Amidst recent controversies surrounding Dartmouth's Board of Trustees, students will have the opportunity to ask trustees any questions they choose at an unprecedented, uncensored forum, to be held Friday in Filene Auditorium at 4:30 p.m. As of press time, only two trustees -- both of them petition candidates who ran on platforms critical of current College policies -- have agreed to attend.
The event has been billed as one where any student who attends will be able to ask questions, which will not be pre-screened, and all questions will be addressed in some manner.
As of Thursday evening, only trustees Stephen Smith '88 and Todd Zywicki '88 had accepted the invitation to attend.
While trustee Charles Haldeman '70 did not officially commit, organizers said that they were given the impression that he would likely participate as well.
"The two people who have RSVP'd are petition candidates," event organizer Jennifer Bandy '09 said. "This encourages the chairman to come and share any different opinions if he has them."
California-based trustees Peter Robinson '79, T.J. Rodgers '70, and Michael Chu '68, who will not be in Hanover at the time of the event, all sent their regrets. Robinson and Rodgers are also petition candidates.
"Perhaps they really want to get involved," Bandy said of petition candidates. "They are recently elected to the board and I think it's interesting [that they responded]."
Despite the low turnout rate among trustees, Bandy said she is not disappointed.
"Just having two trustees is great for the event," Bandy said. "The two trustee attending were involved in the petition elections, so they have great opinions and will answer students' question competently and satisfyingly. Hopefully, other trustees will choose to come as well. If they don't, that says something about the petition candidates."
Bandy and the event's other organizer, Jacob Baron '10 (who is also a columnist for The Dartmouth), said they hoped the forum would allow students and trustees to have a frank discussion about the recent issues that have faced Dartmouth and the board, such as debate about changes to the board's structure, controversial campaigning techniques and the Alumni Association's lawsuit against the College.
"This is the first time students will meet with the trustees without the influence of administration or by being pre-selected," Bandy said. "The trustees will be answering any and all questions students may have. They are there because they want interaction with students and to hear from students firsthand."
Bandy and Baron, who said that trustees impact every Dartmouth student's college experiences, claimed that there are not many venues for student-trustee interactions.
"A lot of students have had no face-to-face time with the trustees," Bandy said. "It is important for students to discuss issues that are important to them. This is also beneficial to the trustees because they can become more active and involved with the college students."
Bandy said that she was not surprised that Smith and Zywicki had accepted their invitation to appear before students.
"We were able to get the trustees to agree because of how well sponsored we are and how much student interest there is," Bandy said. "There is no reason why the trustees wouldn't want to do the forum."
The Board of Trustees is comprised of 18 members, only 16 of whom were invited to attend. The two uninvited board members were College President James Wright and New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch.
Baron and Bandy said they intended the current forum to be a one-time event, but that they were not opposed to the idea of having such forums on a regular basis.
"We are not set to make this annual, but depending on the success of the event, we are interested in holding another," Bandy said.
The Inter-Fraternity Council, Panhellenic Council, the College Democrats, the College Republicans, and several fraternities and sororities have agreed to sponsor the event.