Phi Beta Cons

Dear Old Dartmouth

Boy, I love this place. Just yesterday I completed my Japanese History final exam while sitting on an old wood bench at the edge of a sprawling lawn which gave the word verdant its very existence. It was seventy degrees and the soft wind carried the note of not a single internal combustion engine. Birds and chipmunks, only. (Yes, chipmunks.) And I mused over MITI as a caterpillar mused over me.

 

All of which makes it the more infuriating when I consider what is going on in Dartmouth governance. I noted a week ago that the folks currently at the head of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni had cancelled unilaterally (well, postponed, they say, until the middle of 2007) the scheduled annual elections for the leadership of the Association. Other words: They cancelled elections for their own offices, extending their own terms to 150% of that for which they were elected. Unconstitutional, violatory of existing rules, uncouth, wrong. All of these words have been accurately used to describe this blatant abuse of power, and will be in the future.

 

But why is this important? In a press release distributed yesterday by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the Washington non-profit whose keen work has been cited numerous times on this page, it was observed that the cancellation of this election could have implications related to the proposed new constitution up for consideration at Dartmouth. The constitution controls trustee elections, and the executives of the Association of Alumni control the ratification vote on the constitution.

 

The constitution, as you may have heard, stunts future petition candidates by subjecting them to different rules. In the last three elections at Dartmouth, three petition candidates have run, and three have won. These are reform-minded trustees, unlikely to have been nominated by the powers-that-be. So they did the ground work of collecting petitions and get themselves on the ballot and then–here’s what was new–actually announced platforms. National Review contributor Peter Robinson ran successfully advocating for free speech, athletics, and a commitment to undergraduate education.

 

Instead of taking the message duly delivered by these three wins, Dartmouth is changing the rules. And doggone it, they’ll cancel an election if that’s what it takes.

 

ACTA last Friday sent a letter pointing out the impropriety–to put it perhaps too lightly–of unilaterally cancelling pre-planned elections for one’s own office. At the close, ACTA president Anne Neal asks “in the interest of fundamental fairness” that the Association principals” publicly rescind” the letter cancelling the elections. I cannot agree more. And if this proposed constitution is going to pass, let it pass on its merits, not through dirty tricks.

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