WASHINGTON, DC—The American Council of Trustees and Alumni today praised the Dartmouth Board of Trustees for suspending its plan to end the historic right of alumni to select one-half of the board. The board and the Dartmouth Association of Alumni filed a joint notice in New Hampshire Superior Court on February 14, announcing a cease-fire in a legal battle over efforts to alter the board’s composition.
“It’s surely great news that the board majority has agreed to put on hold its ill-advised plans to seat eight new self-perpetuating trustees,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “This gives alumni hope that a long-term solution will be reached to preserve the democratic character of Dartmouth’s governance structure.”
Dartmouth’s board has three types of trustees: Alumni Trustees, who face all-alumni votes; Charter Trustees, who do not; and ex officio members, namely the president of the college and the governor of New Hampshire. In 1891, the board and the alumni reached an agreement whereby the number of Charter and Alumni Trustees would be equal. As of the last election, there were eight Charter and eight Alumni Trustees.
However, the board voted in September to double the number of Charter Trustees—diluting alumni input. This came after four straight Alumni Trustee elections in which independent, petition-nominated candidates prevailed; an all-alumni vote that strongly rejected similar changes in governance; and a survey by the Association of Alumni showing 92 percent opposition to ending parity on the board between Alumni and Charter Trustees.
In response, the Association of Alumni brought suit in New Hampshire Superior Court, seeking a judicial opinion on the propriety of the planned governance changes. The trustees’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied on February 5.
The terms of the joint notice do not provide a permanent resolution to the dispute, but clarify that no changes in board composition can be made unless alumni are given substantial advance notice.
“This is a significant victory for those alumni who objected to the board’s unwise plan to dilute independent voices on the board,” ACTA’s Neal concluded.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni from more than 600 colleges and universities across the country, including Dartmouth. It has issued numerous reports including The Vanishing Shakespeare, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.