April 17, 2009
To ensure that Dartmouth College's Board of Trustees serves as the most effective possible steward for the College, the Board has a process for evaluating and considering re-election of trustees completing their first term.
At its April meeting, the Board completed that process for seven sitting trustees. Following a thorough and careful review and confidential voting process, the Board re-elected six of those trustees: John J. Donahoe '82, R. Bradford Evans '64, Board Chair Charles E. Haldeman '70, Albert G. Mulley '70, Peter M. Robinson '79 and Thurman J. Rodgers '70. One of the seven, Todd J. Zywicki '88, was not re-elected.
In an April 13th open letter to the Dartmouth community, Mr. Zywicki asked for an explanation of the Board's decision not to re-elect him and raised other questions about the process. While individual trustee evaluations are necessarily confidential, as chair of the Board, I wanted to share with the Dartmouth community some background on the evaluation and re-election process, and address concerns raised by Mr. Zywicki's letter.
The standard for election to the Board of Trustees is the same regardless of whether an individual is being considered for initial election or re-election: whether appointing the individual to Dartmouth's governing board is in the best interests of the College. The only difference in practice is that when considering a trustee for re-election, the Board is able to consider the individual's first-term performance. One important set of criteria for evaluation is the Board's Statement of Trustee Responsibilities.
The evaluation process itself is thorough and consultative. Input is solicited from every member of the Board. Each trustee being reviewed receives from a fellow Board member a personal assessment of the feedback provided by other Board members. Members being considered for re-election also are allowed to address the Board. And then, after thorough review and discussion of the results, the full Board votes on re-election. Each of these steps was followed in Mr. Zywicki's case — and in the case of all the trustees reappointed.
While I cannot speak for my fellow Board members on how they cast their votes or made their individual decisions, all Board members are held to the same standards irrespective of whether they are "alumni" trustees, "petition" trustees or "charter" trustees. It is worth noting that of the three "petition" trustees considered for re-election this year, two were re-elected by the Board, including Mr. Robinson and Mr. Rodgers.
Mr. Zywicki also raised concerns that the Board's failure to re-elect him and a prior reprimand of him by the Board hampered his ability to exercise his right to free speech. As trustees of an institution of higher education, the Board strongly supports every individual's right to free speech. However, the Board also believes that trustees have fundamental responsibilities and obligations — including fiduciary duties. The Board reprimanded Mr. Zywicki because it concluded, after careful review, that a speech he delivered on October 27, 2007, at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education in Raleigh, North Carolina, was inconsistent with his duties as a member of the Dartmouth Board. (See the Board's Dec. 18, 2007 statement on this matter, 36kb, PDF)
Service on the Board of Dartmouth College is a special privilege. Trustees take seriously that privilege and the responsibilities that come with it. And our overriding goal always remains doing what is in the best interests of the College.
Ed Haldeman '70
Last Updated: 12/1/14