Robinson’s Second E-mail

A week ago, alumni Trustee petition candidate Peter Robinson ’79 sent this email to alumni who had not yet voted (formatting and links in the original):

Peter Robinson ’79

Dear fellow Dartmouth alumna or alumnus,

I?m seeking a seat on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees as a petition candidate in the election now taking place. In this, the second and final email that the College permits me to send to you, I’d like to set out my positions—and urge you to vote before balloting ends on May 6.

My fundamental conviction? That the effort in recent years to turn Dartmouth into “a research university in all but name,” to quote President Wright, has undermined the institution we all love. Dartmouth must build on its own immense and distinctive strengths, not permit itself to become a second-rate Harvard or Yale.

If elected, I’d devote myself to three issues: excellence in undergraduate education, freedom of speech on campus, and the athletic program, much of which stands in sore need of renewal. I explain myself at greater length on the College’s website and on a website sponsored by the Student Assembly, but here, in brief, is where I stand:

Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Calling Dartmouth “a research university in all but name,” as President Wright has repeatedly done, betrays a profound misconception of the College?s history, traditions, and signal strengths. Dartmouth College is a college.

Undergraduates today find themselves competing for resources with a bloated bureaucracy—the number of deans now stands at well over 30—and with ever-expanding graduate programs. Whereas Tuck, Thayer, and the medical school used to account for nearly all of Dartmouth’s graduate students, today some 600 graduate students, almost half the total, are attached to undergraduate departments.

Dartmouth now has 13 percent more students for each member of its faculty than does Harvard, 50 percent more than does Yale, and 80 percent more than does Princeton. Many undergraduate courses are chronically over-subscribed. And the proportion of non-tenure track employees on the faculty stands at more than one-third.

While maintaining the excellence of its graduate schools, each essentially a free-standing institution, Dartmouth should strive to provide incomparably the finest undergraduate education in the nation. I’d work to ensure that the College reduced its bureaucratic overhead, provided enough courses in the most popular subjects, granted the very highest standing to the very finest teachers, and concentrated resources where they belong—in the classroom.

Freedom of Speech on Campus

Although on free speech it gives Penn its best ranking and Yale its middle ranking, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gives Dartmouth its worst ranking. Why? As David French, the president of FIRE and a graduate of Harvard Law School explained in a recent letter, the administration’s speech policy “conditions free speech on the reactions of the least tolerant listener, is vague and ambiguous, and clearly singles out certain kinds of speech for punishment simply because they advocate allegedly unacceptable points of view.”

Trustee T. J. Rodgers ’70, who was elected to the board as a petition candidate last year, states it still more bluntly: “If Dartmouth were not a private college . . . it would have already been sued by the ACLU . . . for violating the First Amendment and it would already have lost.”

As a trustee, I’d refuse to accept any mere form of words like those President Wright has offered in his remarks to Dartmouth clubs this winter and spring. The administration must instead take action, rescinding all infringements on freedom of speech while promoting a climate in which every man and woman on campus feels genuinely at liberty to speak his or her mind.

Renewal of the Athletic Program

According to an analysis in the March issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, over the last decade the Dartmouth athletic program has fallen from second place in the Ivy League to sixth. In 10 of 30 sports, Dartmouth finished second-to-last or last. Whereas in certain sports Dartmouth remains a force, in others it has fallen into mediocrity.

The life of the mind must always come first at Dartmouth, and rededicating the institution to undergraduate education represents the chief reason for my candidacy. Yet the athletic program endows the College with an enhanced sense of community—what brings together students, faculty, administrators, and alumni like athletic events?—while giving students the opportunity to learn vital lessons of discipline and teamwork. Athletics, in other words, are integral to the mission of the College—not, as Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenberg has put it, “antithetical” to that mission.

The life of the mind, I repeat, must come first. Yet the College’s tradition of well-roundedness should be upheld and cherished, not derided or ignored. As a trustee I’d work to recommit the College to excellence in women’s sports, men’s sports, and the entire athletic program.

Whatever Your Views, Vote

If my views reflect your own, I’d be honored to have your vote. But whatever your views, please take this opportunity to participate in the life of the College.

If you need help voting—if you never received a ballot in the mail, if you find voting online confusing, or if you need assistance for any reason—take one of two simple steps. Call the alumni office at (603) 646-2258 or send an email to

Act soon. Once again, balloting ends on May 6.


Peter Robinson ’79