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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Alumni weigh in on trustees

"Wright is getting old" and finding an eventual successor should be the highest priority of the Board of Trustees, at least according to a member of the Class of 1997.

He and all of the other 60,000 Dartmouth alumni have the opportunity to voice their opinions about the future of the College by voting for a new Trustee to join the board this spring. The Dartmouth contacted over 100 College alumni to find out how they view the elections and future direction of the Board.

After midnight next Wednesday the polls will be closed, and the alumni of Dartmouth College will have nominated a new member to the board of Trustees. Either Richard Lewis '84, John Donahoe '82 or Elyse Benson Allen '79 will then be submitted to the Board of Trustees and will most likely be elected as a full member of the board.

According the Patricia Fischer '81, Director of Alumni Leadership, it would be very unlikely for the Trustees to not elect the nomination of the alumni.

"I have never known them not to elect the nominee of the alumni, it's more of a technical distinction," said Fisher.

Until about 10 years ago, there was not an alumni-wide election for Trustee nominations; instead, the Alumni Council nominated one alumnus directly to the Board of Trustees. In that first year about 27 percent of the more than 60,000 Dartmouth alumni voted, but since then the percentage has decreased a little bit.

Last year about 23 percent of alumni voted, and according to Fisher since 1990 the number of alumni voting has held steadily to between 20 and 25 percent. Fisher also noted that "among out peer institutions we have the largest percentage of voters."

In the beginning of the process, the Alumni Council solicited nominations from the alumni body at large. Then over the course of the past academic year, they carefully sifted through all of the nominations and narrowed it down to a very small group of candidates, each of whom was interviewed, and from these interviewed candidates, the Council selected the three nominees.

Alumni have had several weeks to vote either online or by mail, and are allowed to vote for more than one candidate, an option Fisher says nearly one third of alumni choose.

"Much older alumni tend to vote in higher percentages, but their absolute numbers are much smaller, because the post-coeducation classes are about twice the size.

Even if younger alumni don't vote in higher percentage figures, their numbers actually weight the voting because their sheer numbers are bigger," said Fisher.

Of the over 100 alumni contacted by The Dartmouth, most felt very positive about their role in the alumni selection process. Though a few felt uninformed or apathetic, most were pleased with the candidates, and had high hopes for their abilities to run the College.

"More voluminous info would be too much to read," said Paul Adornato '86 of the amount of information provided by the Alumni Council for each candidate. "Improving

Dartmouth's competitivenessnot just on a U.S. scale, but internationally" should be high on the priority list of the trustees, said Lauren Anderson '93.

"I'm one of those alumni who think alumni should go back, enjoy being at

Dartmouth again when they visit but otherwise let the school run itself," said Andy Affleck '90.

Some alumni complained that there was a lack of diversity of ideas among the candidates, but most said that they were very impressed with the caliber of people selected by the Council and found one of two things that really stood out and made different candidates appeal to them.

"One of the candidates was in my frat and I wanted to support him," said Hank Aldrich '85.

"I aim to vote for Trustees who don't seem pro-Greek, who are conservation-minded, and who have lived interesting lives, which in this case means they are well-rounded people who have done something other than make tons of money working in the corporate, especially financial, world," said a member of the Class of 1995.

As for where the Board of Trustees should take the College, many alumni confessed that they felt unqualified to answer such a question, but amongst those that did have strong opinions, the Student Life Initiative, improving Dartmouth's national reputation, a student voice on the board and improving the quality of housing on campus were among their top priorities.

According to Kate Aiken '92, the most important challenge facing the Board of Trustees is "managing the expansion of the College physical plant so that there's enough space for students and academics, and so that the relationship with the town of Hanover is healthy," she said.

Nick Chakalos '89 thought the most important issue was "escalating tuition costs and preservation of 'core' fields of study."

A member of the Class of 1991 summed up the feeling of many alumni when he said that "Fixing the mistakes made by the board when they created the disastrous SLI and finding the money to pay for all of it" should be the focus of the trustees.

Rob Vrablik '85 said that he wanted"Current students [to] get some input into the process. The Trustees have focus on the interests of the students, not just the institution."