Vote for T.J. Rodgers ’70

I second John Kalb on this. T.J. Rodgers, who has been nominated by petition, is a refreshing candidate who seems very sympathetic to the concerns of disaffected Dartmouth alums. He’s a very successful businessman and, it seems, a free marketeer par excellence.

But his personal statement truly blew me away. In decided contrast to the puffy, solipsistic statements of the official, Board-approved candidates, Rodgers focuses on three specific issues: curriculum, open government, and the Dartmouth identity. He thinks that Dartmouth College (“not University”) must remain “the best liberal arts college in the world,” and that the College’s current mission statement does not adequately reflect this. Furthermore, he wants a stronger curriculum that focuses on “thinking and reasoning, writing clearly, understanding the economy and even understanding the basic principles and history of our American Democracy.” (Yes, a candidate for trustee of Dartmouth College actually said that.)

But I nearly fell out of my chair when I read the next segment:

More open and better governance. The alumni receive too many glossy infomercials, while being excluded from meaningful debates on the great issues that set the character of the Institution. This stifling of free speech starts with the trustee oath, which prevents the trustees from publicly expressing dissenting opinions. Next, Dartmouth’s speech code encroaches on the First Amendment rights of its students. Finally, a mandated campus orthodoxy, defined and enforced by expensive overhead bureaucracies such as the Office of Residential Life, limits free speech on campus. Above all else, Dartmouth should fully embrace the First Amendment.

I could quibble about his statement on the First Amendment rights of students — rights that, as a private institution, Dartmouth is not legally obligated to respect — but frankly, the fact that a trustee candidate is willing to acknowledge Dartmouth’s speech code and to call for greater commitment to free expression is exhilarating.

He already has my vote. And he should have yours, too. Alums can cast their ballots through April 30, although I urge everyone to vote as soon as possible.