Bananas, take 2

This morning at the Volokh Conspiracy, Professor (and Dartmouth College alum) Todd Zywicki posted a brief account of the history of trustee election rules at Dartmouth. Professor Zywicki relates the history of previous candidates elected by petition and demonstrates how the college has traditionally sought to rejigger the rules after the fact to prevent the election of petition candidates like, well, Professor Zywicki. You might get the impression that the powers-that-be at the college are sore losers.

In 2004 and 2005, Dartmouth alumni elected petition candidates T.J. Rodgers, Peter Robinson and Professor Zywicki to the board of trustees. Now the powers-that-be at Dartmouth mean to undertake a comprehrensive rewriting of the alumni constitution to assure that alumni are unable to manifest such insolence again. Professor Zywicki recounts the relevant history and draws the inevitable conclusion “that in the eyes of the election rule-makers at Dartmouth, what counts as ‘fair’ is more a reflection of whether the proposed rule changes will operate to the detriment of petition candidates.”

Professor Zywicki omits to mention that in the effort to promote the passage of the bad new alumni constitution, the powers-that-be at Dartmouth have engaged in behavior more befitting a banana republic than an elite academic institution. We await the decree from the alumni council providing, like the faux Castro in the Woody Allen film, that from now on alumni will be required to change their underwear every half hour and wear it on the outside so that the authorities can check.

Coincidentally, Commentary Magazine has just posted the compelling essay by Yale Professor Donald Kagan on the troubles at Harvard. (On its home page Commentary has also posted several outstanding essays drawn from its archives on related themes.) Professor Kagan’s conclusion also bears on the troubles at Dartmouth:

As things stand now, no president appears capable of taming the imperial faculty; almost none is willing to try; and no one else from inside the world of the universities or infected by its self-serving culture is likely to stand up and say “enough,” or to be followed by anyone if he does. Salvation, if it is to come at all, will have to come from without.


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