Dartmouth has become so frustrated by its failures to keep reform-minded alumni off the board of trustees that it recently introduced a plan that would increase the size of the board and reserve new slots for yes-men who would answer to the administration. This board-packing scheme is currently tied up in the courts, though it could go through as early as February. But even this isn’t enough for Dartmouth’s power-hungry administration: Now it’s trying to persecute one of its dissident board members, Todd Zywicki, for speaking his mind about the college’s problems.
Zywicki’s sin is to have given a talk at a conference on higher education, sponsored by the Pope Center. His address was provocative (read it on Joe’s Dartblog), and in at least one place it included fighting words–he called a former Dartmouth president “evil.” The line reads poorly on the printed page, but it was almost certainly meant to get a chuckle from a live audience that knew he was speaking over-the-top. The people who are now claiming outrage over it almost certainly nodded their heads in amusement in 2000 when John McCain he described Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as “the forces of evil.” At any rate, Zywicki has apologized for this remark.
Dartmouth is lucky to have a trustee such as Zywicki–a man who is willing to discuss Dartmouth’s challenges in public, rather than clam up about them as if they don’t exist. Yes-men trustees sit silent as colleges and universities embarrass and destroy themselves, such as when Harvard ousted Larry Summers and Duke cracked down on its lacrosse team.
The administration is now poised to punish Zywicki. He could face anything from a reprimand to an actual removal. He doesn’t deserve either. The better question is: Does Dartmouth deserve him?