After the defeat of a new constitution that would have impaired the “petition process” for electing Dartmouth College trustees—the document required the votes of two-thirds of alumni to pass; it received the votes of fewer than half—a new trustee election season has begun. The election this year is taking place under the old, time-honored rules—rules that allow any alumnus who can gather five hundred alumni signatures to place his name on the ballot.
That’s how I placed my name on the ballot when I ran as a petition candidate two years ago, and that is how Stephen Smith, Class of 1988, is seeking to place his own name on the ballot.
When I spent time with Steve recently, I found him immensely impressive—really, one of the most compelling people I’ve ever met. Raised by a single mother in inner-city Washington, Steve graduated from Dartmouth at 20. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and is now a tenured professor of law at the University of Virginia. As Steve himself writes:
The path that took me to Hanover almost a quarter of a century ago was anything but ordinary. I grew up in the inner city of Washington, D.C. My mother, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, raised my three siblings and me on her own, relying on public assistance. A black kid growing up on welfare in a broken home—my future, any sociologist would have told you, wouldn’t have included an Ivy League degree or a tenured position at a Top Ten law school.
My mother, however, refused to tolerate self-pity. “You’re a welfare recipient,” she would tell me, “but be the best anyway.”
Throughout my youth, my mother repeated that lesson, insisting that I remain in school, taking my education seriously. Be the best. Because I worked hard—and listened to my mother instead of accepting the low expectations of my environment—I had many fine options for college. I chose the best. I chose Dartmouth.
I’d urge all Dartmouth alums to take a look at Steve’s website. If you like what you see—Steve’s insistence on freedom of speech on campus will prove of particular interest to readers of this Corner—then print a copy of his petition, sign it, and mail it to Steve by the end of this month. In doing so, you won’t be committing yourself to Steve, just helping him get his name on the ballot. Voting begins in April.
You’ll find information on the three officially nominated candidates—that is, those who are already assured of a place on the ballot—here.