From her legislative perch two hours away in Merrimack, N.H., Rep. Maureen Mooney has proposed a bill that would effectively revoke state legislation passed in 2003 that gave Dartmouth the ability to amend its charter without the approval of the state. Mooney's proposal is not only bad for Dartmouth but also irresponsible for a New Hampshire politician.
By definition, state legislators' jobs are to care about what is in the best interests of the state and their constituents. They do not, and should not, care solely about what is in the best interests of Dartmouth. Dartmouth's interests are not perfectly aligned with those of the state of New Hampshire -- the Dartmouth community spans the globe. Those who make the decisions about Dartmouth should be primarily and ultimately concerned with Dartmouth.
Mooney's proposal is also not in the best interest of the state of New Hampshire. New Hampshire's legislators do not, and should not, have the time and resources to pay enough attention to Dartmouth to make sound decisions about it. Can they effectively and comprehensively learn about Dartmouth's needs, politics and issues enough to make well-informed decisions? It is highly unlikely that the 400 New Hampshire state legislators would be able to make the trip to Hanover, especially on their $200 per term salary. We believe -- and we suspect that the majority of Mooney's constituents would as well -- that legislators should not divert energy away from their many other concerns to those of Dartmouth.
Dartmouth is very important to the state of New Hampshire. It owns large amounts of land, employs thousands of people, contibutes significantly to the economy and improves the state's image. It is clearly in the best interest of the people of New Hampshire for the College to be strong and stable. But, in America, a state's interest in the well-being of a private institution does not give it jursidiction over that institution. Coca-Cola is unquestionably important to the state of Georgia, as is Disney to Florida and Harvard to Massachusetts,but this does not give those states the right of oversight or management over those institutions. We would think that of all politicians, the New Hampshire Republicans -- of which Mooney is considered a rising star -- would especially cherish the autonomy of private companies and institutions.
It is true that Mooney's bill would simply revert back to the pre-2003 relationship between the state and the College. But we find it disconcerting that there was no serious contestation of this legislation until now, when major policy issues are on the line. This, in addition to the fact that an anonymous group of alumni seems to have catalyzed the most recent legislation, suggests that the motivations behind Mooney's proposal are far from benign. What we are seeing now is just the latest political gamepiece to further the agenda of a small but vociferous cadre of College alumni. And, just as the College's graduates do not own Dartmouth, neither do the citizens of New Hampshire.