WASHINGTON, DC—The leaders of Dartmouth College’s Association of Alumni have refused to hold an election that they arbitrarily “postponed” last month. This move comes in response to inquiries from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).
“Since when are alumni forced to remain silent when fundamental fairness is at stake?” asked ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “What is so radical about holding an election when it is scheduled?”
On May 24, the leaders of the association announced that they were “postponing” the group’s scheduled October 15 annual meeting—and thereby the elections for their own offices. ACTA protested in a June 1 letter, which resulted in media coverage in the Boston Globe and New Hampshire Union Leader, as well as on talk radio and many weblogs.
The Association of Alumni responded to ACTA’s letter on June 15, but failed to answer any of ACTA’s substantive criticisms. The group’s executive committee claims that its constitution gives it “the right to set the meeting date, and to change it if required.” But the group’s “Guidelines for Conduct of Meetings” clarify that “the executive committee shall set the date for the Association’s next annual meeting” not whenever it wants, but “at each annual meeting.” As ACTA’s letter pointed out, “there are no provisions for a unilateral decision to postpone the meeting date” to some indefinite time in the future.
The letter also claims that the election should be “postponed” so that alumni can “focus on one set of issues at a time.” The other issue would be the vote on a proposed new constitution for the alumni association, which will end on October 30.
“The leadership’s claim that duly-scheduled elections should not go forward since alumni can only ‘focus on one set of issues at a time’ is simply incredible,” Neal remarked. “Even worse, their letter did nothing to answer the widespread public concern over changes to Dartmouth’s trustee election procedures.”
As ACTA’s letter made clear, the proposed new constitution would make it nearly impossible for petition candidates to win election to Dartmouth’s board—as three reformers have done in recent years. They would be required to collect 250 signatures in 30 days, before the establishment even announces its candidates (that is, before it would become clear that outsiders are needed on the ballot).
“Those in power at Dartmouth are clearly intent on discouraging diverse voices on the Board of Trustees,” Neal noted, “and they are using this blatant power grab to make sure none are elected ever again.”
“Simply saying ‘trust us,’ as the recent letter does, will not suffice,” Neal concluded. “The October 15 election must be held as scheduled, and a full and open debate over the proposed constitution must continue.”
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a national education nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country including those from Dartmouth. ACTA has issued numerous reports on higher education including How Many Ward Churchills?, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.