The empire plays the gender card

The decision by Dartmouth’s board of trustees to terminate the right of Dartmouth alumni to elect half of the board insults the intelligence of the men and women of Dartmouth. For it implies that Dartmouth alums are not capable of electing trustees of the same caliber that a small, self-appointed elite group can select.

The slate of candidates for the Association of Alumni executive committee that wants to capitulate to the trustees’ decision is also insulting the intelligence of Dartmouth alums. It employs evasive arguments that fail to defend the trustees’ board-packing scheme or, alternatively, to intelligibly explain how that scheme can be stopped if the current lawsuit against the college is abandoned, as this slate promises to do. The arguments of the slate’s leader, John Mathias, exemplify this unwillingness to engage.

But Mathias is a philosopher-king compared to Martha Beattie and Kate Aiken, the authors of a deplorable letter to Dartmouth’s female alums. Beattie and Aiken follow Mathias’ lead by refusing to address the merits of the underlying issue of board-packing. But they go one step better and fail even to mention the issue.

Like Mathias, Beattie and Aiken resort to conspiracy theories, shots at the Dartmouth Review, and claims that those who disagree with them are pursuing their own interests rather than Dartmouth’s. But Beattie and Aiken go one contemptible step further. They claim, without any evidence or supporting argument, that the “interests” being pursued are anti-female. In other words, those who disagree with them about the procedural issues in this election are somehow attempting to undermine the role of women at Dartmouth. Here, in key part, is what they say:

Dear Women of Dartmouth:

It is about us. This year’s election of the Executive Committee of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni is about women — and our role at Dartmouth, past, present and future.

There are two slates running for the eleven positions. One slate is supported by the Dartmouth women who have signed this letter. The other slate is endorsed by the Dartmouth Review and a sad number [sic] of alumni intent on stirring up controversy with negative misinformation and lawsuits.

The Review and its candidates say they are for preserving Dartmouth’s traditions. As you well remember, their traditions have not always included respect for women as equal members of the Dartmouth community.

Without our consent, four of the candidates on the Review slate filed a lawsuit against our College and its Trustees over the recent changes in election procedures.

They also supported legislation in the New Hampshire legislature, which was defeated overwhelmingly, to give the legislature power over Dartmouth’s Charter, in effect repealing the Dartmouth College Case.

Confrontation, not collegial debate and negativity, not positive engagement, are the operating procedures for advancing their agenda.

The slate that represents the Review’s opinions has two women who list no current Dartmouth activities on their campaign biographies. The same situation is true for five of their male candidates — no current Dartmouth activities.

Why are they running? They are running for their agenda, not for Dartmouth.

We cannot allow our College to go backward. Dartmouth’s women have too much at stake. Going backward insults our Dartmouth experience and our traditions. Going backwards devalues the contributions alumnae are making to Dartmouth today . . .

Martha J. Beattie ‘76
Kate Aiken ‘95

The notion that continuing to permit alumni to elect half of Dartmouth’s trustees will injure women is absurd. The notion that I (the father of a female Dartmouth student) or any other member of the Parity slate is advancing an anti-female agenda is a calumny.

I don’t know who will win this election. But rhetoric as over-the-top as Beattie and Aiken’s is making it increasingly difficult to see how, regardless of who wins, Dartmouth’s alumni will be able, going forward, to stand united.

UPDATE: My classmate Tim Dreisbach has written a point-by-point refutation of the Beattie-Aiken email, which is more than it deserves.

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