Petition Trustees: An unfair advantage?

The following letter was written to the editor of The Valley News this past Saturday in response to Joseph Asch’s letter, published on June 12th. Word is that Mr. Asch ’79 will be writing a reply to Mr. Colla ’66, former VP of alumni relations, in the The Valley News very soon.

VALLEY NEWS – 6/23/2007
Alumni Not Truly Represented
Letter to the Editor By Stan Colla ’66


To the Editor:
The problem with Joseph Asch’s vision of democracy in Dartmouth’s trustee nomination process (Forum, June 12) is that it might not truly reflect the will of Dartmouth’s alumni. The nomination process stipulated under the current constitution of the Dartmouth Alumni Association provides a distinct advantage to a single petition candidate running against the three mandated Alumni Council candidates.

In this year’s trustee election, Stephen Smith received 9,984 votes while the remaining 22,957 votes were divided up among the three Alumni Council candidates. Not to take anything away from Smith’s victory, but you can do the math. If you were supportive of the Alumni Council’s slate of nominees, you then had to figure out how you would choose among the three Alumni Council candidates. If you were not, you had only one choice.

Joe Asch knows this structural anomaly exists, and so do each of the petition trustees to be nominated within the past three years. None of them wants to change this part of the constitution because it would eliminate their advantage and, possibly, lead to the nomination of one of the Alumni Council candidates. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear Joe Asch claim that, under the current arrangement, Mickey Mouse, if nominated by petition, could be elected to Dartmouth’s board of trustees. He might, for once, be right.

The proposed constitution that failed last fall under a relentless attack led by, among others, the then three petition-nominated trustees would have led to head-to-head races between candidates when a petitioner qualified for nomination. That would have gone a long way to ensuring that the will of the majority was known. As it stands now, a plurality of the votes, not a majority, can win the election.

For the record, I agree with Joe Asch and others that the wisdom of Dartmouth’s alumni needs to be better heard, acknowledged and used by the college. Because of their lifelong identification with their alma mater, the alumni have the privilege and the responsibility to offer their constructive feedback. However, this attempt to alter the board of trustees profile at Dartmouth through a flawed nomination process has
got to stop. If the board of trustees decides to take matters into its own hands because the alumni will not, that is their privilege and responsibility.

Dartmouth Class of 1966