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Alumni, Faculty, Parents Respond to Changes in College Governance

There is no shortage of opinion about the Board of Trustees' recent announcement concerning changes to the College's governance processes and structure. Responses from alumni, faculty, parents, students, and others since Board Chair Ed Haldeman '70 announced the actions in September reflect a broad diversity of views. Following a series of contentious Alumni Trustee elections, some are skeptical about the Trustees' actions. Others feel that Dartmouth's governing Board needs to expand to ensure the College's preeminent role in American higher education. Amid the diversity of opinion two common threads emerge: a passionate love for Dartmouth and a commitment to its continuing ability to provide a liberal arts education second to none.

Several respondents agreed to share their views with Dartmouth Life readers.

What's up with this? I think electing Trustees is the best thing that the Board has going for it. Why don't you guys make half of these new Trustee spots elected and the other half appointed?
Ryan Stehr '05

Thank you. The divisiveness of the past few years has been sickening to many of us, and I hope these changes will make the difference. Conservative voices should be heard along with liberal ones such as my own; but the strategy and tactics being used by the conservative voices has been damaging to the College and a discredit to them.
Edward C. Coolidge '52

I disagree with this decision and  am saddened that the Board has determined that the ability to hide from intense debate justifies reducing alumni voice in Dartmouth's governance. A system requiring campaigning has unpleasant elements, but I have been better informed about the issues facing the College than in the past because of it. Representing the additional eight Charter Trustees as necessary to ensure appropriate expertise seems intellectually dishonest. Certainly the Board has the creativity to obtain that expertise without establishing a structure that can lead to removal of unsanctioned alumni voices. I can only conclude that the real reason is not the ostensible acquisition of expertise, but is rather to reduce alumni voice. That said, I would like to thank you for your efforts on behalf of the College. As you state, we all share the desire to do what is best for Dartmouth and its students.
Jeff Swiatek '90

I have always thought that Dartmouth's schizophrenia about whether it is a college or university is a major strength. That tension makes us distinctive in higher education by offering students a world-class educational experience in an intimate setting, and  by enabling faculty to pursue scholarship in a challenging environment. The healthy pursuit of excellence in both teaching and research, however, means faculty members are constantly juggling to meet our students' high expectations for individual attention and compete with peer institutions that set the bar for research very high. Despite these pressures, most of us would be unhappy at a place that undervalues either classroom performance or academic accomplishment, and we recognize that at Dartmouth we gain recognition for both.

I am distressed by assertions from some alumni that Dartmouth doesn't care about students. Why would we be here if that were the case? And why do our students invite us to weddings, send birth announcements, or e-mail us after graduation from around the world-whether the Peace Corps, law school, or Goldman Sachs-if they think us indifferent to their well-being?
Linda L. Fowler, professor of government and the Frank J. Reagan Chair of Policy Studies

I have until now been generally supportive of the Board and its governance of the College. I must register my serious disappointment with this course of action. Although I believe I may ultimately be a beneficiary of the fact that it will be virtually impossible for a maverick to get elected and swing the Board to the "right" (I am inclined to the liberal side of most issues affecting the College), my review of the facts leads me to reluctantly conclude the expansion was a deliberately anti-democratic maneuver by a Board that felt threatened by outsiders.
Gary Katz '90

As the parent of a current Dartmouth student, I have been dismayed and concerned by the rancor about the Alumni Trustee election process. The Board's solution to the problem and the changes in Board composition and size will, I hope, help eliminate the divisive aspects and ensure that the Board and Dartmouth will move forward and be able to devote time and money to the future of the institution. Our daughter loves Dartmouth. She appreciates its academics, its faculty, its campus, its research opportunities, its off-campus programs, its athletic programs, and the friendships she is cultivating.
Ellen C. Jantzen M.D., P'09

I bristle at the suggestion that Dartmouth must choose to be either a second-rate research university or a first-rate liberal arts college. I am deeply committed to excellent teaching. At the same time, students routinely ask about my research. The Trustees' decision, which guarantees that a broad range of alumni voices will continue to be heard, helps to reaffirm Dartmouth as a place where exceptional teaching and cutting-edge research go hand in hand.
Steve Swayne, associate professor of music

Sounds like this teapot tempest has boiled over. Perhaps the fire is out. Dartmouth, as you have said, has never been stronger, etc; is change really best for what seems to work marvelously?
Ed Vallery '91

I have not participated in the rancorous discussions, nor have I paid detailed attention to the candidates themselves. My lack of participation does not stem from a lack of interest; rather, I am aware that some, if not most, of the changes that have occurred at Dartmouth since I graduated have made it possible for my daughter to be a student there, and to enjoy it immensely. (Her grandfather was also a Dartmouth graduate.) Her love of the place and experience dramatically eclipses mine. I am convinced that is a direct result of improvements that have occurred. I hope this change will permit those who are truly committed to the College's future, no matter what "side" they have been on in these debates, to apply their energy to assure continued excellence on campus.
John D. Tobin Jr. '65, P'08

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 5/30/08