Petition Candidates Leave a Mark

It remains to be seen whether alumni Trustee petition candidates Peter Robinson ’79 and Todd Zywicki ’88 will be elected. It is clear, though, that several of the issues important to them—free speech, class size and athletics—have been taken to heart by the College establishment.

In fact, even the Alumni Council-nominated candidates now attack administration policy in these areas, as Curt Welling ’71 does in his first campaign email. Welling adds that the Trustee campaign has been characterized by “ideological generalization, hyperbole and oversimplification,” an apparent attack on the petition candidates, who many generalize as conservative apparatchiks.

Welling’s email is reproduced below, with emphasis added:

From: Association of Alumni
Subject: First Candidate Email – Curt Welling ’71, Tu ’77
Date: Tue, 22 Mar 2005 10:06:24 -0600
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According to procedures set forth by the Balloting Committee, each candidate for alumni trustee may choose to send up to two emails to the alumni body during the balloting period. This email is the first such communication from Curt Welling ’71. This email is being distributed to all alumni, regardless whether or not they have voted.

Comments made by the candidates in these e-mail communications represent their individual perspectives on different issues pertaining to the trustee elections. They have not been edited by the College or the Balloting Committee of the Association of Alumni. While the Committee may contact candidates to discuss any concerns it may have about the accuracy of the text of the email, the candidates have the final decision as to the content of their messages.

Dear Fellow Alum-

It is an honor to be nominated to run for the Board of Trustees at Dartmouth. I have been continuously involved in Dartmouth since graduation: as a Tuck student (T’77), as a class officer and reunion-giving chair, in the activities of the Dartmouth Fund, and in the Alumni Council-including as its president. I can think of no more important or more satisfying way to be of service to Dartmouth than as a Trustee. I take both the opportunity and the commitment very seriously.

I am writing to summarize for you some of the things I believe about the College and about the role of the Board. Remembering that “brevity is the soul of wit”, and in the knowledge that the length of this note and the probability of your reading it are inversely correlated, I will be brief. For a fuller explanation of my views, I hope you will look at the ballot materials which are available online and will soon be available in hard copy.

I believe-

—That commitment to excellence in the undergraduate experience is “true north”-it is the lens through which all policy and resource allocation decisions must be seen and resolved. All candidates seem to believe the same.

—That, on balance, Dartmouth does an outstanding job of attracting and educating the finest young men and women in America. This is the clear meaning of student satisfaction numbers and of the success of our graduates in both academic and professional marketplaces. To suggest that the “product” is anything other than excellent is disingenuous and misleading.

—That Dartmouth can be better. For example, the shortages of faculty, unacceptable class sizes and unavailability of classes in some majors cannot be tolerated and must be quickly addressed. These conditions are clearly inconsistent with an abiding commitment to excellence in undergraduate education. The Board must determine how this has happened and ensure that it does not recur.

—That the Board needs to create a culture of aggressive self-criticism. This will require an openness to all voices that has not characterized the Board in the past. All truly great institutions relentlessly examine the quality of their programs and the validity of their assumptions. In a dynamic marketplace, organizations that are not aggressively self-critical are dying.

—That Dartmouth today is, of necessity, an intricate entity that operates in a complex and dynamic environment. The critical issues facing the College are similarly intricate and not amenable to caricature. I believe that some of the rhetoric of this campaign is ideological generalization, hyperbole and oversimplification. I do not think it is informed by the complex reality of Dartmouth today.

—That the First Amendment means what it says. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of the pursuit of the truth. Speech codes, social or academic pressure on speech cannot be tolerated in any shape or form. It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that they are not tolerated. In the debate between civility and freedom of expression, civility is nice and a worthy objective–freedom of expression is quintessential and cannot be compromised.

That a great undergraduate institution must have beds available for all its students–whether in dorms or in affinity group residences. Residential availability and continuity are important issues that today severely compromise the quality of the undergraduate experience.

—That in a capital campaign of $1.3 billion, a target of $22 million for athletics is a curious resource allocation decision. It is hard to imagine the rational for allocating less than two pennies per dollar to an activity in which more than half of the students participate, and which is so obviously a critical component of the undergraduate experience.

That when a senior officer of any organization publicly disagrees with the policies and values of the organization to its detriment, that officer should be held accountable.

—That Dartmouth is uniquely positioned to assume a preeminent role in defining excellence in undergraduate education: large enough to be credible, strong enough to attract the best students and faculty, informed and guided by its core values and its undergraduate focus. To achieve this position Dartmouth need only reaffirm these values and then have the courage and the steadfastness to be guided by them in all important decisions.

—That each Trustee owes the College independence of thought and action. Dartmouth is both an ideal and an objective reality. Trustees are elected to protect the ideal and to improve the reality. To me, that means representing all stakeholders with an honest open-mindedness that is informed by the facts and inspired by Dartmouth’s core values.

These are the beliefs that will guide my work if I am elected to the Board. If any of this raises questions, I would be happy to answer them.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these matters and for voting in what I believe will be an important election for the College.

Respectfully,

Curt Welling ’71, Tuck ’77

Do any readers know what the officer accountability bullet refers to? It does sound rather like a call for maintaining message discipline within the administration.