Susan Matthews at The D refused to publish this piece in the Opinion section. Apparently Bored@Baker, the Generic Good Morning Message, and the predictably uninformed opinions of freshmen are more important than the pending Trustee election, the voting in which starts tomorrow.
There is a false myth on campus (touched on most recently in the Friday issue of The D) that students should not be involved in trustee elections (“Police policy affects Trustee race dynamic”, Feb 19). We are told that elections are matters for “administrators and alumni”, and that because students cannot vote in the elections, candidates need not tailor their campaigns to address student concerns. This notion is ridiculous; it’s high time trustee elections focused on student life and not candidate personalities.
Dartmouth is an educational establishment operating for the benefit of current and future students – not as a museum to the bygone college days of alumni. Trustees make college policy that will ultimate govern our every behavior, balance finances that will determine who can and who cannot afford a Dartmouth education, decide what structures to build and where, and set the standards by which we graduate.
I have always found it bizarre that the day I can vote for trustee is the day trustee decisions no longer directly affect me. Maybe one day that will change. But in the meantime we should work to recalibrate the standards by which we judge their worthiness of candidate.
First, candidates should know which issues are important. A lot has changed since they were in school. Dartmouth’s precarious financial situation has led to cut-backs on everything from student programs to the employee base. Students (this one included) are consistently unable to get into the classes they want due to oversubscription. Class sizes bulge. Renowned professors continue to leave. And new specialized professors are hard to attract. At the same time, Dartmouth students are 16 times more likely to get arrested for alcohol violations than their other Ivy League counterparts, leading to unhealthy and dangerous social practices.
The (nearly identical) candidate statement sections Kondracke’s and Replogle’s web-pages extol in blanket language the virtues of a “robust athletic program,” “undergraduate education,” and “inclusiveness” – ideas not in contention. Replogle does discuss the ‘strategic’ approach he would take in cutting costs, and that is exactly the kind of business savvy that we need. Another candidate, Joe Asch, has also shown business savvy in his careers as a Bain consultant and entrepreneur. What’s more, Joe has proved his business intuition by been writing extensively about the student issues above since long before he decided to run for trustee, and indeed before some of these problems manifested.
Second, candidates should have the facts. Kondracke and Replogle are surely both connected to good numbers-guys, but Joe demonstrates his stats skill on a regular basis. Whether I agree with them or not, every piece I’ve read by Joe Asch on campus blogs or in The D is filled with quantitative analysis and rigorous fact finding. Joe has consistently pointed out areas of wasteful spending, shown the rise in tuition above inflation, and found how administrators use creative accounting to hide the problem of burgeoning class sizes. Instead of countering Asch with numbers of their own, critics instead argue that Asch has too much free time, that he should not run because elections waste college money, or that bloggers somehow cannot make good trustees. What we need more then ever is a trustee who is not afraid of numbers, and so far only one stands out.
Third, candidates should have demonstrated judgment. Before 2010, I could not find any op-eds written by Kondracke or Replogle in The D, or any substantive mention of their opinions on college policy. On the contrary, more than a hundred articles and opinions in The D evidence the stances Joe has taken on college issues in the past. For years, he’s warned about bureaucratic bloat to the condescension of the “Dartmouth Undying” crowd. But when Dartmouth finds itself in a rut, what’s the first thing President Kim cuts? Unnecessary staff and wasteful spending. It seems like Joe was right all along.
Fourth, candidates need to have the passion to continue to change Dartmouth. Kondracke and Replogle constantly bring up their love of Dartmouth, and I certainly believe what they say. But what can actions teach us? Believing that students could benefit from writing tutors, Joe Asch pitched the Departmental Editing Program. When the administration turned the program down for lack of money, Joe funded the entire thing himself. Let me repeat that: Asch paid all salaries out of pocket. Anyone can cut a check to Dartmouth, and those with the money should. But it takes a certain kind of passion -- a certain kind of candidate -- to have an idea on how to improve Dartmouth and put his money where his mouth is to make it a reality.
Instead of dismissing the concerns of students, maybe trustee candidates should rededicate their platforms to addressing them. Though they may think it’s meaningless in terms of vote tally, we’re the ones who will have to live with their decisions. It’s time we had a trustee that represented us.