters of those petition candidates were suing the College. I even briefly joined Dartmouth Undying ‘s Facebook group. But in the end, it was the anti-lawsuit partisans (not the litigants) who caused me to switch my affiliation. Let me explain.

UPDATE: Christopher Dreisbach ‘00 e-mails:
The great thing about athletics is that the lessons learned on the playing field are invaluable later in life. No doubt the Battle of Waterloo was in fact won on the playing fields at Eton.

I ‘m struck as I sit here preparing for my robbery trial on Monday (the defendant is facing his 3rd strike for violent offenses, a conviction guarantees a sentence of 25 €“ 50 years with the possibility of life) that the Administration must not have learned much on any playing fields.

I ‘m trying to figure out how to strengthen my case so that I can prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Why €œbeyond a reasonable doubt €? Because that ‘s what the rules say I need to do. If I followed the Administration ‘s example, rather than strengthen my case, I would be devoting my time to changing the standard of proof. It certainly would be easier to convict if I only had to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was guilty. Or perhaps just €œa hunch € should be enough?

I plan on playing by the rules on Monday and proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Why? Because when you don ‘t play by the rules there is a word for that €“ cheating. Cheating isn ‘t fair, it isn ‘t right, and it isn ‘t just. But apparently, notions of fairness and justice in the Ivory Towers of the Ivy League are different than in the dingy courtrooms of the real world €¦

Nathan Bruschi’s column continues…

I agree that the Board should be expanded. Increasing the size of the Board would give it greater diversity that would help it better govern the College. But why not add an equal number of elected and appointed trustees instead of just increasing the number of charter trustees?

The most common answer to this question offered by the Board is €œbecause we can. € Pro €“Board-packing partisans have pointed out that the 1891 Agreement is not legally binding, and that as a private entity, the Board can increase its membership at will. I accept this argument, but it does not address the benefits of diluting the power of elected trustees.

The closest the Board has come to explaining its decision to add members only of their own choosing was in a Blitz sent to students on September 8, 2007 by Board Chairman Ed Haldeman €˜70. He presented justification for the packing plan behind the guise of the Governance Committee Report, which concluded that the current election structure is too politicized and expensive and therefore must be altered. However, alumni who wish to become trustees but cannot buy their way onto the Board through vast donations to the College have no other recourse than open election. The committee report also wrongly assumes that politics is a bad thing. There are legitimate and serious disagreements that exist in the Dartmouth community and they should and will continue to be publicized — even if Haldeman and the Governance Committee Report wish this was not so.

John Mathias €˜69 moralizes readers in his column, asserting that €œsuing each other is no way to resolve differences of alumni opinion about College governance € ( €œTime For Alumni Unity, € May 6). When the Board refuses dialogue and acts unilaterally in its own interest, what other means of recourse do the alumni have? Unfortunately, without the lawsuit, the Board ‘s politically motivated plan will forever destroy the charter-elected trustee balance.

Haldeman further maintains that the packing plan will €œpreserve alumni democracy by retaining alumni trustee elections. € This is insulting to the intelligence of both students and alumni. Are we to thank Haldeman for reducing the power of alumni to vote for trustees by 20 percent? If in the wake of the 2006 Congressional election President Bush decided to pack the House and Senate because he didn ‘t like the elected officials, would anyone have the audacity to call this democracy?

This is the crux of the argument: Charter trustees are upset because petition candidates with views hostile to theirs keep winning Board seats, and they want it to stop. It would be a downright lie to claim that the current Board €œrestructuring plan € did not arise in part because of four consecutive petition candidate victories.

Taking drastic action requires impressive rationale, and so far the Board has not made a sufficiently compelling case for adding charter trustees. If anything, the Board endangers its own credibility, as this radical scheme smacks of corrupt bargains and anti-democratic values. By removing one of the few checks on College governance, we ultimately stifle the voices of alumni — the College ‘s most valuable asset. As a quote etched onto a stone overlooking the BEMA darkly reminds: €œWho doth not answer to the rudder shall answer to the rock. €


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