In “Bucking the deans at Dartmouth,” I took a look at the (ultimately successful) trustee campaigns of Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki at Dartmouth. Instapundit Glenn Reynolds now takes a look at the Dartmouth College trustee election that kicks off today and features (in our view) independent trustee candidate Stephen Smith: “David vs. Goliath U.” Glenn writes:
If elected, Smith will be the fourth independent to join Dartmouth’s board, following Todd Zywicki and Peter Robinson in 2005 and T.J. Rodgers in 2004. The school’s administration is unhappy with these outside “petition” candidates – that is, outsiders supported by alumni, rather than insiders nominated by, well, the insiders. It recently tried but failed to amend the rules to make such independent runs more difficult.
Enter Smith, Dartmouth ’88, who now teaches law at the University of Virginia. He says he wants to restore the Dartmouth he knew 20 years ago, one where student interaction was more independent of the university, and untainted by political correctness – what he calls a “New McCarthyism.”
He says he was moved to run by some of the many recent Dartmouth grads in his classes – specifically, by their complaints about the erosion of Dartmouth’s small-college experience. He thinks Dartmouth’s administrators – lured by the prestige and grant-getting potential of large research-university type programs – have been shortchanging its traditional strength.
He also cites “gross mismanagement” and “bureaucratic bloat,” noting that the past five years have seen a 79 percent increase in administrative spending, and 117 new administrative hires, against only 50 new faculty hires in the arts and sciences. (Administrators got bigger raises than faculty, too.)
Worse, he says, the school met financial shortfalls after the collapse of the tech bubble by moving to to cut athletics and library facilities, not administration – an approach Smith calls “cutting the meat to spare the fat.”
Smith has considerable support among alumni and undergrads, like blogger Joseph Malchow of the class of 2008. Malchow says that the petition candidates already elected to three of the 18 total trustee seats have done a lot of good, simply by forcing the Dartmouth administration to rethink plans to shrink athletic teams, cut back on library facilities and emphasize graduate programs at the expense of the undergraduate education that has traditionally been Dartmouth’s specialty. “It’s been a bit of a revolution,” he says, and adds, “I think it’s a healthy thing for the college.”
The outsiders’ victories – and the surrounding controversy – have also encouraged traditional board members to pay more attention. Rather than treating their trustee seats as honorary positions, and simply ratifying the administration’s decisions, they’re paying more heed to their fiduciary duties.
Malchow also admitted he’s been surprised to discover just how “ruthless” academic politics can be. He shouldn’t be. That’s how insiders tend to respond to outside pressure that threatens their comfortable positions.
Thank you, Professor Reynolds.
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