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More Bureaucracy, Less Democracy

There was a time not too long ago when Dartmouth’s alumni elected half of the Board of Trustees in elections involving at least three candidates. However the petition movement in the first decade of this century put the fear of God into the tight little group that thinks it knows best for the College, but, in fact, has been guiding Dartmouth on its downward slide. The result: today alumni elect only one third of the Board, and unless there is a petitioner, the “election” involves only a single candidate.

The one candidate who has been put forward in recent elections for each open Board seat is chosen by the Alumni Council’s Nominating and Alumni Trustee Search Committee, a group of pliable worthies working hand in glove with the Trustees to ensure that no disruptive voices reach the Board.

As I like to say, want proof? Three years ago, on the occasion of their fiftieth reunion, a great many members of the Class of ‘61 wrote to the Committee to nominate their classmate, Mike Gazzaniga ‘61, as a candidate for alumni trustee. Mike had been Dartmouth’s Dean of the Faculty, had won an honorary degree from the College, is a renowned scholar (“the father of cognitive neuroscence”) and most importantly, knows a great deal about higher education. Yet the Nominating Committee, in its wisdom, did not honor him with so much as a phone call. However the Committee did boast about the exhaustive work that it did in ferreting out that year’s candidates for the Board’s three open seats: a former marine officer, a venture capitalist and a lawyer. And so it goes.

Now comes the Association of Alumni to announce a constitutional amendment that ends meaningless voting in single candidate elections — fair enough — and that also provides that future elections with multiple candidates will not involve paper ballots, unless specifically requested by individual voters:

AoA Amendment.jpg

In past elections, 30% of votes came in on paper, ostensibly from older alums.

How sad for Dartmouth. There is no talk from the AoA of returning to multi-candidate elections, even if there are no petition candidates. I guess that the AoA is not pro-choice.

By the way, did anyone mention that there is a large capital campaign in the offing — one in which the Development Office will repeatedly tell alumni how their contributions to the College are ever so valued — their financial contributions, that is, not their intellectual ones.

Addendum: If you are looking for a notably intelligent articulation of the importance of the liberal arts to work in all disciplines, including the hard sciences, you can’t beat Mike Gazzaniga’s speech at the 2011 dinner for honorary degree recipients.


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