College administration campaigns for new constitution

Patricia Fisher ’81, the director of the College’s Alumni Leadership office, is using her Dartmouth e-mail account to send e-mails backing the new alumni constitution.

Below is an e-mail Fisher sent to Dartmouth’s official Alumni Council list on behalf of Martha Johnson Beattie ’76, the president of the Alumni Council and a supporter of the “reforms.” Beattie tells Council members that it is their “official duty” to ask alumni “to vote yes along with us,” and she includes sample e-mails defending the document and attacking alumni who have raised questions about it.

—–Original Message—–
From: Patricia Fisher/Alumni Leadership
[mailto:ALUMNI-COUNCIL@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU]On Behalf Of Patricia Fisher
Sent: Monday, September 11, 2006 11:05 AM
To: ALUMNI-COUNCIL@LISTSERV.DARTMOUTH.EDU
Subject: Urgent request for the Alumni Council–From President Martha Beattie

Councilors,

The summer vacations are behind us and we need to act. Some of you have responded to my first request to advocate for the proposed constitution. I admire your efforts and thank you. It is now time for all councilors to put out the message as to why we, in May, voted unanimously for this document. As official representatives of the alumni body of Dartmouth College it is our duty to report to our constituency, explaining our vote, and asking them to vote yes along with us! Your leadership is needed!

I am asking each of you to send out an email. At the risk of serious overload, I have pasted below three letters of advocacy, written by fellow councilors in response to my first request. You can choose one letter, copy it word for word and state that it was written by a fellow councilor. Or, create your own version by using points from all three. Introduce yourself, state your role on the Council, present the facts of the constitution and emphasize how crucial it is for all alumni to understand that their yes vote is important.

To all class representatives on Council, it is imperative that you tackle this project as soon as you can. Your class constituencies will cover the great majority of alumni. As Alumni Councilors you are in the position to request class email lists by bv virtue of your representative duties. All you need to do is to email or call Bonnie Bourdon, [e-mail address removed] (603-646-3929). Please do this as soon as you can, but please no later than Wednesday. Bonnie will send the lists to you and you can attach your message and send it off. If you have technical problems with the send, she can help you with that as well. I will be managing the list of all class reps who have requested and subsequently received the email addresses, and will follow up with each of you in the week to come. Please contact me at [e-mail address removed] with any questions or concerns you may have, especially class reps who are new to Council.

To all other councilors, you too can request your constituency mailing list from the College. If you represent the mini-reunion chairs, request that list. If you are the Thayer School rep, request your alumni list. I think the goal is clear. In addition to that, please send your letter to any personal contact list for Dartmouth and ask each of your friends to send it on to their contact list.

There is a great deal of misinformation being spread about this Constitution. Many of you have seen the WSJ editorial, which irresponsibly had more falsehoods in it than truths. Thankfully, good letters of rebuttal were subsequently published. The Alumni Council has to step up and take a leadership role. Attending two fun meetings a year in Hanover is not why you, with your talents and commitment, have been brought together to serve as the representative body of all Dartmouth alumni. It is consistent with your charge as concilors to communicate the Alumni Council’s positon to your constituency. The vote is four days away. Please send out your message of advocacy now. I will monitor the activity and look forward to helping each of you in any way that I can.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Martha

SAMPLE LETTERS:

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Dear Classmates:

Starting on September 15th (thru October 31st) you will have the opportunity to vote on a new Dartmouth Alumni Constitution. At the May Alumni Council meeting, the Council voted UNANIMOUSLY to endorse the proposed constitution. This constitution was written by an alumni task force that spent several years reaching out and processing input from the many different constituencies that make up the alumni body of Dartmouth. This election is extremely important and I urge you to take five minutes and read why I believe voting YES is the right answer for the future well-being of our College.

Why vote YES for this new Constitution?

Because what we have now is not working. We actually have two constitutions for two separate governance bodies –the 96 member Alumni Council and the Association of Alumni representing all 66,500 alumni. The current system is confusing; it is not terribly democratic; it includes rules for electing Alumni Trustee nominees that are out of date and unable to deliver a fair and level playing field and it fails to provide a proper forum for effective two-way communication among the Administration, the Board of Trustees and the alumni body.

The new constitution establishes a framework for solving these problems:

—Instead of two constitutions there will be one. Instead of having an Association of Alumni that presently does nothing but oversee Alumni Trustee elections, the Association <> representing all 66,500 alumni <> will control every aspect of alumni governance.

—The Assembly it establishes will be a representative body, like the current Alumni Council, but with better representation (e.g. classes through the 50th Reunion will have their own representative, rather than currently having to share one with another class).

—A new Alumni Liaison Board will be established to provide more open and accessible communications among alumni, the Administration and Board of Trustees that will allow alumni opinions to be better heard.

—Alumni governance will be democratic through alumni-wide, all media voting, not just for Alumni Trustee elections, as is presently the case, but for all Association and Assembly officers, 21 at-large Assembly seats and half the seats on the Alumni Liaison Board, Nominating Committee and
Balloting Committee.

—The new constitution levels the playing field between petition candidates for trustees and those nominated by the alumni council. Instead of three-on-one races with three slated candidates facing a petitioner and the victor not needing to win a majority of alumni votes, the new constitution encourages one-on-one races with the winner getting more than 50% of the vote. Petition candidates will still be able to run easily (in fact the number of signatures needed to get on the ballot will be reduced from 500 to 250), but a petition candidate will no longer have the advantage of running against three Association nominated candidates, as called for by the current constitution, which inevitably splits the nominated candidate vote three ways. (Imagine Republican or Democrat reaction to an election law mandating one or the other had to run three candidates vs. one for the opposition! Pretty absurd, right?)

I thank you for taking the time to read about the new Constitution. I hope that you will be joining me in voting YES for a better Constitution and a better Dartmouth!

Sincerely,

Liz (Epstein) Kadin

Your class representative on the Alumni Council

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Dear Friends:

I am one of the conservative members of the nine-member Alumni Governance Task Force that has worked for over two years to produce a new constitution for Dartmouthis alumni that radically increases the ability of alumni to influence the future
of the College. As many of you know, I wrote for the Dartmouth Review as an undergraduate, organized a group of fraternity alumni officers to prevent ithe end of fraternities as we know themi in the 1990is, was a member of the reform group Dartmouth Alumni for Open Governance, and have a iDartmouth Indiansi sticker on my bumper. I write to encourage you to vote in favor of the new constitution, and to ensure you know the facts about our efforts to involve the petition trustees in reforming the Constitution.

The Current System of Alumni Governance is and for Many Years Has Been Broken at Dartmouth College.

Far too many alumni believe that their opinions are not heard and respected by the trustees and administration, and they do not know how to influence the future of the college that they so dearly love. Rightly or wrongly, many alumni believe that the current alumni organizations, the Alumni Council and Association of Alumni, are self-perpetuating bodies that have not adequately represented all alumni. In addition, many alumni do not know what these organizations do, and their mandates are redundant and at times unclear. Currently, alumni may only vote for president of the Association of Alumni if they travel to Hanover once a year to vote in person. Alumni are not allowed directly to vote for president of the Alumni Council, at-large representatives to the Alumni Council, the Alumni Councilis Nominating Committee (which nominates trustee candidates), the Balloting Committee, and many class and club representatives. Indeed, currently each alumni class does not even have its own representative on the Alumni Council, but must share a representative with another class on a three-year rotating basis.

The Proposed Constitution Would Radically Increase Democracy for Dartmouthis Alumni and the Ability of all Alumni to Have Their Views Addressed by the College.

Under the proposed Constitution, all alumni would be able to vote by mail or e-mail for president of the Alumni Association, chair of the Alumni Assembly (the successor to the Alumni Council), vice president of the Alumni Association, 21 at-large representatives to the Alumni Assembly, half of the members of the Nominating Committee, half of the members of the Balloting Committee, class representatives to the Alumni Assembly, and club representatives to the Alumni Assembly. Moreover, the number of class representatives essentially would be doubled with each class having its own representative to the Alumni Assembly through the 50th year reunion class. Finally, any alumnus could run for any of these offices by petition.

Another radical improvement is the creation of the Alumni Liaison Board which is charged with ascertaining alumni sentiment and meeting regularly with the Board of Trustees to convey alumni views and engage in a two-way dialogue/partnership with the College. A majority of the members of the Alumni Liaison Board would also be directly elected by all alumni. We have met with the Board of Trustees, and believe that they are committed to working with the Alumni Liaison Board.

In sum, under the proposed Constitution the Alumni Association, consisting of all 66,500 living Dartmouth alumni, would be the over-arching umbrella organization under which two equal bodies would function: the Alumni Assembly and the Alumni Liaison Board.

The Trustee Nomination Process — Now and as Proposed.

Much controversy and false information has been generated concerning proposed changes to the trustee nomination procedures. Currently, the unelected Nominating Committee of the Alumni Council must nominate three candidates for an open alumni seat (the alumni nominate 8 of the 18 members of the Board of Trustees, and the trustees are then free to accept the nominated candidate if they so choose n which they always have done). To become a petition candidate one now must submit a petition signed by 500 alumni, 60 days after the Nominating Committee has announced its candidates. In elections where a candidate runs by petition, there are four candidates which makes it is very difficult for any candidate to secure a majority of the vote. For example, in the last trustee election the two winners, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki, received a mere plurality of the vote, with a majority of votes cast against them. This has led to a situation where some challenge their legitimacy and question whether they represent the alumni. While I do
not necessarily subscribe to this view, the current vote-fracturing system lends itself to such claims.

The proposed Constitution is designed to make it easier for petition candidates to get on the ballot and to promote two-candidate races where the winner must win by a clear majority of votes cast. The changes are as follows: 1)cutting in half the number of petition signatures necessary to get on the ballot from 500 to 250; 2) reducing the number of candidates nominated by the Nominating Committee to two (or one when a petition candidate is running); and 3) in order for the Nominating Committee to know whether to nominate one or two candidates so as to assure a two-candidate race, requiring petition candidates to submit their petition the day that the Nominating Committee announces its nominee(s). As noted above, an additional dramatic change is that half of the members of the Nominating Committee will now be elected by all alumni in alumni-wide voting (currently none are), and any alumnus may run by petition for a seat on the Nominating Committee with a mere 50 signatures.

Reasons for Change to the Trustee Nomination Process.

Contrary to claims you may have heard that the entire constitution is a scam designed to prevent petition candidates from winning trustee elections, here are the facts. First, changes to the petition process were first proposed in 2003, over two decades since a petition candidate (John Steele) had won a trustee election, and before T.J. Rogers, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki had even run for trustee. Second, in the Fall of 2005 the Alumni Governance Task Force changed its earlier proposals to address concerns raised to the Task Force by Rogers, Robinson and Zywicki and I personally spent months trying to solicit their input on the current proposal and to discuss other options with them. Indeed, Rogers initially stated that there was nothing in the current proposal he could not support, though he wanted to study it further. Sadly, Rogers, Robinson and Zywicki refused to respond to my repeated direct and indirect efforts to work with them this past Spring — instead waiting until the deadline for the final proposal had passed and then criticizing it in The New York Times. Third, I and other members of the Task Force supported some petition candidates for trustee and two of us ran as petition candidates for president of the Association of Alumni as outsiders/dissidents trying to reform Dartmouthis alumni organizations. Finally, the fact is that the new proposal actually makes it easier for petition candidates to get on the ballot by cutting in half the signature requirement, and petitioners having a majority of support will be elected as easily as ever, without the possibility of having their legitimacy questioned. On the other hand, the new proposal will prevent an unpopular candidate from sneaking onto the Board of Trustees due to vote splitting by overly-numerous, more popular candidates.

In Sum.

The proposed Constitution is a huge step forward for Dartmouth alumni. Is it perfect n no. Is it an enormous improvement in what we have now n you bet it is. I encourage you all to vote in favor of the proposed Constitution and ask you to send this e-mail to your friends.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss the proposal.

Very truly yours,

John “J.B.” Daukas ’84

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Hi Everyone,
I have spoken with some of you on this issue. I feel strongly that the naysayers – the “squeaky wheel” in this process – are drowning out the silent majority. I could not make a more a
rticulate or cogent argument in favor of the proposed constituion than the one below, written by Alumni Council president-elect Rick ’81. You may have already read it. If not, I encourage you to take the time to do so. It pains me to see Dartmouth dragged through the mud by Paul Gigot and others. In addition, I resent the fundamentally spurious accusations made about the Alumni Councilors ( including me) who are dedicated volunteers. I fear, as do many, that the excellent work represented by a DIVERSE group of alumni will be sacrificed.

” I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am the President-elect of the Alumni Council, a job to which I was elected primarily by virtue of the fact that I was willing, as best I can determine, and that I have served with enthusiasm on the Council. I’m not a politician, in fact, I don’t really like politics. I’m a surgeon, and as a medical person, I’m more used to working toward concensus, rather than taking everyone on as an adversary.

That said, I have been overwhelmed lately by the misrepresentation of the process that has gone into creating the new constitution, the purpose behind it, and the concept that those of us who support it are somehow conspiring to serve some higher power in the administration. If this is all true, someone forgot to tell me about it. I’m just a schmuck who can’t say no when asked to do something for my alma mater, and now I find myself about to be on the chopping block for my willingness to serve.

The most recent attack appeared on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. For anyone interested, please e-mail me, and I can send you the text of that as well as five responses from alumni, which refute most of the points of the editorial. The fact that Paul Gigot, an alumnus who is opposed to the constitution, is the editorial editor of the WSJ is not pointed out in the editorial anywhere. I think it’s unlikely that any of the five letters to the editor in response will be published.

Please look beyond what is being written in the “D”, the “Review”, and the national media, and look at the actual document, the explanation of how it was developed by the AGTF (which included members from DAOG!), and look at the history. This process started long before the most recent petition candidates for trustee were elected; it was not in response to that fact. It attempts to make the trustee election process less burdensome to all parties involved, and to provide results that are definitive with winners who gain a majority of votes. Beyond this, the primary complaint of most opponents, the proposed Alumni Assembly is far more representative and up-to-date than thecurrent Alumni Council, which was designed before co-education, and before our student body had the degree of diversity it now has.

Please be thoughtful in making your decision about the constitution. I strongly encourage you to vote in favor of it, but if you are opposed to it, understand why–don’t accept what you read in the paper, on the blogs, or in e-mails that are far more inflammatory than mine.

— PLEASE VOTE!!!

Martha Beattie
[Address removed]