WASHINGTON, DC—The election of two insurgent alumni candidates to the board of Dartmouth College is a signal victory for forces seeking to return academic freedom and academic quality to the college campus.
This week, Dartmouth College announced that two petition candidates—Peter Robinson, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and author of Reagan’s “tear down that wall” speech, and Todd Zywicki, professor of law at George Mason University—had been elected to the Dartmouth board of trustees after campaigning on a platform of academic freedom and academic quality. The two secured sufficient signatures to be added to the Dartmouth ballot which included four other candidates slated by the alumni council nominating committee. Dartmouth alumni choose eight members of the 18-member board.
Their candidacy came in the wake of growing alumni concern about the direction of the College. In recent years, a group of alumni known as Dartmouth Alumni for Open Governance successfully fought administration efforts to reduce alumni participation in Dartmouth governance.
They and others have raised mounting concerns about the substance and rigor of the Dartmouth curriculum, academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas, the appropriate expenditure of funds, the right of students to associate in fraternities, and the continued existence of various sports teams.
“This election sends a message to every college and university across the country,” said Anne D. Neal, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. “Alumni will no longer put-up and shut up. They will no longer stand for the degradation of academic standards and stifling intellectual intolerance on their college campuses.”
“These alumni underscore the growing sentiment amongst college graduates, trustees and the public generally that higher education has lost its way,” said Neal.
“The regrettable truth is that thoughtful alumni are more strongly committed to good teaching, a coherent curriculum, high standards, low tuition, academic freedom and an unpoliticized education than are many faculty members,” said Neal. “This victory is clear confirmation that alumni will no longer remain silent when academic freedom and standards are threatened by forces within the academy.”
Dartmouth’s struggle is just one of several in recent years in which alumni have gone head to head with their alma maters. Mount Holyoke alums fought back an effort to roll the alumni association into the development office, and Rutgers alums successfully defended their right to have a say on whether athletics should remain a major component of the education program. Alumni at the University of Chicago and Brooklyn College have been instrumental in challenging efforts to dilute the rigorous core curricula for which those institutions are famous.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national organization of alumni and trustees dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality and accountability in higher education. It represents more than 200 colleges and universities across the country and is located in Washington, DC.