March 30, 2007

Trustee Voting

The polls open April 1st for this year's round of alumni trustee elections. Vox the Vote has all the important information about logistics—how you can vote, etc.

This page is particularly important: it gives details on the specifics of approval voting, Dartmouth's chosen system. From talking to people (students, admittedly) it still seems fairly unknown that Dartmouth uses an approval voting system and that alums can therefore vote for as many of the candidates as they wish. There are four candidates and, if you feel so inclined, you can certainly vote for all four. Professor Emeritus Robert Norman had more on the topic in an op-ed here.

I found The D's endorsement editorial a pretty good read of the situation, although my (negative) feelings about Smith are considerably stronger. Endorsement is not actually the best word—they expressed reservations about all candidates, but they do say that they all felt positively about Sandy Alderson.

In this situation, I would recommend that if you are undecided, you vote for more than one candidate—Alderson first, as a moderate candidate, and then another one or two whom you feel more closely approximate your general feeling about the administration—good or ill. However, I would like to strongly recommend that, even if you don't like Jim Wright, you consider Stephen Smith as more (or rather less) than just someone who opposes him.

Stephen Smith is, for reasons I have elaborated on this blog and in the DFP, not a good candidate for Dartmouth, and I say that not because I disagree with his assessment of Dartmouth's current state. I think his commitment to Dartmouth prior to this election is questionable if not non-existent, and I think his conduct during the campaign has been questionable as well. When caught with a more ideological than factual plank on free speech, he switched directions and tried to pretend he'd always been big buddies with Jim Wright, and yet he'll still tell the National Review that Dartmouth is under McCarthyism. When asked about his campaign funds and support (which must be considerable), he plays the race card. Even if you disagree with Jim Wright, Stephen Smith is not the best candidate for you, and he's not the best candidate for Dartmouth.


  1. Anonymous10:41 AM

    I got a mailing from Smith this week, and I'm inclined to vote for him.

    I wish he'd speak in more specific terms about the free speech issue, but I'm not too concerned about that. The administration's record has been mixed on that, and Wright's rhetoric isn't perfectly consistent with the rest of what he does, so any sort of response to what he says is likely to be mixed as well. It's not inconsistent to say that you agree with Wright's speech and support the improvements that have been made, but still think that there's a free speech problem on campus. Also, no other candidate has put any sort of view out there. Comparatively, Smith is sticking his neck out and I wouldn't fault him for it, even if he "plays the race card." He also plays the "no one else has expressed an opinion or been challenged like I have" card, which works for me.

    The mailing I got (which I don't have in front of me) addressed the faculty bureaucracy issue with a lot more nuance than the Dreisbach op-ed you mentioned. He puts out some global numbers, compares the growth of the administration with the growth of the faculty over the last few years, criticizes the number of adjunct faculty (as opposed to permanent faculty), and asserts that the result of this is oversubscribed classes. I'm sure I'm not doing his argument total justice, but it reflects a thoughtful concern for the lives of the undergrads rather than a dressed-up hostility to the "diversity deans," in my view.

    There's more there, but suffice it to say that I'm voting for Smith and the only debate in my head is whether to vote for other candidates as well. I've read your blog, and while I think your criticisms are thoughtful, many of them amount to being creeped out by the people who support Smith or who associate with him. It's a legitimate concern, but it's not one I share.

  2. Anonymous4:26 AM

    At some point, we all have to admit that Wright is a pretty lousy leader. Alderson was quoted in the D as follows:

    "I think in many respects, if not most respects, the College is in great shape and headed in the direction," he said. "I've known [College President] Jim Wright for a considerable amount of time ­-- he is one of the reasons that I got involved in the College again in the late 1980s. I have a lot of respect for what he has accomplished during his tenure."

    Sheesh! Unlike Alderson, Smith seems to believe that the College faces several serious challenges. No progress will be made w/o recognizing this fact.

  3. Anonymous 2: I fail to see the basis for the kind of crisis mentality you believe justifies voting for Smith. Smith's campaign platform is built on weak or rotten planks—the free speech issue foremost; but also athletics (the state of Dartmouth athletics is pretty darn good right now--unless the only metric you're using is the football team, and I don't think that is in any way a fair standard); the ballyhooed threat to the Greek system (which has only grown stronger during the past four years); the threat of 'bigness' (which is built on nostalgia rather than facts--consider that the most vehement arguments against 'bigness' are about not losing our identity and not being Harvard); administrative bloat (addressed inconsistently and unclearly as I covered here); COS reform (necessary, but hardly a case of the administration being out to get students).

    I don't think he has a clear or informed read of the situation at Dartmouth; what he does have a clear view of is what he can say to drum up support among alums. I realize that a number of alums seriously dislike Wright; I simply don't think that justifies voting for whomever outspokenly condemns him without also looking at the facts of the matter and what the candidates say about them.

  4. anon34:51 PM

    Anonymous2, Wright really is not a lousy leader. You might disagree with his policies, but none of Smith's points or pseudo-points addresses lousy leadership. Smith and the Phrygians are not trying to improve the place per se (although they would describe their proposals as improvements), they are trying to replace the leadership in order to see different policies implemented. It's a political argument, not an argument about effectiveness.