December 3, 2010

An Open Letter to the Alumni Council

This morning, I submitted a letter to the Alumni Council representative from my own Class of 2009. In it, I urged Mr. Lane to push for fair reviews of electoral processes, particularly in light of our recent analysis of the 2010 alumni elections. The full letter is below.



In response to your recent request for input from members of the Class of 2009, I wish to address a concern about alumni elections.

Before, during and after the elections, many members of the Alumni Council and its nominated candidates decried the negativity of the petition candidates, including Joe Asch ’79 and the Dartmouth United slate. These claims seemed particularly unusual to me considering the negative tone that many Council-nominated candidates used over the course of the election.

As I recently posted on The Little Green Blog, Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke – both of whom you supported – mentioned and attacked Mr. Asch several times on their websites and in their official communications. Mr. Asch, by contrast, never mentioned his opponent -- by name or otherwise -- on his website.

The Alumni Council did not rebuke the attacks leveled against Mr. Asch. Councilors also did not refute claims that Mr. Asch opposed funding for needy students or that he is a racist. Such base attacks are unbecoming members of the Dartmouth fellowship and deserved the unwavering disapproval of the Alumni Council and its nominated candidates.

The Alumni Council was also silent on the scurrilous attacks published on the website “Joe VS Dartmouth.” Typically I would dismiss such an attack site as an inevitable evil of campaigns. This site, however, was directly tied to Mr. Replogle’s campaign. The site was published by Chris Allen, who also designed Mr. Replogle’s and Mr. Kondracke’s websites, and was publicly advertised by Mr. Kondracke at alumni events.

I hope that these issues will be honestly discussed at this weekend’s Council meeting. A fair evaluation of the campaign tactics used in the 2010 alumni elections will reveal, as I posted on The Little Green Blog, that most negativity was directed at the petition candidates, not by them.

In considering rules to curb the negativity of future campaigns, the Council should adopt measures that ensure that the nomination process is open and transparent, that all candidates have fair access to mailing lists, and that all alumni are given a fair chance to assess the Council’s nominees and petition for office if they so desire.

Further, I hope that you will encourage Council members to discourage negative campaigning from all sides. Using this meeting as a chance to weaken the hand of future petition candidates while ignoring the considerable negativity expressed by the Council’s nominees would be a regrettable result.

Please remember that, while we may disagree on how best to govern the College on the Hill, we are – as President Wright said in our commencement ceremony – “ever a part of Dartmouth undying as Dartmouth is forever a part of [us].” Let us be worthy of that distinction and design future rules for alumni elections accordingly.

I hope this finds you well,

Brice D. L. Acree ‘09
Webmaster, Class of 2009

December 2, 2010

An Assessment of Negative Campaigning

As the Alumni Council meets this weekend to discuss, in part, how to curb negative campaigning in alumni elections, one must ask the obvious question: whom should we blame for negativity? Members of Dartmouth Undying seem to take as a matter of course that petition candidates are injecting bile into the system, but further inspection rebuffs this claim. Someone should set the record straight.

A recent content analysis by Little Green Blog considers the websites for John Replogle ’88 and Mort Kondracke ‘60, the Alumni Council-nominated candidates for Trustee in 2010, and Mr. Replogle’s petition opponent Joe Asch ‘79. Our findings were as follows:

The Context

A common theme from erstwhile College president Wright’s office, particularly during the height of the Lone Pine Revolution, was to belittle petition candidates as negative and divisive politicians. Supporters of Wright and the Alumni Council nominees, such as Jonathan Hancock ’06, called on petitioners to end their campaign of “stoking divisiveness and negativity at Dartmouth”.

After the most recent round of alumni elections, prominent Dartmouth leaders were just as quick to decry the negativity of the campaign. President Kim remarked that new rules should be adopted to calm the “acrid, negative [and] angry campaigning.” Martha Beattie ’76, President of Dartmouth Undying (a group supporting Alumni Council nominees) referred to the result, which strongly favored her slate of candidates, as a call by alumni to end “contentious elections.”

The Findings

Despite alumni councilors and Dartmouth Undying bemoaning the negativity of the petitioners in the last election, the websites of the trustee candidates points to a different conclusion.

Mr. Asch: The website for Mr. Asch does not specifically target Mr. Replogle or reference the Dartmouth Undying slate. On his site, Mr. Asch frequently states his support for President Kim while also supporting fiscal prudence and a restoration of parity on the Board of Trustees. Some letters of support published on Mr. Asch’s site do make thinly veiled references to his opponents, but no outwardly negative attacks are made.

In total, Mr. Replogle’s name appears zero times on Mr. Asch’s site. Mr. Kondracke’s name likewise never appears. Mr. Asch’s site makes no reference to Dartmouth Undying or the Alumni Council nominees for other offices. (The only reference to the above parties comes in a letter linked to on the site in which Mr. Asch attempts to respond to the attack website “Joe VS Dartmouth”. Even in this letter, Mr. Asch does not critique either Mr. Replogle or Mr. Kondracke, only indicating that Mr. Kondracke urged audience members at a round table in Minneapolis to visit the “Joe VS Dartmouth”.)

Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke: The websites for Mr. Replogle and Mort Kondracke ’60 (who ran unopposed for the other open seat on the Board) are a different story. Mr. Replogle and Mr Kondracke published many letters that were openly critical of Mr. Asch, in addition to publishing independent critiques of Mr. Replogle’s opponent. A letter from Phil Kron, Gene Kron and Jim Adler calls Mr. Asch a micromanager, claims he is “ill equipped to serve on the Board of Trustees” in addition to mocking Mr. Asch for an letter supporting Mr. Replogle signed by several members of the Class of 1979.

In another letter published on the sites of Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke, Merle Adelman ’80, a former acting president of the Association of Alumni, accuses Mr. Asch of a “flip flop” on the alumni lawsuit blocking the Board’s 2007 expansion. Weighing in on the letter, Mr. Kondracke and Mr. Replogle intone that the letter proves “Asch will say whatever it takes to get himself elected.”

In total, Mr. Asch’s name appears 16 times on Mr. Replogles site, with a conservative estimate of eight instances where Mr. Asch is criticized or attacked. Mr. Asch’s name appears 15 times on Mr. Kondracke’s website, with a conservative estimate of seven instances where Mr. Asch is criticized or attacked. (This latter figure is particularly noteworthy considering that Mr. Kondracke faced no opposition in the campaign, from Mr. Asch or otherwise.)

Attacks From Without: Mr. Asch was also the subject of a particularly negative website entitled “Joe VS Dartmouth” which derided Mr. Asch’s qualifications and character. Typically this brand of attack site would not be considered a part of the Replogle-Kondracke campaign, except that the engineer of the site also built and maintained the campaign sites for Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke. Neither candidate explicitly condemned the site, either. In fact, Mr. Kondracke publicly directed traffic to the site on at least one occasion.

“Joe VS Dartmouth” advances several negative claims about Mr. Asch, including that Mr. Asch hid aspects of his business past (in reality, Mr. Asch had once mistakenly paid taxes to the U.S. instead of the French government, and the issue had been amicably resolved), that he opposes Pell Grants and federal support for needy students, and that he “denigrates” supporters of Dartmouth’s Greek system. The scant support for these claims is often taken wildly out of context or is overtly false.


The board at Little Green Blog makes no normative claims about negative campaigning in alumni elections -- that question is beyond the scope of this study. Instead, we hope to provide alumni with useful facts with which to analyze the 2010 alumni elections.

This analysis is not exhaustive. The staff at Little Green Blog could not include a comprehensive survey of all reported communications during the course of the campaign. (A cursory glance, however, points to more negativity from Mr. Asch's opponents, including the rather spurious and unsupported charge that Mr. Asch "has demonstrated racism on numerous occasions.")

That said, candidates' official websites can reveal the general timbre of their electoral efforts and allow for the most reliable analysis of the strategies employed by each campaign. Mr. Asch, whatever our personal assessments of his merits as a candidate, made a painstaking effort to put forth only a positive campaign message. As we showed, Mr. Asch did not critique his opponent or the Dartmouth Undying slate in his web communications. This strategy stands in stark contrast to the websites of Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke, which each mention Mr. Asch more than a dozen times, frequently criticizing him.

The campaigns of Mr. Replogle and Mr. Kondracke seem more vociferously negative when we consider the campaign site “Joe VS Dartmouth” which was built and maintained by an active member of the Replogle-Kondracke team and publicly advertised by Mr. Kondracke. The entire site was dedicated to attacking Mr. Asch’s qualifications and character. The claims published on the site often relied on information drawn out of context or ad hominem attacks.

Disclosure Statement

The directorate of Little Green Blog endorsed Mr. Asch’s campaign for the Board. This report’s primary author and publisher submitted an endorsement letter for Mr. Asch as well as other commentary on the election.

It would be easy to use this information to dismiss our findings. Readers would be remiss in doing so. We urge readers to visit the sites linked above and explore them. The numbers speak for themselves.

While our opinions of Mr. Ach moved us to support him in the election, we were not a part of his campaign and are not in close communication with him at the present time. The findings reported herein are based not on subjective evaluations but on factual content analysis of four websites frequented during the election. Final judgment of our methods of course rests with the reader.