Alumni Meeting

This Saturday at 1:30 in 105 Dartmouth Hall there will be an important meeting of the Association of Alumni, the organization whose membership is all alumni of the College. At issue will be a number of proposals, put forward by the Dartmouth Alumni for Open Governance and another independent reformer, that aim to increase the transparency and democracy of the Association’s operations. I wrote here recently about the reasons why DAOG’s mission is important, and this meeting represents a first, crucial step towards its goals.

The reform proposals call, among other things, for alumni to be allowed to vote on Association proposals by mail or e-mail. Currently, only the 300 or so alumni with the time, money or College sponsorship to attend the meeting in Hanover are making decisions for tens of thousands without them. This is not a situation that is conducive to significant alumni involvement. The proposals also call for the Association leadership to present a yearly budget to the membership, which they do not currently do, and to limit the number of terms officers may serve. They would further require a greater role for the membership in the calling of special meetings and the creation of committees, and for the annual meeting to be held concurrently with Alumni reunions after Commencement, as suggested by the Association’s Constitution to increase attendance. Finally, they would insist on a full and immediate report to all alumni regarding plans, currently under consideration, to dissolve the Association entirely, and restrict action on any such plan except after a vote of all alumni, whether in person, by mail, or electronically.

I find it hard to imagine objections to most, if not all, of these proposals, outside of a desire for continued control among the small group of alumni who wield power under the current system. This is a simple matter of providing all alumni with both a reasonable opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process and the information they need to do so wisely. Yet given the traditionally miniscule turnout at alumni meetings, a tiny group of alums opposed to doing so are in a position to defeat the reforms. That is why it is essential that concerned alumni attend this meeting now and ensure that the overwhelming majority do not remain disenfranchised any longer.