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Unifying Force

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Cheryl Bascomb '82 on next steps for the Association of Alumni

The Dartmouth Association of Alumni (AoA) will hold its annual election of officers and Executive Committee members from March 25 through May 6. The AoA's current Executive Committee was elected in June 2008 and is running unopposed for reelection in 2009.

All 11 current committee members ran on the "Unity" slate of candidates, which was committed to ending a lawsuit against the College. The lawsuit, which attempted to prevent Dartmouth from moving forward with governance changes approved by the Board of Trustees on Sept. 8, 2007, was filed in October 2007 following a 6-3 vote by the previous AoA Executive Committee.

Dartmouth Life asked Cheryl Bascomb '82, AoA first vice president and a veteran of two terms, for observations about her tenure.

 

bascombAoA First VP Cheryl Bascomb '82, of New Gloucester, Maine, is a 20-year communications professional. Bascomb is marketing director at accounting firm Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker in Portland, Maine. At Dartmouth, she captained the track and field and cross-country running teams and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
As you look back on the work of the AoA Executive Committee this year, can you talk about progress made toward goals?

 

As promised, we ended the lawsuit [in June 2008] that so many alumni felt was divisive, expensive, and the wrong approach to working with the College and the Board of Trustees on Alumni Trustee nominations. We've shown the Board that our committee is composed of reasonable people who are interested in understanding and debating issues of importance, and that's opened up channels of communication.

When I talk with people about the work of the committee, they tell me they're encouraged by the more positive atmosphere in the alumni body. Dartmouth is dealing with a recession, the search for its next president, and other pressing issues. The College has enough to think about without adding alumni conflict to the list. My colleagues on the AoA and I are running for reelection because we have more work to do to foster a unified alumni body that operates constructively and transparently.

The AoA's primary role is to conduct balloting contests to select the nominees for the eight alumni-nominated trustee seats on the Board. Can you explain the election-reform amendment?

We've taken a hard look at the Alumni Trustee nomination process and made recommendations for a constitutional amendment that will simplify the election process and make voting easier and clearer. Our proposed reforms adopt a "one person, one vote" procedure. Short of everyone raising their hands, this is as straightforward as it gets. We want to encourage more alumni to participate in trustee elections, still allow petition candidates to run easily and effectively, and ensure that the winner is the person who receives a majority of the votes.

Why is the proposal in the form of an amendment to the AoA constitution that requires a two-thirds voting majority to pass?

 

Click here for more about the AoA election,
the candidates, and the proposed constitutional
amendment
We didn't have a choice. If the changes are to be more than suggested guidelines that might vary from year to year [one year is the length of service for each AoA Executive Committee] we had to do it in the form of an amendment to our constitution. We hope that most alumni will find it important enough to vote for the change.

 

This was your second consecutive year as an elected member of the association Executive Committee. Last year's committee was politically divided. Could you contrast the two experiences?

They couldn't have been more different. We went from conference calls and meetings that were rancorous and unproductive during my 2007 tenure, to having effective meetings and calls where we can debate issues civilly and constructively, even when we disagree, which we often do.

AoA president John Mathias '69 has an effective leadership style and has been enormously successful in opening up dialogue with trustees, Alumni Council leaders, and others. John listens and incorporates different opinions and positions into the recommendations and ideas we put forward. He's also clear about what he thinks and why. No dissembling; it's great. Past AoA President Bill Hutchinson '76 did a terrific job as well, but had a very different group dynamic to manage. I've been fortunate to learn from both of them.

A record number of alumni-approximately 38 percent-voted in the 2008 AoA election. To what do you attribute that?

People took a look at the issues that were being raised and they wanted to be heard. We had strong word-of-mouth support from alumni-men and women-who made a real effort to communicate with friends and colleagues. I am grateful to those alumni, particularly the increased numbers of young alumni and women, who felt that our slate was better aligned with their expectations of Executive Committee governance and who took the time to encourage others to vote. I hope that we'll see even greater participation in future elections.


 


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Last Updated: 1/19/10