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Imagine You’re a Trustee/Fund Manager

Conflict of Interest.jpgImagine you are a trustee, and also the manager of a big investment fund. You’ve got several worries about how the College is being run, especially about the absence of innovation and of progress in dealing with longstanding problems. You’ve spoken to various members of the faculty — I know, I know, this never happens, but I did ask you to use your imagination — and you want to voice your concerns at the next Trustee meeting.

However, as you start to game out the possible reaction to your remarks in the boardroom, you see a few problems. Most of your fellow Board members think that things are wonderful at the College. They love being on the Board; they especially appreciate the chance to meet so many influential people. And don’t forget the generous reception that they get from the Admissions Office. That can’t be beat. Besides, all the news that they hear from the administration is positive.

Several other fellow Trustees have a different motivation: they want to avoid controversy; anything but, in fact, especially after the various scandals over the past few years. That’s understandable. (Damn that Lohse kid, he’s made parties in Greenwich really awkward!).

So how should you approach the Board with your observation that the College is dead in the water?

Hmmm. Then you hesitate. You are opening up a new investment fund, and you currently have a proposal in front of the Board’s Investment Committee asking to manage some of the College’s endowment. Having Dartmouth as one of your early investors would be tremendously valuable. Big college endowments are the gold standard for pension funds and wealthy investors. Those timid folks love to see that an Ivy League school has faith in a fund. You really need Dartmouth’s money.

So you review the people on the Committee who are reviewing your fund’s proposal, and there they are: the Board’s Dartmouth-couldn’t-be-better-crowd and the enough-with-the controversy-already bunch, too. Is this the time to get them riled up? Do you really want to bother them with contentious questions about faculty and student concerns, right when they’re thinking of placing tens of millions of dollars with your fund? After all, there’s always an emotional component in people’s decisions, and though investment proposals from other Trustees are usually approved, it would be a risk to rock the boat now.

Come to think of it, things are pretty good at the College, aren’t they? Those faculty folks are always upset at something. They don’t appreciate how good they have it in Hanover.

So you re-think the whole question. Perhaps you jumped to conclusions? You know, there really is no need to ask for more decisiveness from the administration at the next Trustee meeting. Upon further reflection, Dartmouth has never been better.

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