Ack attack

As grateful Dartmouth alums, we’ve been following the race for two open seats on the Dartmouth College board of trustees with great interest. I wrote about the election in a column for the Daily Standard titled “Bucking the deans at Dartmouth.” We support the insurgent candidacies of Dartmouth alums Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki. Balloting commenced last week and continues for another five weeks.
Thanks to the powers-that-be at the college, it appears that the election is combining the worst of a restrictive speech code and dirty politics. Neither is good in itself, and they make a pitiful combination. We covered yesterday’s installment of the story in “The case of the missing email.” Today’s installment comes courtesy of a reader who has drawn our attention to an editorial in the Dartmouth-area Valley News newspaper:

A Dartmouth College faculty chairwoman has weighed in on the much-watched race to elect two alumni to the college’s board of trustees.
Susan Ackerman, a 1980 Dartmouth grad and chairwoman of the Religion Department, sent out an e-mail to friends from her era and other like-minded alumni, urging them to vote for the four Alumni Council-picked candidates and against two petition candidates, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki.
Robinson, a 1979 graduate and former White House speechwriter for President Reagan, and Zywicki, a 1988 Dartmouth graduate and tenured law professor at George Mason University, represent “the same sorts of reactionary ideologies as were represented in last year’s elections by Rodgers,” wrote Ackerman, referring to a trustee who also won a petition candidacy.
“Both petition candidates, in short, seem to me to long nostalgically for some ‘Dear Old Dartmouth’ of the past, without admitting the idealized past they crave represents a Dartmouth that was often hard on women, gays and lesbians, and minorities; monolithic in terms of its social life; and fostered an anti-intellectual environment,” wrote Ackerman, who also teaches in the Program of Women’s and Gender Studies and is the author of the forthcoming book, When Heroes Love: The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David.
Robinson brushed aside Ackerman’s criticism. The trustee candidates are under strict rules that limit their ability to campaign, but can answer questions.
(A Dartmouth spokesman said employees can use their e-mails for personal correspondence; John Walters, the president of the Association of Alumni and the chairman of the Balloting Committee, said Ackerman’s e-mail fell in a “gray area” between a college employee interjecting herself into the campaign and her own right, as an alumna, to express her views).
“My overall point is I have no inclination to parse a set of rules I consider crazy in the first place,” said Robinson, who, along with Zywicki, is stressing freedom of speech and a renewed focus on undergraduate education in his campaign.
“Needless to say, if her judgment is Todd and I represent throwbacks and some kind of yearning for the 1920s, raccoon-skin coats, all-male Dartmouth, that’s just mistaken. That’s not remotely what we’re interested in,” added Robinson. Zywicki could not be reached for comment, and Robinson said he was in Guatemala for a legal conference. The two candidates are not running as a slate, but have said they will vote for each other.
The candidates nominated by the Alumni Council are Sheila Cheston, a 1980 graduate who is the vice president, general counsel and secretary of BAE Systems North America; Gregg Engles, a 1979 graduate and chairman and CEO of Dean Foods Company; Richard Lewis, a 1984 graduate and chief executive of Curzon Global Partners in London; and Curtis Welling, a 1971 Dartmouth and 1977 Tuck School of Business graduate who is president and CEO of AmeriCares.
Voting by alumni ends April 22.

The trustee whom Ackermann refers to as a “reactionary ideologue” is Darmouth alum T.J. Rodgers, the founder and chief executive officer of Cypress Semiconductor. I’m not sure what reactionary ideology Ackerman is referring to, but the only ideological belief that Rodgers has publicized is his belief in freedom. Ackerman’s characterization of Rodgers, Robinson and Zywicki is a disgrace or, considering the source, a badge of honor.
A message to Dartmouth alums: Annoy Ackerman — elect Robinson and Zywicki.
UPDATE: Nick Desai writes from Dartmouth:

Great post on Prof. Ackerman. Your coverage of the trustee race has been great and useful indeed.
To buttress your point about T. J. Rodgers not being a conservative ideologue, consider this article from the San Fransisco Chronicle: “A day in the life of T.J. Rodgers.”
Key: “Our civil liberties are under assault,” says Rodgers, a registered Republican and self-described libertarian. “One of my least favorite people is (recently resigned Attorney General) John Ashcroft.”
Apparently, Mr. Rodgers is also a Pinot Noir fanatic — hardly the stereotypical “red state” conservative or however Ackerman sees him.

Desai makes a good point. To fit the stereotype Ackerman invokes, beer would probably be the drink of choice.
UPDATE 2: Dartmouth alum Chien Wen Kung weighs in at the Dartmouth Observer in “Susan Ackerman, deconstruction, and the trustee election.” Kung turns his eye on us in “Power Line on Ackerman.”


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