April 6, 2007

George Will Endorses Alderson

Dartmouth Trustee Election 2007 Coverage (all on one page)

In possibly the most interesting development of the trustee campaign so far, noted conservative columnist George Will endorsed Sandy Alderson in The D today.

Will should give Alderson some leverage with "moderate" Dartmouth grads, but it could cost him among liberals, although Will has enough credibility nationwide, I think, that it shouldn't be a death sentence except to those furthest left.

Will's argument, however, won't do as much as the mere fact of his endorsement. Basically, he just says that Alderson is a relatively open-minded guy who's more concerned with results than with ideology. Fantastic, but that probably won't persuade too many people who actually want ideology as part of their alumni politics. Those people will, no doubt, still be voting for Stephen Smith.

More persuasive (if it gets read) will be this letter, which gives the specifics to Smith's complete lack of participation as a Dartmouth alum:
After declaring his candidacy, I checked the Dartmouth College Fund website only to discover that he has not contributed to the DCF in the past four years. Checking further with volunteer leaders in his class and others, it appears that Smith has never once contributed to the DCF, or its predecessor, the Alumni Fund, or in fact, any other Dartmouth-affiliated activity. (The amount he may have contributed is irrelevant; it is participation that's important.) All this from a man who has written on his website, and in his initial letter seeking alumni support: "All that I have achieved -- all that I am -- the College made possible." Given his record, those words ring hollow. Smith's engagement with the College as an alumnus isn't minimal; it is non-existent, and I believe that calls into serious question the appropriateness of his sitting on the Board of Trustees. I hope my fellow alumni will give this due consideration when marking their ballots this spring.
I hate to be petty about money, but I think it's ridiculous that the first money Smith spends "for" Dartmouth is money for his own campaign. Talk about self-aggrandizement—I think it's clear that the College is not a priority for Smith, but his own personal advancement is.


  1. Anonymous7:12 PM

    If you start from the assumption that Smith cares nothing for the college, you can go find innocuous facts which, given just a little bit of spin, support your point.

    If you start from the assumption that he's telling the truth and acting in good faith, though, it's hard to really discredit that.

    The attitude of many Dartmouth alumni about giving is that they are not inclined to donate money until Dartmouth realigns its priorities, because that money will be misspent. Many alums complain about this. Smith, however, is actually trying to do something about it by running for trustee and spending time and money on making the College better. You may disagree with his views on "better," but the fact that he hasn't donated money doesn't mean that he's campaigning in bad faith. I have some misgivings about Smith, and I'm not sure who to vote for, but the letter about Smith's history of donating to the DCF is probably the dumbest critique I've read of him so far. He's not rich, he's got several children to raise on an academic's salary, and he believes that the College has its head up its ass in some ways. I don't see how his failure to write checks to Dartmouth under those circumstances says anything about his love or appreciation of his alma mater.

    Also, John Engelman is part of the Alumni Council. Take anything he says with a boulder of salt. His op-ed in the D, and his mass mailing urging everyone to vote for the 3 non-Smith candidates have done more to raise Smith's profile in my mind than anything Smith has done or said. Smith accuses the administration of all sorts of smarminess and of attacking his candidacy.

  2. I realize that Smith may have withheld donations from Dartmouth because of how he views its recent policies, but I don't find that to be a compelling excuse for a trustee candidate. I don't think our trustees should approach Dartmouth with a "my way or nothing" attitude, which is exactly what withholding donations amounts to. It says, 'I refuse to support any part of college activities if I can't have my way with the parts I care about.'
    I don't think that attitude is appropriate for a trustee, regardless of what their politics are.

    I guess my big beef is that Smith has approached this election with bad faith in the sense that he started off just assuming lots of things about the College without doing very much to find out about it. He comes in acting like the sheriff who will clean up the town full of crooks and drunks, having not set foot in Hanover since his graduation, as I heard somewhere. I don't think you have to be a big fan of "insider" candidates to realize that some involvement with the College or at least with a local alumni club or some other alumni group would be desirable before you expect people to vote for you as trustee. The complete lack of any involvement--not just financial--leads me to conclude that yeah, he is acting in bad faith.

  3. Anonymous10:12 PM

    Smith is willfully ignorant of the present state of the college or the last nineteen years of its history because he sincerely believes it has gone downhill since he left. His slick DACS-style campaign is based on disgust. He cares for the college only in the sense that he wants to return it to the days of pong tournaments and Indian wear.

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  5. I agree with Andrew that withholding donations for political reasons is a flawed excuse for a trustee candidate. While withholding donations may be a legitimate form of expression for some, it should not be for somebody who professes deep interest in college affairs and would have the opportunity to express dissatisfaction through personal participation.

    Many of the issues we face at Dartmouth ultimately come from tough choices about how to use resources. For example, the controversy over whether we should be teaching-focused or research-focused stems from the realization that we have a limited amount of money and we can't always do both. Withholding donations only forces more difficult choices and increases the tension of the debate.

    But this is a side discussion. There is no way of knowing whether Stephen Smith withheld for political reasons or not. Personally, I believe that people's decisions whether to donate money to a group or cause are personal and private, and should be free from public judgment. It is still disappointing that he wasn't heavily involved in the past and that should be taken into account. At the same time, it shouldn't be taken as a strong measure of his current dedication or sincerity.

  6. Anonymous5:06 AM

    Sad that everyone spends their time on reasons NOT to vote for Smith. But are there affirmative reasons to vote for the other three candidates - unless you are in favor of the big rubber stamp that each of them seems to carry.

    This elelction, like the last few, is a referendum on the poor adminstration of the College by Jim Wright & Co. Let's see how many alums have come to understand what it going on in Hanover.

  7. Anonymous9:45 AM

    "are there affirmative reasons to vote for the other three candidates"?

    Yes. They have experience managing large organizations for the long term. Smith is a law professor and an ideologue and has no such experience. He is running for political purposes that have no place in this race, and the lip service he pays to the good of the college is thinly-disguised quibbling with the policies of a successful and generally well-regarded president.

  8. Anonymous6:25 PM

    Would Engelman's endorsement of the three nominated candidates over Smith have been more straightforward if he had disclosed that he not only is a member of the Alumni Council, but is also a member of the Council-designated Nominating Committee that selected the first three candidates.

  9. Anonymous5:38 AM

    Good point. Rick Routhier, the Chair of the same committee, recently wrote a harsh attack on Smith in the D, and he was listed only as a "guest columnist." Certainly he has a vested interest in having "his" candidates win.

    It is striking how little grassroots support the other candidates have generated; rather, the threatened Establishment in Hanover feels the need to gang up on Smith.

    As to Jim Wright, you should spend some time talking to Dartmouth faculty to find out how "well regarded" is our feckless, thin-skinned and ineffective leader.

  10. If by faculty you mean people like John Appleton and Mara Sabinson, who have had very public disputes with the College, I'm sure you've found some discontent among the faculty. But I've talked to a number of other professors who are satisfied with the job Wright is doing and are extremely skeptical of the efficacy of the insurgents' platform.

  11. Also, I don't see why people (like Engelman) who have worked very hard to come up with three names to nominate for trustee shouldn't think that the people they chose are more qualified for the job than some ideologue without the many qualifications that people like Wolf, Oberg, and Alderson bring to the table. I would think there's something wrong if a member of the Nominating Committee didn't think the nominees were worthwhile candidates.

    As for Rick Routhier, I'm not sure how being an active alum disqualifies him from having an opinion. He is interested, sure, in seeing Dartmouth elect the best candidate, and his activity as an involved alum give him reasons to believe that Smith is not the best candidate. I don't see how that makes his opinion valueless or false.

  12. Anonymous9:16 AM

    "As to Jim Wright, you should spend some time talking to Dartmouth faculty to find out how "well regarded" is our feckless, thin-skinned and ineffective leader."

    I have, and I have observed the big picture that you're unlikely to see in Hanover. Your petty quibbles with Wright (since when has fecklessness even mattered in a college president?) do not change the fact that he is generally well regarded.

    If the other candidates haven't generated grassroots support, it's because they don't have to. Smith has been forced to run a "grassroots" (?) campaign because he failed to gain the respect or support of the elected leadership of the Association of Alumni.

  13. Anonymous8:22 PM

    The current leadership of the Alumni Association is only in power because 1. their predecessors who wanted their unfinished agenda completed (being passage of the proposed new constitution) rigged the election for the current crew by ignoring hundreds of ballots submitted to the annual meeting in absentia, and 2. because the current committee cancelled elections last fall at the end of their annual term.

    Smith has grass roots support by definition, because his very presence on the ballot was predicated upon support from 500 alumni and not a committee of some half-dozen nominators, themselves chosen by a Council demonstrably out of touch with a majority of alumni. It is believed Smith actually received thousands of petition signatures.

  14. Anonymous8:28 PM

    No one argues that Engelman and Routhier are entitled to their opinions. But why did they not disclose their role as trustee nominators in their opinion pieces? Are they not guilty of the same disingenuousness they acuse Smith of?

  15. Anonymous9:08 AM

    Anyone know why dartlog has been so quiet for the last 6 weeks or so? IIRC, they were one of the better news sources out there during the last few alumni governance votes.

  16. Anonymous12:23 PM

    "The current leadership of the Alumni Association is only in power because 1. their predecessors who wanted their unfinished agenda completed (being passage of the proposed new constitution) rigged the election for the current crew by ignoring hundreds of ballots submitted to the annual meeting in absentia".

    You've got to be kidding.

    John "Hanover Institute" MacGovern sued over that very question (whether proxy votes, which hadn't been used in the past and which no one but his friends had submitted, should be counted anyway) and lost.

    Do you think the world is out to get you? Do you find yourself wearing tinfoil hats to keep out the internets? Are you delusional?

  17. Anonymous4:16 PM

    MacGovern asked long before the meeting that he be allowed to bring in proxy votes for those in absentia. The ruling on the floor of the meeting, that this would be unfair to others not present, denied the fact that such capability could have been given to all alumni prior to the meeting.

    And he did not "lose" on this issue. His request to the courts was never decided yea or nay. It was dismissed as not being a matter for the state to decide. This dismissal is still under appeal.

    MacGovern takes heat for suing the College (not the alumni association) which he never did. Yet former DAOG members who did sue Dartmouth are now proudly represented as being the nominees of choice in these Association elections. Huh?

  18. Last anonymous--what are you talking about in your last paragraph? Seriously, I don't know what you're referring to, and I'm guessing most other people don't either.

  19. Anonymous8:25 PM

    MacGovern only sued the Association, not the College. Yet Hutchinson, the inside candidate for president, was plaintiff for the Dartmouth Alumni for Open Governance suit against the College, as were other DAOG members now on the official slate. Apparently MacGovern and the DAOG group split as he did not go along with suing the College. This was several years ago. More details are here
    if you can get thru the long exposition by Gado.

    Are any of you DFPers following the Association elections, and aware of such things as the fact that the some of the official candidates are also serving on the election rules oversight committee, etc?

  20. To be perfectly honest, I haven't followed the AA elections in the slightest, and I really have no intention of doing so. I frankly don't think they're that important. Sure, it eventually decides who gets placed on the nominating committee, but if petition candidates run every time, I'm not sure how important that makes the nominating committee.

  21. Anonymous9:00 PM

    It sounds like there was a ruling that proxies wouldn't be accepted. What, can't Johnny Mac follow the rules like everyone else? Why does he need special accommodation for his proxies instead of voting like everyone else?

    Having your case dismissed summarily before trial sounds worse than losing. Is it not pretty selfish of him to bother the court with his petty request for a yea or nay when his controversy is not even worthy of being decided by a court?

    Johnny Mac will lose on appeal too.

  22. Anonymous9:12 PM

    You should pay attention. Those who are elected are the ones most able to change the trustee election process, and to resist change as well. It is why attempts to permit all-media officer elections were resisted for so many years. MacGovern led the fight to open these elections up.

    As elected representatives of all alumni, the Association executive committee has more credibility to claim they speak for all individual alumni than any other alumni leaders. This is especially true with elections no longer limited to a small number of people attending in-person meetings in Hanover, heavily-weighted by alumni who were also Dartmouth employees.

  23. Anonymous10:35 PM

    The Review has a piece on MacGovern's lawsuit too.