Cushing proposes bill on land grant

by Joe Regan | 2/4/16 8:31pm

For over two centuries Dartmouth has provided financial aid to its students. One of the most prominent sources of this financial aid is the 1807 Second College Land Grant, so called because it followed a series of smaller land grants given to the college even earlier, according to documents at Rauner Special Collections Library.

In January and October, New Hampshire state representative Robert Cushing introduced two bills to the legislature, which would prohibit the College from selling land granted by the 1807 Second College Land Grant and hold the College accountable for a $10,000 fund set up in 1883.

Both bills were defeated.

Bill 1190, which was defeated 17-0, was introduced to the state legislature on Jan.27 by Cushing and eight other representatives. The bill would prohibit “the trustees of Dartmouth College from selling a certain tract of land granted by the general court in 1807. The bill also repeals a subsequent 1846 law authorizing the trustees of Dartmouth College to sell such tract of land.”

Bill 1189-FN, defeated 16-2, introduced on Oct. 28 by Cushing and six other representatives as well as Sen. Fuller Clark, sought to amend an 1883 act that created a $10,000 dollar fund for indigent New Hampshire students. The bill calls for Dartmouth to release an annual report to the speaker of the House of Representatives and other government officials and committees.

The bill would also fine the College $10,000 for the failure to release the report, permit women to apply for the $10,000 fund and establish a fund in the Department of Education for Higher Education with the purpose of supporting postsecondary education. Dartmouth’s General Counsel Robert B. Donin, offered testimony on Bill 1190. According to documents on his testimony from the committee hearing, he described Dartmouth’s management of the Second College Grant as “responsible,” and added that the College’s financial aid provisions for New Hampshire students has far exceeded the income that the Grant’s operations generate.

The bill purports that it would also make the language of the 1883 act gender neutral so that both women and men could receive aid from the fund. However, the College has already been giving aid on a gender-neutral basis, Donin said.

Raymond Gagnon, a sponsor of bill 1189-FN, commented that “we want to provide scholarships for New Hampshire kids” and that “my understanding is that an amiable agreement was reached between Dartmouth and the Legislature.”

In his testimony on Bill 1189-FN, Donin said, “So while it was clear that Dartmouth was in compliance with the substance of the 1883 appropriation by investing the $10,000 as part of the College endowment and using the earnings for scholarships for New Hampshire students, it appeared that we had not submitted the annual accounting to the Governor. Upon learning of this situation, we immediately began to discuss with the director of Charitable Trusts a procedure for the preparation and filing of an annual accounting, which would be a public document, as part of Dartmouth’s annual report to the Charitable Trust Unit of the Attorney General’s Office.”

On Dec. 10, 2015, the College and the director of Charitable Trusts entered into a Memorandum of Understanding providing for such an annual report, according to Donin.

The 1807 Grant provides 27,000 acres of forest in compensation for another tract seized by a royal governor in the days before the American Revolution. The grant has continuously provided aid to students since its inception.

At first, the College attempted to monetize the land by leasing 100-acre lots to settlers in the area, though the initiative eventually failed. The College would later employ different methods to monetize and effectively manage the land.

In June 1846, the New Hampshire state legislature passed an act authorizing the Trustees of the College to sell the land to outside contractors with “the income from the avails of such sales to be forever appropriated agreeably to the provisions of said act.”

The 1846 act was passed to allow the College to lease out the land to contractors and businesses who would pay certain fees for the privilege of cutting timber.

On Feb.19, 1919, another amendment was passed that authorized income from the grant to be used for “general purposes,” which means that the money derived from the land’s timber could now be funneled into areas other than student aid. By 1929, Brown & Company, over a period of ten years, had been given rights to the land and provided the College with $1.5 million. The College used part of the surplus cash to construct a new house on Webster Avenue for the College’s president.