Friday, December 4, 2009

Pre-empting the Election at Dartmouth

The Dartmouth Alumni Council just voted 89-1 to nominate two candidates for the two Trustee positions up for election next spring. I was the one. Never before have I felt like such a voice crying out in the wilderness.

The Nominating Committee brought forward two outstandingly qualified candidates, Mort Kondracke '60 and John Replogle '88. Both men are extemely distinguished in the field, both made the trip to Hanover to introduce themselves to the Council this weekend, and both spoke passionately about their love of Dartmouth.

While I can't quiblle with the Nominating Committee's work in filtering the field of Dartmouth graduates down to a pair of Trustee candidates, I am left to wonder the point of an election with only one candidate for each office.

Tom Daniels '82 Chaired the Nominating Committee, and justified the decision to limit the field to one candidate based on "rumblings" that other candidates would surely emerge through the petition process, and that they wanted to ensure a one-on-one contest. Yet there is no guarantee that a petition candidate will qualify for the spring ballot, or that there will be only one challenger. What the Nominating Committee has done is game the system in an attempte to redetermine the outcome of the Alumni election.

Voters deserve a choice. That needs to be the cornerstone of any election. Yet the Nominating Committee, and the Council through its vote today, has decided to substitute its judgement for that of the voters. There are real issues facing Dartmouth, and real choices on where the College goes under the Kim Administration and beyond. Kondracke and Replogle may be outstanding Trustees, and might end up supporting them both once I learn about their priorities for Dartmouth. But I would never use my new position as my Class Representative on the Alumni Council to tell my classmates how to vote. I'm going to try my best to get them good information about both candidates, even if they end up unopposed, so that my classmates and the rest of the Dartmouth Community can make an informed choice.

Elections are inherently messy. Tempered get frayed and feelings get hurt. But the Nominating Committee, in its zeal to avoid any unpleasantness, is generating far more division. In a conference call before my first meeting of the Alumni Council, I was instructed that it my job not just to communicate the actions of the Council to my classmates, but also to advocate for the election of their slate of candidates. I'm skeptical of In Loco Parentis when it comes to college students. This paternalistic doctrine certainly has no place after graduation.

I may be wrong, but despite today's vote, I know I'm not alone. We deserve a real choice about the direction Dartmouth takes. I'm sick of Trustee Elections being all about how we elect Trustees. Let's trust our classmates to choose between competing ideas amongst qualified candidates who all love Dartmouth. Let's have a real election, and then let's move Dartmouth forward together.

Grant Bosse '94
Alumni Council Representative
Dartmouth Broadcasting Board of Overseers


David Gale said...


I applaud your sentiment, but I can't get too worked up about the fact that the Council only nominated one person for each seat. In every trustee election since my graduation, the Council nominees have either been so bland that I could not tell a difference between them, or the Council put all of its weight behind one candidate (such as Sandy Alderson in 2007), leaving the other two as "also rans" even before campaigning started.

It's been my opinion for several years that, if the Council took its responsibility to give alumni a valid choice seriously, and if it put forward candidates who spanned the Dartmouth political spectrum, there would be no need for petition candidates. The fact that there have consistently been (successful) petitioners is a sign that the Council is neglecting a large portion of the alumni body. And as long as it does that, then I see no reason to require it to put forward more than one candidate.

-David Gale '00

Scott said...

I believe the nomination period has not closed, so it can't yet be said that there will only be one candidate for each spot. It seems likely that alumni will nominate others by petition.

Bill Carney '75 said...

David is correct. By expecting petition candidates to provide the alumni with a choice, the Council is perpetuating the two-party system it helped create by "neglecting a large portion of the alumni body". It's Nominating Committee is not elected by the alumni body. The Council has changed since I joined in 2004, but it has been a slow process.