By now, most Dartmouth alumni probably have received the ballot for the Executive Committee of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni election, which begins this Monday, April 28. The election may determine whether Dartmouth alumni will retain their right to elect half of the college’s trustees, as we have done for more than 100 years. I am running for “second vice president” on the slate that is committed to preserving that right. I wrote in some detail about the issue and the election here.
Todd Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason University, is one of the trustees elected to the Dartmouth board by the alumni. His election, and that of several other independent-minded candidates, has spurred the Dartmouth power structure to try, effectively, to cut the alumni out of the governance process by substantially reducing the percentage of trustees alums can elect. Todd’s view of this election can be found on the well-known Volokh Conspiracy blog to which he contributes regularly. Here is most of what Todd wrote:
The election is essentially a referendum on the Dartmouth Board of Trustee’s board-packing plan that was announced last fall. Subsequent litigation initiated by the leadership of the Association of Alumni has led to an agreed standstill on the board-packing plan and the new election rules that were imposed on the election of Alumni Trustees under the board’s plan.
There are two slates of nominees for AoA Ex Comm positions, one that opposes the board-packing plan and one that supports it. The group that opposes the board-packing plan is called “Dartmouth Parity.” This group pledges to continue efforts to overturn the board-packing plan. Dartmouth Parity’s website is here and a sample ballot is here. The group that supports the board-packing plan and pledges to cease efforts to oppose it is called “Dartmouth Undying.” Its website is here.
Interested readers should note that this election is not merely a referendum on whether the Board of Trustees has the power to repudiate the promise of parity in the 1891 Agreement. That is significant, of course, not only because it would ratify this expansion of the Board, but also would open the spigot to the Trustees to expand the Board at will and to further dilute the ratio of Alumni Trustees on the Board.
But in the board-packing plan the Board also claims the power to dictate to the Association of Alumni the rules for election of Alumni Trustees. Thus, although the current plan preserves the principle of contested elections for Alumni Trustees and the availability of nominations by petition, acquiescing on this point would provide the Board with plenary power to snuff out both contested elections and petition nominations in the future.
Thus, for instance, two years ago there was a proposed new alumni constitution that would have dramatically changed the way in which Alumni Trustees were elected (and, incidentally, also would have snuffed out the independence of the Association of Alumni Executive Committee). That proposal was soundly defeated in an alumni referendum. One lesser-recognized element of the board-packing plan is a mandate from the board that the AoA adopt election procedures very similar to those rejected by the alumni in that election. Under this principle the Board implicitly claims the right to dictate election procedures. Had this been in place two years ago then the alumni would have had no right to decide this issue.
Note that the Court in the Alumni Association lawsuit specifically pointed to the responsbility of the AoA to conduct elections as one element of the consideration provided by the AoA under the 1891 Agreement (among other elements of consideration). Thus, the election is not just a referendum on the particulars of the board-packing plan but also on the underlying principle of whether the Board has absolute authority over the election and representation of alumni on the Board, notwithstanding the 1891 Agreement.
In short, if you are a Dartmouth alum who opposes the board-packing plan or the principles that underlie it, vote for the Dartmouth Parity slate. If you support the board-packing plan and the principles that underlie it, you should vote for the Dartmouth Undying slate. Whatever you do, vote. This is truly an election where the future of Dartmouth depends on it.