September 20, 2006

Alumni Constitution--Semi-regular update

First of all, try to go to the Alumni Constitution Panel tomorrow @ 7pm in Rocky 2. Four members of the AGTF will be there answering questions. Okay, plugging event—check. Fantastic.

I keep saving the posts I run across about the Constitution and then try to read them all at once, so I'll just go reverse-chronologically. Important things I'm putting in bold.

Sept. 18: An apparently "humanoid" (?) blogger from the New England area weighs in on the controversy:
In an era in which the tenured radicals and anti-traditionalists use their colleges and universities as laboratories for social engineering and experimentation [Just a second, I have this mental image of Professor Brenda Silver in a white lab coat, moving people around in her classroom, and it's hilarious. Okay, back to the screed], many alumni tend to feel dismayed, but helpless... It's not just about setting an example for other higher education institutions - it's about setting examples for all levels of education. The teacher's colleges take their cues from the Ivies. The entire anti-traditionalist, political-correctness dhimmitude, dumbing-down, feel-good, social-engineering movement in primary school has been inspired by what the big guys do and say, and not just by their own socio-political agendas. One sobering example from a teacher patient of mine (a fellow who uses the subjunctive properly), who told me on Friday that the public schools in MA no longer teach grammar. It's too difficult for the kids, and it's elitist!
Yes, were the constitution voted down, the subjunctive will have been saved (and the future perfect no doubt too!). This person clearly doesn't deserve a keyboard. Dhimmitude? C'mon! If there's a reson to vote against the constitution, it certainly isn't a far right blogger buzzword.

Also, Roger Simon is a Dartmouth alum too? God help us.

Sept. 12: Malchow blogs about the efforts of the Alumni Council to encourage alums to vote for the constitution. Unfortunately, I don't feel that either of Joe's two complaints—that "representatives" shouldn't also advise their constituents how to vote, and that mass messaging of alums by the Alumni Council is somehow wrong—hold much water. Representatives do make statements about how to vote—just check out our petition trustees actions over the past few months. And what's wrong with mass messaging? That's not only standard, but necessary in large campaigns. Dartmouth has a huge alum base. This is a large campaign, on both sides.

In fact, as I was saying, emailing a lot of people the same basic information is so standard, Joe himself advocates it. I got a blitz from him that ran like this:
This e-mail is going out to just a few dozen folks who have the
ability to reach alumni. Attached, a number of documents and arguments
against this proposed constitution. We need to play the ground game,
now. Use all of the attached information however you'd like, but
please do use it, spread it, and get the word out there to VOTE NO on
the proposed constitution.

People trust e-mails and phone calls from their friends the most --
not messages from anonymous groups or robotic autodailers. So anything
you can do would be excellent!
Maybe Joe feels that sending a single email to a dozen or so people who are supposed to blitz/call all their friends, rather than to a whole bunch of alumni councilors who are supposed to contact their constituents, is somehow more ethical. Beats me how he figures that one, though. Oh, and I think it's relevant to mention that this missive contained no fewer than 9 attachments that are supposed to help convince my friends.

An open note to Joe and whoever else is out there: I may oppose the Constitution, but I'm not in your camp. I won't work for you, and I don't want to. Thanks.

Sept. 8: "Who are 'Dartmouth Alumni for Common Sense'?" Joe presents this letter. This actually gets close to the core of some of the things I don't like about the attitude and handling of alumni by those who are organizing and defending the constitution.

A) It is wrong, I think, to ask people to support the chosen (as opposed to petitioner) Trustee candidates just because they are chosen by the Nominating Committee, which is essentially what the AfCS are asking ("to support Dartmouth Trustee nominees selected by the proposed new Alumni Assembly – in opposition to likely petition candidates -- in forthcoming Alumni Trustee elections in 2007 and beyond.") I cannot say that I am certain that in every case, I will feel that the chosen candidate is superior to the petitioner(s). I hope that one day, someone will decide to run who is, perhaps, too radical for the nominating committee—someone who wants to shake things up, but to the left. I may well vote for such a person.

B) The issue is not whether or not this constitution improves the ease and, more importantly, the breadth of alumni involvement in governance. I think it will. The issue is whether it could do more. I think it can; I think it has a long way to go toward truly making alumni involvement rewarding to the College in ways other than writing checks. I don't see the point of voting for an imperfect constitution—one that we'll have to—or should have to—alter in the future, and go through the gauntlet of cranky old men again.

C) This sentence: "[O]pponents of the new Constitution are making false claims and sowing dissension where there should be none." I believe in dissension, or at least dissent, very strongly. On something so important as this Constitution, I am afraid of the attitude that there should be no dissension among our collegiate community. There should be dissension, as long as it is not trivial or manufactured. I think Malchow and PowerLine especially have verged on the manufactured end all too often, but the dissension is not trivial.

D) "They claim the new Constitution is anti-democratic – and then demand that affiliated groups should not have a role in electing members of the Alumni Assembly. They claim that new rules that ease petition candidates’ access to the Alumni Trustee Ballot will somehow, perversely, produce anti-democratic results." First sentence: my opinion on affiliated groups is very different from that of the constitution foes, but I do have the opinion that certain measures in the constitution (the leadership arc for one) pull us away or distance us from the directness that I believe democracy is supposed to entail.

Second sentence: I've wanted to talk about this for some time. Someone pointed out to me that the argument that petitioners run as a reaction to the specific candidate or slate of candidates chosen is a non-starter. The petitioners normally run more in opposition to the status quo, and not against anyone in particular. The person I spoke with believed that this meant it was not as important that petitioners be able to file after the slate has been selected, but I don't believe that's true. What is important here, what is at stake here, is whether trustee races should be about finding candidates with careers and accomplishments we admire or about finding trustees whose ideas and issues we can get behind. As long as trustee races are about the person, in other words, and not the issues, petitioners have no need to file after the slate is set. They are running as people primarily, and not as a standard-bearer, and do not need to know how the chosen candidates address the same issues they want to address. However, if the point is to find trustees who have a similar vision for Dartmouth, it is important to know what the chosen candidates' visions are. If an option is needed, it can be provided, if not, then no one petitions.

Okay, that's it for tonight. Classes tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:04 PM

    Playin' right into the hands of the right, Seal.