As members of the Alumni Governance Task Force, we write to dispute the assertion of Dartmouth College Trustee T. J. Rodgers '70 that the Task Force might be working to weaken or emasculate the trustee petition process or to reduce the rights of Association of Alumni members. Phil Salinger reported on Mr. Rodgers' views in a recent news article in The Dartmouth ("Alums spar over proposed constitution," Oct. 28).
The Alumni Governance Task Force is an independent working group commissioned by both the Association of Alumni and the Alumni Council to create the best possible structure for our alumni organizations and a new constitution for the Association. We are extremely concerned that a sitting trustee is publicly weighing in on an evolving proposal on how alumni organize themselves.
This certainly appears to be an attempt to influence alumni organizations in a way that many alumni have been concerned to have existed in the past. Manipulation of the alumni organizations by institutional leaders is, ironically, the type of activity that Mr. Rodgers campaigned against when he ran for trustee. It is compounded by his seeming misunderstanding of the current proposal, the process for soliciting alumni input, and the planned all-alumni plebiscite through which the alumni -- and not a trustee -- will determine for themselves how they want their alumni bodies to function.
Mr. Rodgers erroneously (and apparently without actually reading the draft himself) claims that the draft constitution now being considered by the alumni body as a whole would "reduc[e] any of the current very-modest rights of Alumni Association members." To the contrary, the current proposal breathes life into the Association by giving it substantive responsibilities for communicating alumni sentiment to the trustees and administration, and transfers responsibility for nominating alumni trustees from the Alumni Council to the Association. Moreover, the draft opens up alumni governance by allowing all alumni to vote directly for their alumni leaders (e.g. 21 at-large representatives on the Assembly).
In response to solicited feedback and debate, the Task Force has already begun to solicit expert opinion on the merits of approval voting versus partial preference voting, and is also considering the proposed requirement of previous Alumni Assembly service for candidates hoping to preside over the Association. The proposed new constitution has always contained a provision for all-media voting (as opposed to in-person voting) for amendments to the constitution and for election of officers. The proposal also calls for its ratification by two thirds of the alumni body via all-media voting.
We suggest that Mr. Rodgers would serve his constituents and the College best by a better understanding of the facts. A wealth of materials including the draft constitution, existing constitutions, extensive question-and-answer sessions, summaries and an interactive blog are available on the College Alumni Relations Office website. We applaud those trustees who have not attempted to interfere in this process. The Task Force intends to remain independent and to continue to respond to the suggestions and will of the alumni body concerning the constitution. We believe the alumni body is entitled to decide for itself how to govern its institutions and will not be intimidated or manipulated by anyone, including one or more trustees who try to intervene.