When William F. Buckley founded National Review in 1955 at the age of 29, he lit the fire that sparked the modern conservative movement. Buckley had already achieved notoriety — if not celebrity — with the publication of God and Man at Yale in 1951. He attacked the undergraduate education on offer at Yale for its hostility to Christianity and its adulation of collectivism. He sought to dispel the indifference of Yale alumni to their supervisory responsibility, calling on them to grasp the nettle of university governance.
Yale was, of course, only the example that laid closest to Buckley’s hand. The necessary changes having been made, Buckley could undoubtedly have written the same book about any of America’s most prestigious universities. In the ensuing decades the conservative movement as a whole has experienced successes that must exceed even Buckley’s visionary imagination. Yet the university remains untouched by Buckley’s call to action. In fact, it understates matters considerably to say that circumstances on campus have not improved since 1951.
That is why the Lone Pine revolution underway at Dartmouth was of such interest. At Dartmouth, alumni have been answering the call Buckley delivered more than 50 years ago. Given the role allocated to elected alumni trustees on the Dartmouth board, the opportunity existed at Dartmouth for alumni to participate substantially in the governance of the institution. With the election of alumni petition candidates T.J. Rodgers, Peter Robinson, Todd Zywicki and Stephen Smith over the past three years, Dartmouth alumni were undertaking precisely the kind of supervision of the institution that Buckley had called for — the independent supervision that as a general matter is alien to elite nonprofit institutions.
In today’s Daily Dartmouth, Professor of Economics Meir Kohn eloquently describes the miscarriage that the Dartmouth board of trustees has effected by resorting to its highhanded decree remaking Dartmouth’s governance structure:
The governance problems of nonprofits are similar in general, but they also differ in some respects. Administrative misbehavior takes somewhat different forms. For example, since nonprofit administrators cannot award themselves huge salaries and lavish stock options, they tend to take more in perks (houses, private jets, generous pensions). They also find other ways to use the institution