VERBUM ULTIMUM: Making Amends

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 4/3/09 2:25am

The news of widespread support for the proposed amendment to the Association of Alumni constitution comes as a welcome change after years of divisive alumni political battles ("AoA amendment met with general approval," Apr. 1). If passed, this amendment would change trustee elections from an approval voting process, in which alumni can vote for as many candidates as they like, to a one-person, one-vote system. It would also reduce the number of candidates the Alumni Council is required to nominate from three candidates to no more than two.

We support the amendment, not only because it has already managed to unite traditionally opposing voices (including those on both sides of the 2007 alumni lawsuit against the College), but also because its reforms address inherent flaws in trustee elections.

As they are currently run, trustee elections can give an unfair advantage to candidates elected by petition, who have traditionally been supported by a vocal alumni minority. When the alumni electorate fails to take advantage of the approval voting process, the three required Alumni Council candidates tend to split the majority vote, giving petition candidates an advantage. By reducing the number of Alumni Council candidates, and instituting a more traditional one-person, one-vote system, trustee elections will become more democratic -- and will more accurately reflect the desires of our alumni base.

Furthermore, passage of the amendment will keep power over trustee elections in the hands of the Association. The Board of Trustees has made veiled threats to take control of the trustee election process if the amendment fails. Such a result would only further reduce the power of the College's alumni to directly influence the Board's decision-making.

Although it represents progress, the proposed amendment does not remedy the most detrimental aspect of trustee elections: expensive campaigning.

In recent elections, top-tier candidates have spent over $100,000 on their campaigns to send mailings and publish political advertisements. While campaigning is obviously necessary in order to inform alumni voters, the current lack of financial regulations favors wealthier candidates. Even if the proposed amendment is passed, we are wary of another election without significant campaign finance reform.

Association President John Mathias '69, in an interview with The Dartmouth on Thursday, called campaign finance reform "the highest item" on his organization's agenda ("AoA comm. to consider campaign finance rules," Apr. 3). We urge the Association, together with the Alumni Council, to move quickly to address this issue. The proposed amendment to the Association's constitution is a good first step in improving the trustee election process, but there still remains much to be done if real fairness is to be achieved.