Todd Zywicki’s Election Email

This email was sent Thursday, but not all alumni have received it.

Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 16:38:09 -0600
From: Association of Alumni
Subject: First Candidate Email–Todd Zywicki ’88

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 Todd Zywicki ’88.

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.

Professor Todd J. Zywicki ’88

Alumni soon will receive ballots providing the opportunity to vote for two Alumni Trustee seats on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. I am gratified by the petition signatures and words of encouragement that I have received from so many alumni. If elected, I will pursue four goals: Rededicate Dartmouth to its mission of undergraduate education, rededicate Dartmouth to the recruitment and education of well-rounded leaders, ensure that Dartmouth’s financial priorities advance its core mission, and to improve College governance through greater openness and transparency. You can learn more about these goals through the official materials that Dartmouth will be sending you with your ballot materials.

In this email, I would like to explain in more personal terms why I feel so strongly about my goals for Dartmouth that I have been willing to undertake the challenge of running for the Board as an independent petition candidate. First, as an educator, I believe strongly in the value of Dartmouth’s traditional mission of undergraduate education, and I am concerned that recent efforts to transform Dartmouth into a research university have compromised this commitment. Second, I believe that Dartmouth’s governance and decision-making have suffered from a lack of independent alumni voices in recent years, and that the College would benefit from greater cooperation with students and alumni and more active, independent leadership on the Board. I teach corporate law, and I believe that I can bring a valuable perspective as an educator and specialist in corporate governance issues to improve the Board’s oversight of College operations and priorities.

The election of T.J. Rodgers to the Board of Trustees last year and his service on the Board so far has demonstrated the positive role that Alumni Trustees can play in opening up College governance and ensuring that student and alumni voices are heard in College decision-making. If elected, I will work with T.J. and the other members of the Board to insure that the College’s direction and decisions reflect the insight and input of Dartmouth’s students, alumni, parents, and faculty.

I have dedicated my life’s work to educating students for the challenges within and beyond campus. Based on my experience, I believe that Dartmouth can best prepare current and future generations of students by building on the College’s unique character and distinctive strengths. In particular, I believe that Dartmouth should rededicate itself to the mission of providing an excellent undergraduate-oriented education in an intimate setting and educating well-rounded leaders. As an educator myself, I believe that I can contribute to improving Dartmouth’s educational mission. Like many of us, I chose to attend Dartmouth because of its emphasis on undergraduate education and its commitment to putting its finest professors in the classroom, providing students the opportunity to study with the faculty’s leading minds.

In recent years, however, Dartmouth has begun to transform itself it a large, impersonal research university, weakening its intimate undergraduate learning environment. The negative impact of this decision on the educational experience for Dartmouth students has been tangible and troubling. Several recent news stories and student columns in The Dartmouth have criticized ballooning class sizes and the inability to enroll in necessary classes. See “Students Find Promises of Small Class Size Unfulfilled” (The Dartmouth, February 3, 2005); “Verbum Ultimum,” by Editorial Board of The Dartmouth, January 28, 2005). According to US News & World Report, Dartmouth’s record on offering small classes is among the worst in its peer group. See “Classes are a Size Too Large,” by Kenan Yount ’06 (The Dartmouth, September 28, 2004).

Finally, rather than having the opportunity to learn under Dartmouth’s most distinguished professors, classes increasingly are taught by adjunct professors, post-doctoral fellows, and other temporary and inexperienced professors; in some departments, such as Government (my major as a student), the number of classes taught by Visiting, Adjunct, and other non-tenure track faculty appears to be as high as 30-35%, or perhaps even higher. See Sadly, even in those Departments, students still report overcrowded classrooms and an inability to enroll in necessary classes. See “Govy Gridlock” by Daniel Belkin ’08 (The Dartmouth February 24, 2005).

I believe that adherence to Dartmouth’s undergraduate mission and the education of well-rounded students should be the most important priority of the College and the Board. Therefore, if elected, my first action as Trustee will be to propose the creation of a new standing Committee on Academic Mission and Quality. Today, the Board has three standing operating committees, Finance, Governance, and Master Plan and Facilities. The addition of a standing Committee on Academic Mission and Quality will mark an important substantive and symbolic commitment by the Board to ensure the continued vitality of Dartmouth’s commitment to excellent undergraduate-focused education.

During my time as a law professor I have come to know and work with many leading members of the Dartmouth faculty, and I have heard their repeated expressions of frustration at the diversion of precious resources from the College’s academic mission to non-educational purposes. If I am elected, I promise to work with Dartmouth’s faculty, students, and parents to ensure that Dartmouth’s resources further the College’s academic purposes. Moreover, in light of Dartmouth’s high tuition and the College’s major capital development campaign, it is essential that that student tuition and alumni donations are spent wisely and appropriately to advance the College’s core mission. Ideally, Dartmouth could take the lead in slowing the spiraling cost of college tuition today; at a minimum, the College must increase the transparency and accountability of its current budget.

As a law professor, I am also familiar with the unique challenges and opportunities of professional school education, and will work to preserve the high quality, the intimate learning environment, and teaching-focused environment of Tuck, Thayer, and Dartmouth Medical School.

I am also running to provide an active and independent voice on the Board for Dartmouth’s alumni, students, and parents. Due recent enlargement, following this election the Board of Trustees will consist of eighteen members: the College President, the Governor of New Hampshire (ex officio), eight Charter Trustees, and eight Alumni Trustees
. Charter Trustees are chosen by the Board itself according to an internal process with minimal involvement from the alumni body. The sole opportunity for Dartmouth’s alumni to influence the direction and operation of the College directly, therefore, is through the election of the eight Alumni Trustees.

As such, I believe that it is imperative that Alumni Trustees exercise an active, independent voice on the Board on behalf of Dartmouth’s students and alumni. I believe that the absence of active, independent alumni voices on the Dartmouth Board has resulted in poor decision-making and oversight of the College in recent years. For instance, when faced with a severe budget crisis two years ago, College leadership proposed to cut funding for the swim team, Sanborn Library, and the human biology program -while simultaneously proposing the creation of a new Dean of Pluralism, with all of the bureaucratic trappings. According to the Editorial Board of The Dartmouth, this decision was met by a “chorus of students and alumni…strongly protesting a wanton expansion of administrative bureaucracy in a time of fiscal crisis.” “Verbum Ultimum” by Editorial Board of The Dartmouth (October 1, 2004).

Similarly, six years ago, the President and Trustees of the College announced a plan to “put an end to the single-sex fraternity and sorority system which has existed at the College for more than 150 years.” See “Trustees to End Greek System ‘As We Know It'”, The Dartmouth (February 10, 1999). According to reports of the announcement, Wright said both he and the Trustees are prepared to weather the student and alumni opposition they expect will result from the decision. ‘This is not a referendum on these things,’ Wright said. ‘We are committed to doing this.’ According to the report, he added, The Trustees are prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars to finance the social and residential life changes, according to Wright, who said that the College will hope to purchase and refurbish the houses of the Greek organizations who currently live in privately-owned buildings.

I personally disagree with these decisions, especially in light of the College’s more pressing financial priorities, such as increasing the number of full-time classroom teachers. More fundamentally, however, I believe that both of these episodes demonstrate a profound breakdown of the College’s governance process. As evidenced by the subsequent tidal wave of opposition, the original decision to close the doors of Sanborn library and eliminate the swim team demonstrates a deep failure on the part of the College’s decision-makers to hear and to implement the priorities of Dartmouth’s students and alumni. Similarly, when the College makes a decision with financial and educational consequences as far-reaching as one to “end the Greek system ‘as we know it'” – and to commit to spending ‘tens of millions of dollars’ to do it-I believe it should do so in collaboration with students and alumni, rather than issuing the order by fiat and committing itself to ‘weather the storm’ of
their opposition.

I believe that active, independent alumni voices on the Board would dramatically improve College decision-making and prevent similar problems from arising in the future. As a Trustee I will work to improve communication between Dartmouth’s leadership and its stakeholders, and to increase the openness, transparency, and accountability of the College’s governance process.

Given the high cost of Dartmouth’s tuition today, and continued need for alumni financial support, Dartmouth’s students, parents, and alumni must have confidence in Dartmouth’s governance procedures and to insure that Dartmouth’s financial and other priorities advance Dartmouth’s core mission and are not diverted to non-educational ends.

Dartmouth’s mission is a great an honorable one. Dartmouth profoundly changed my life, and it continues to do so for thousands of students every year. I am the first member of my family to attend college and the first person from my South Carolina public high school to attend an Ivy League institution. My background was somewhat different from that of many of my classmates. Yet when I showed up with my pack at the foot of Mt. Moosilauke for my Freshman Trip I was welcomed into the Dartmouth fold, just as generations of men and women of varying backgrounds have been welcomed in times before and since.

I care deeply about Dartmouth, and am running for the Board to make Dartmouth stronger for current and future Dartmouth students. During my efforts to gain access to the ballot, I have heard from alumni from across America and around the globe. Dartmouth’s alumni are a rich source of wisdom, compassion, and judgment. I believe that Dartmouth should actively reach out to its alumni and draw on this deep well of experience, not marginalize and ignore us. If I win your trust, I promise to have an open door for the ideas and concerns of all students, parents, faculty, and alumni on how to continually improve Dartmouth and strengthen it for generations to come.