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News From Phil and the Council

Alumni Council logo.jpgLoye Miller ‘51 has sent out a mailing summarizing Phil Hanlon’s remarks and other news from the Alumni Council meeting held on the weekend of October 24-26. The highlights:

— He [Hanlon] twice spoke of requiring academic departments and administration entities to eliminate 1.5% of what they are now spending to free up funds for “other, more appropriate areas”.

Cutting spending across the board seems unsophisticated to me. Given that salaries, wages and employee benefits constitute over 60% of Dartmouth’s cost structure, and over 15% of expenses are in non-compressible line items such as taxes, depreciation, and interest payments, the task that Phil has really set for people is to cut 6% of the areas of the budget that can be cut: cost items like materials, purchased services and travel.

In fact, there are administrative areas that could be cut in half (like the bloated staff in many administrative areas), and others that cannot be cut at all (faculty departments with one beleaguered secretary).

— President Hanlon, Dean Charlotte Johnson and other speakers made it clear dealing with alcohol problems and sexual abuse is a driving force in the Student Life arena. Among student athletes, the number of non-drinkers has risen from 17% to 35% in the past three years.

It’s always fun to have the College describe the results of student surveys as if they represented reality. Dartmouth students are very good at giving the right answers to questions. Perhaps 35% of athletes do not drink in season (under their coaches’ orders for many teams), but I have a great deal of trouble crediting this statistic with any overarching validity. Perhaps that is the percentage of students who do not binge drink?

— Vice President for Alumni Affairs Martha Beattie pronounced that it’s time to check into what alumni - and the parents of undergraduates - think of the College. A professional survey will be taken “in the near future” - first sampling since 2002.

The results of this survey should be interesting. Parents who have dealt with the ponderous administration will have a word or two to add.

— Also, it was announced that the requirement that when there is only a single candidate for an open elective seat on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, an alumni-wide election nevertheless must be held, at an average cost of about $70,000 to the College, will be put to referendum. An amendment eliminating the requirement of alumni-wide balloting for uncontested candidates to the board will be voted on by alumni in an election early in 2014.

One has to admire the chutzpah of people who pack the Board so that Alumni Trustees have no say, then they make elections all but unwinnable for petition candidates by cooperating only with the Council’s candidates in sharing mailing lists, etc., and then they announce that they would like to avoid the expense of holding elections when there are no petition candidates running for a seat on the Board of Trustees.

Given the present structure of the Board, there will never be another petition candidate. The College’s alumni have been forevermore disenfranchised, and the Board is destined to remain in the hands of financiers without a thimbleful of knowledge about higher education among them.

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