June 2, 2006

Insightful comment re: alumni constitution

I haven't posted on this blog in a while, but this proposed alumni constitution is kind of a big deal, and I have been a bit surprised by the fervor of this blog in opposing it. I apologize if I'm stepping on anyone's toes here, but I believe the below comment, made anonymously (it wasn't me) on one of Andrew's posts, is worth posting on this main page and considering. It makes some excellent points regarding the proposed alumni constitution.

Here's why the new constitution matters to so many alumni:

1. It provides for a structured voice for alumni to air their issues and opinions to the Trustees. To be sure, it works only if the Board agrees to treat the ALB with respect by meeting with it on a regular basis, which the Board has been silent about up to now, but it is better than the present system in which the CRG has been given little credence by the Board. To maintain the current system and argue that all alumni issues should be voted on by referendum is to agree that California's method of democracy is the best way of gathering alumni opinion. The problem with this is that most alumni are too busy with their lives to really delve into substantive issues in order to make informed decisions. So, after months of protracted public arguing in the papers and on blogs, which you say you decry as painting President Wright in a bad light, they ask fellow alumni whom they trust how they should vote. Isn't it possible that a representative form of governance might do a better job of getting informed on issues (even if they are then to be labeled "insiders") and make judgments on behalf of the whole?

Does this mean that faculty and students are shut out of the process? I don't believe that they are. The faculty are probably the most influential group of stakeholders in the institution. If you don't agree, re-read the history of President McLaughlin's era. Their voice is heard by, in particular, President Wright. Good grief; he came from this faculty. As for the student voice, I don't think it is over-ridden by the alumni either. Students are omnipresent on campus; they are who the school thinks about everyday, all day. If you have an issue with your voice being heard, it is with the Trustees, not the alumni. Want a place on the Board; ask them to grant you a charter seat. When you become alumni, you too can run for an alumni seat.

2. The new constitution attempts to deal with a structural problem that now forces the Alumni Council to nominate two candidates for every Board opening while petitioners can nominate only one. This, in effect, splits the vote in favor of the petitioner. Don't believe me? Just look at the results of the last two elections, and you will have to admit that it is a possibility. The new constitution does not restrict the ability of petition candidates to run for the Board, but it is trying to present alumni with an opportunity to make a clear choice when they vote. Let the best candidate (or at least the most favored one) win. If it is the will of the alumni to elect a petitioner in a head-to-head contest, so be it. That would send an even stronger message to the Board about alumni wishes.

I don't characterize people who want to keep the status quo as "wackos." In fact, I think the conservative voice (if that's who they are, although you claim not to be one) is as important to hear as the liberal voice or any other voice. If we were to exclude conservative opinion from the debates on campus, we would miss an important rhetorical element as well as the inclinations of roughly half the people in the US. In fact on a campus that can justifiably be characterized as fairly liberal, it is more important than ever that students know what the other side of the debate is all about. However, I do think that when the votes are taken about who will sit on Dartmouth's Board, it ought to be perfectly clear what the will of the majority was.

And here is a funny picture for your consideration, as this blog has also been a little short on funny pictures of late:


1 comment:

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