One Simple Question

by Phil Aubart | 5/12/08 2:43am

Having been accused by multiple people of not writing my own columns, I feel the need to begin this piece with a caveat. I am not writing this for any particular group. Although my personal beliefs may coincide with the stated opinion of others, I have not been promised jobs, money or good will by anyone on any side of this issue. That said, I strongly support parity on the Board of Trustees.

A recent Verbum Ultimum by The Dartmouth Editorial Board succinctly summarized the firestorm of a "debate [that] has become the issue itself" ("The Real Stakes," April 25). There are many hypotheses about what will happen if one or the other slate is elected. However, most of these hypotheses are far-flung, ludicrous and clearly intended to discredit the opposition.

This debate is not so much about the overall direction of the College than it is about the direction of its governance. Regardless of whatever the most recently elected trustees believe, or who is funding what, this entire issue is about whether you believe the alumni of this revered institution should have a say in how it is run. Should alumni be able to demand accountability from the Board of Trustees and from the administration of the College? I say yes. Without a degree of oversight, the administration can do whatever it wants, leaving but one recourse to alumni who wish to express their dissatisfaction: withholding donations. Are we willing to risk the potential loss of funds? Is it not better that those who love this College are willing to fight for what they believe is best for it rather than to simply write it off as a misguided place unworthy of their money? Trustee elections offer alumni an opportunity to fix deficiencies in the College. This is what has happened in the most recent trustee elections. Disgruntled alumni voted for change via a 117 year-old process.

The complaint most often levied against the current debate is that it is divisive. This is true. And to a certain extent it is very unfortunate. It is unfortunate in that the entire pro-parity side has been painted as racist because of a horribly misguided cartoon written by two students who support parity ("The Dartmouth Worth Saving?" April 28). It is also unfortunate that this has been turned into a conflict between political ideologies. However, it is not unfortunate that there are differing opinions on this issue. I, for one, am very glad to attend a College where there is no homogenous view. I would certainly be happier if everyone agreed with my perspective on the issue, but since that would never happen, I am thrilled that the undergraduates and alumni of Dartmouth are courageous enough to voice their differing opinions. Certainly it is sad to see that the debate has been bogged down by issues that aren't pertinent, but don't let the inadequacies of a few detract from the real issue.

The conclusion that this lawsuit is harmful to the College is ridiculous. Yes, it's true, the lawsuit is costly. But the fault does not lie with one side in regards to this, either. Both sides are fighting for what they believe. If the $2 million to be spent by the College was all that valuable, the College would throw out its proposal to destroy parity. Yes, the money could be better spent, but there are many other things (administrative bloat, anyone?) that waste money. Those claiming the funds are being diverted from academic purposes are delusional. We have a $3.8 billion endowment. The College is not in any sort of financial crisis. Some think that we will have trouble recruiting a new president. I don't see why. I think there are plenty of well-qualified candidates who would be thrilled to work at a place where the alumni are so involved and where ideas generated outside of the administration are discussed.

Throw away all of the peripheral arguments for and against this lawsuit and the two slates of candidates. This is the question you need to ask yourself: If the people and beliefs of the two sides were switched, would you still feel the same way about parity on the Board of Trustees? The answer should be yes. If so, hold your opinion with a clear conscience. Parity is something we have now that won't come back if removed.