Petition candidates run for trustee spots

by Dax Tejera | 2/25/05 6:00am

The March ballot for the two alumni trustee seats opening in June will have two petition candidates in addition to the four announced by the Alumni Council earlier this month. The Office of Alumni Relations has confirmed that Todd Zywicki '88 and Peter Robinson '79 both obtained the required 500 petition signatures by the Feb. 23 filing deadline.

Zywicki and Robinson will follow in the footsteps of Trustee T.J. Rodgers '70, who was elected to an eight-year term on the Board of Trustees after joining the ballot as a petition candidate last year. Both Zywicki and Robinson cited Rodgers as a significant influence in their decisions to seek the alumni seats.

"The alumni I have spoken with believe there is room for new blood on the Board and that there's a need for a new direction on the Board," Zywicki said.

Robinson said he believes his challenging of the Alumni Council's slate of candidates itself represents alumni interests.

"It is my strong belief that by coming from outside the usual nominating system I can much better serve as an agent for change," Robinson said.

A tenured law professor at George Mason University in Virginia, Zywicki recently served for a year and a half at the Federal Trade Commission and is currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

Robinson is a career journalist and academic who has published several books and hosts the show "Uncommon Knowledge" on PBS. Robinson is also a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The two candidates both said that, while collecting petition signatures, they encountered overwhelming concern from alumni who concur that the direction of the College is misguided.

"In my judgment the College has been drifting away from its mission to undergraduates students," Robinson said.

Zywicki echoed this sentiment.

"I believe the many of things that made Dartmouth great and continue to be strengths of Dartmouth are things that the admission has drafted away from in recent years," he said.

Zywicki and Robinson share the opinion that Dartmouth should not attempt to pursue a national reputation as a research university. Robinson criticized College President James Wright's statements suggesting that Dartmouth is a university in all but name.

"In my mind, you cannot do that. Dartmouth can never be a second-rate Harvard," Robinson said.

Despite their similar opinions on a misguided strategic vision for the College, Zywicki and Robinson each have their own areas they would address as trustees.Robinson expressed concern with limitations on freedom of speech throughout Dartmouth's constituencies. He also stressed the importance of raising Dartmouth athletics from their current state of "mediocrity."

Zywicki, in addition to sharing Robinson's concerns, advocated greater openness and transparency in College governance and a reevaluation of Dartmouth's financial priorities.

"In recent years, spending on the administrative bureaucracy has risen twice as fast as spending on academic programs," Zywicki posted on his weblog, the Volokh Conspiracy.

When asked whether they believed they had a chance of winning in the March elections, which will be conducted using paper and electronic ballots, Zywicki and Robinson both expressed confidence in their endeavors to secure seats on the Board.

"I wouldn't be undertaking this mission if I didn't believe I had a shot to win," Zywicki said.