Association votes down amendment

by Colin Barry | 12/7/03 6:00am

A constitutional change that critics say would have threatened the voting rights of the College's alumni failed to pass at a meeting of the Dartmouth Association of Alumni this afternoon.

Undergraduate leaders joined a coalition of alumni opposed to the constitutional alteration, urging that the amendment "be tabled or voted down" in Blitzmail messages addressed to current students and recent graduates. Student officials also organized a protest this morning that was attended by approximately 50 Dartmouth undergraduates.

Student Body vice president Noah Riner '06 said objections centered around article seven of the proposed constitution, which he said could have allowed a governing committee to set specific rules for alumni voting. Such a group could potentially alter the procedure by which the alumni body elects half of the College's Board of Trustees with minimal input from the alumni as a whole.

Undergraduates involved in the protest expressed hope that the amendment's failure would force alumni leaders to re-examine changes to the constitution.

"The Association's rejection of the proposed changes sends a strong signal to those who would attempt to change Dartmouth's foundational documents without extensive consultation with the entire Dartmouth community, including the students for whom this institution purports to exist," James Baehr '05, a leader of the protest, told The Dartmouth.

The proposed new constitution would have combined the Association, a 62,000-member body representing all College alumni, with the Alumni Council, currently a 96-member group that exists "to guide and direct Dartmouth alumni affairs." According to a letter from alumni leaders, Association affairs were to be managed by the Council, which would have been renamed and expanded in size.

Riner asserted that the renamed Council would have been allowed to both "initiate new amendments and determine the method by which amendments are voted on." The Council could, for example, require alumni to be physically present in Hanover to vote on future constitutional changes. Currently, amendments to the Association's constitution must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the entire alumni body.

Objectors to the proposed amendment expressed particular disappointment with the reaction of Association and Council leaders to their uncertainty.

At a meeting of the Committee on Student Life yesterday, Student Body President Janos Marton '04 and Riner were allegedly reprimanded by some members of the committee when they brought up their concerns about the amendment.

"I was a little surprised at the tone used against Noah and Janos, and (it) showed to me that perhaps they are correct in their fear that young alumni classes and alumni as a whole will potentially lose their voice in larger and more important matters in the future," committee member Neha Kulkarni '05 told The Dartmouth.

The leadership of the Association reportedly turned away current undergraduates who attempted to attend the meeting and the subsequent vote.

"Students couldn't even listen to the debate on this concerning issue," Riner said.