In search of a level playing field at Dartmouth

This week the Wall Street Journal ran two letters to the editor responding to Peter Robinson’s column opposing the proposed Dartmouth alumni constitution. Both letters argue that the proposed constitution promotes alumni democracy. Yesterday a reader sent us the Chicago Dartmouth Club email by the prominent Chicago attorney John Mathias, which seems somewhat more illuminating to me than the published letters to the editor.
Mr. Mathias is an occasional Power Line reader with whom I have corresponded in the past. Below he describes T.J. Rodgers, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki, who became Dartmouth trustees by petition and election under the current system, as to the right of Attila the Hun. He also describes us in the same words.
I wrote Mr. Mathias yesterday and asked him what in his view placed us to the right of Attila the Hun. (I should have asked about the three trustees as well.) Mr. Mathias responded that the description was meant as a “rhetorical flourish” and apologized for it. He added that a Power Line search on “Dartmouth” produces an “impressive list of disparagements about Dartmouth and a lot of nice people I know.”
I may be forgetting something, but I don’t think anything we’ve written here or elsewhere has disparaged Dartmouth or any Dartmouth official personally. Possible exceptions to that observation include an incident this past spring involving abuse of a student by a Dartmouth administrator and last year’s hiring of a “sustainability director” by the administration.
In his message Mr. Mathias writes that we “unrelentingly bash Dartmouth” and that we or the outside trustees (or both) are “wired” and extremely sophisticated about internet campaigning. To the extent I understand them, I think these statements are false. In any event, according to Mr. Mathias, the new constitution is needed to “level the playing field” among the administration’s preferred trustee candidates, candidates such as Rodgers, Robinson, and Zywicki and, I guess, noncandidates such as us.
Although Mr. Mathias states that we “consistently campaign for ‘insurgent’ candidates,” in fact we only expressed our views in the one election last year involving Robinson and Zywicki. Despite the tenor of Mr. Mathias’s comments regarding our being “wired,” we have no connection to Rodgers, Robinson or Zywicki. When I wrote my Standard column “Bucking the deans at Dartmouth” on the election, I interviewed Robinson, Zywicki and an official of the alumni organization at the college (she was most helpful, and I used what she told me in the column).
I think that the gist of Mr. Mathias’s argument belies the thesis that the proposed constitution promotes alumni democracy. Mr. Mathias argues that the proposed constitution prevents “easy access” to the board by those who have not “invested” in the institution:

Dear friends:
If you have not already voted on the constitution, I urge you to do so at your first opportunity. I voted yes. No serious organization allows easy access to its board by those who have not invested in it. In my book, loudly proclaiming your “love for Dartmouth” without a corresponding track record of volunteerism and financial support does not qualify you for the Board.
The things “outsiders” complain about in the new constitution are not barriers to their being democratically elected at all. They just level the playing field so that those who are “wired” and extremely sophisticated with internet campaigning (such as the three Dartmouth lawyer alums who publish the enormously successful blog, who unrelentingly bash Dartmouth, and who consistently campaign for “insurgent” candidates) do not have a pragmatic advantage over those who do not campaign the same way. Check this out and see what I mean [linking to the results of a “Dartmouth” search on Power Line].
Three out of the four most recently elected trustees have been “insurgents” and all right of Attila, notwithstanding the word they are putting out about the “Dartmouth establishment.” Pete Fahey, Bill Neukom and Brad Evans, who have given enormous amounts of their time and personal wealth to Dartmouth, could hardly be called “radical” in their vision for Dartmouth’s future–but that doesn’t stop the “insurgent” internet campaigners from framing their candidacies this way.
This is a very important vote. If you see it the same way, maybe you could encourage others to get out the vote. You can vote at If you don’t know your PIN, call the Office of Alumni Relations at (603)646-2258 or email [email protected]
Best regards,
John Mathias ’69

Voting ends on Halloween.
CORRECTION: Mr. Mathias writes to point out that he did not refer to us as to the right of Attila the Hun and that he is a regular reader of Power Line. He says he finds it to be among the best publications anywhere, though he takes offense at my “consistent bashing of Dartmouth,” which he feels is not as well as informed as the rest of our work.


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