As Phi Beta Cons readers are aware, the Dartmouth College administration is currently engaged in a campaign of electioneering designed to freeze out the views of concerned alumni. And it seems Dartmouth is not alone.
The Chronicle noted last year that concerned alumni are asserting themselves—running for trustee and alumni board positions nationwide and helping their alma maters establish oases of excellence on campus. One of the examples of this is Hamilton College, where a new oasis has just been established thanks to the efforts of Professor Bob Paquette, concerned alumni, ACTA, NAS, and others.
Another example is Colgate University, where a group of independent candidates petitioned onto the ballot for the university’s Alumni Corporation Board of Directors (ACBD). (Unlike Dartmouth and Hamilton, Colgate does not provide any avenue for concerned alumni to wage electoral campaigns for actual trustee positions.) A member of the Alumni Corporation Board of Directors does, however, sit ex officio on the Colgate board.
The reformers were defeated in the last election, but did draw a very impressive share of the vote, more than one-third, especially in light of the circumstances they faced.
This year, concerned alumni are continuing their efforts. Rather than simply running petition candidates—as they did last year—they are hoping to be nominated by the ACBD Board itself. (All the successful candidates last year were apparently so nominated.) As one concerned alumnus put it in an e-mail obtained by ACTA:
One of the primary challenges to our past effort was the fact that our candidates were nominated-by-petition candidates. This time, we would like to have our supporters become part of the ACBD slate. Mindful of this possibility, the ACBD has changed its nomination deadline from the usual late November/early December date to October 16, 2006.
An article in The Colgate Scene confirms that the deadline is indeed October 16. This is about a month earlier than the deadline cited in a March 2005 article. Smells funny, doesn’t it?
To add some context, here are some of the other irregularities cited in the e-mail:
The ACBD maintains that its election policy promotes the values of “fairness, integrity, and transparency.” Actions speak louder than words, and the ACBD’s actions in the last election were contrary to their stated goals. By way of example, the ACBD stated that they would not be using their alumni database to promote their candidates (as they denied the Petition candidates access to the same), yet the ACBD now openly acknowledges that they did send e-mails to alumni and otherwise assisted their chosen slate. While the ACBD’s support of its chosen slate was not unexpected, a fair, open, transparent process conducted with integrity would have granted the Petition candidates the same opportunity to avail themselves of the alumni lists. Also, the ACBD mailed its ballots; the information on how to obtain a replacement ballot was listed on that ballot, and on that ballot only, with a deadline to request a new ballot a month before the election. There were many instances where alumni never received their ballot; when alerted of the then-pending election, many alumni requested a ballot, only to be denied. Further, voting on the day of the election was prohibited, except to those who had brought their original ballot to Reunion, barring many alumni attending Reunion Weekend from exercising their right to vote.
In sum, the ACBD set arbitrary deadlines that absolutely favored its candidates, created structural impediments to a fair and open election, and actively worked on its slate’s behalf, while denying access to University maintained databases to Petition candidates while providing that access to its own.
This reminds ACTA of the situation at Dartmouth, where the establishment has held a virtual monopoly on information and deadlines for elections have been shifted in ways designed to ensure the status quo.
At a time of many challenges, concerned Colgate alums should let their voices be heard. They should consider putting their names forward for the Alumni Board. And they should protest arbitrary actions designed to shut out alumni input, just when it is most needed.