AoA Press release

This just in: the Association of Alumni has issued the following press release–

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 10, 2007

Dartmouth Alumni Association Leaders Condemn Trustee Power-Grab

Legal options are being explored with top DC law firm

HANOVER, NH — A majority of the Dartmouth Alumni Association’s Executive Committee has condemned the changes in the make-up of the school’s Board of Trustees announced on Saturday. The statement echoes results of an alumni poll conducted by the Association in August, which showed over 92% in favor of maintaining the parity between “charter” (Board-selected) trustees and trustees elected by the alumni body.

As the Board’s action on Saturday effectively wipes out an agreement between the trustees and the Association dating back to 1891, the Executive Committee is consulting the law firm of Williams and Connolly about its legal options. Dartmouth Trustees and administrators have already been advised to preserve all documents related to the Board’s most recent action.

The Executive Committee had gone on record consistently in urging the Board of Trustees to maintain this historic balance between alumni-elected trustees and those chosen by the Board itself, called charter trustees.

Frank Gado, an Association officer, said today: “The actions of Dartmouth’s Trustees are more in keeping with the conduct of a totalitarian state than with a college dedicated to educating leaders of the world’s greatest democracy. When you come right down to it, Dartmouth doesn’t trust its graduates with a meaningful vote.”

The Alumni Association leaders who are preparing for a potential lawsuit insist they are saddened by its prospect. All express their belief that, had the trustees’ study group conferred with their alumni counterparts in good faith, solutions consistent with the historic 1891 agreement were available. Instead, all overtures were ignored. A single meeting with the Association’s governance committee occurred after the trustee group had already completed its study and was just days away from finalizing its report to the full Board.

Dartmouth Trustee Chairman Charles “Ed” Haldeman maintains that the enlargement of Dartmouth’s Board must be done without adding seats elected by alumni. These elections, Haldeman says, “increase rancor” and “divisiveness” and have become too costly.

In response, Gado added: “Surely no strife generated in an election could compare with the rancor and divisiveness that have flared because of the trustees’ unilateral stripping away of alumni rights. And the many hundred thousands of dollars consumed by this fight will overwhelm the $75,000 spent by each of the two frontrunners in this year’s trustee race.”

Undemocratic expansion of the Board is not the only issue being contested by the Association. Executive committee members Tim Dreisbach and David Gale have pointed to the Report’s interference in the affairs of the Association, designed to operate independently of the College.

“I’m very disappointed,” Gale remarked, “that the Board, rather than telling us which issues they’d like addressed and working with us to find solutions, has decided to mandate certain changes which they expect us to compel a super-majority of alumni to approve before we’re allowed to manage further Trustee elections.”

Dreisbach similarly questioned the right of the trustees to rip up the Association’s constitution and redraft it to their liking. “What the trustees are now dictating for alumni elections accomplishes what was rejected in last year’s constitutional referendum, strengthening the advantage of nominated candidates over petitioners. Is the Board teaching us that elections don’t count if those in power don’t like the results?”