Phi Beta Cons

Dartmouth, Reviewed

Here’s more from the WSJ edit cited by K Lo:

consider the escalating governance controversy at Dartmouth College. A few reformers have achieved a bit of influence, and now the New Hampshire school’s insular establishment is doing everything it can to run them out of Hanover. …

In practice, the Trustees have been largely ornamental overseers, rubber-stamping the management decisions of the “progressive” college administration and faculty. The passivity of the Trustees owes, in part, to the fact that many official alumni representatives operate as a de facto wing of the establishment, pushing candidates who won’t make trouble.

In 2004 and 2005, however, Dartmouth alumni were finally offered genuine choices. Over three successive Trustee contests, independent candidates bypassed the official channels and got onto the ballot by collecting alumni signatures. Each of the petition candidates — T.J. Rodgers, a Silicon Valley CEO; Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter and current Hoover Institution fellow; and Todd Zywicki, a law professor — ran on explicit platforms emphasizing academic standards, free speech and Dartmouth’s acute leadership crisis. All three were unexpectedly elected by wide margins despite intense institutional opposition. Not only did the trend give expression to the general alumni discontent over how Dartmouth is being run (a rare thing in academia), but a critical mass was also building for more muscular stewardship, and, with it, fundamental change.

Dartmouth’s inner circles, quite naturally, loathe all of this. And so the Alumni Council — the representative body of sorts for the whole — decided there was nothing to be done but change the rules. At issue is a new proposed constitution, cooked up in 2004 and constantly altered in response to events, that would “reform” the incorporation of the Trustees.

Most of the details are too tedious to go into here, but the new document is plainly designed to prevent outsiders from gaining still more Trusteeships.

If you care about Dartmouth, go buy a copy of today’s WSJ and read the whole piece.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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