Today's Wall Street Journal weighs in on the proposed new Dartmouth alumni constitution (subscription required). Here's an excerpt:
[T]he new document is plainly designed to prevent outsiders from gaining still more Trusteeships. Most significant is a provision that would require prospective candidates to submit petitions before the official nominating committee selects its candidates. Not only would this vitiate the entire rationale for petition candidacies -- a last resort to express dissatisfaction with the status quo -- but it would allow the nominating committee to shape its slate against external challengers and split votes. These rules, like those in a casino, would game the odds in any given election in favor of the house.
The constitution is promoted as a measure to increase fairness and transparency, but in reality it would do neither. While the Alumni Council -- already a bureaucratic labyrinth -- is to be reorganized, it would actually become less representative, with more unelected positions with more power to pick Trustees than under the present arrangement. The revisions would also increase set-aside seats for groups defined by race or sexual orientation.
As if to redouble the throbbing of the tell-tale heart, the alumni executives recently "postponed" the elections for their own offices, in violation of their own bylaws, until after the constitution is given an up-or-down vote by the full alumni body. If it passes, the maneuver would entrench the leadership as currently comprised until at least 2009. Alumni would be left without democratically elected executives, let alone a say in Trustee nominations.
And so a pattern emerges at Dartmouth, one interminably replicated on other campuses: The academic establishment wants to consolidate its authority and exclude those who might deviate from the party line. But in a democracy, the results are not supposed to be foreordained. The new constitution will be put up for ratification by the alumni on September 15. Despite Dartmouth's troubles in recent years, we trust its graduates are bright enough to see this power play for what it is.
For those who want more information on the Constitution a new web site has been established, www.alumniconstitution.org that provides detailed commentary on the document as well analysis by students and alumni.
There is also a new open forum for discussions by Dartmouth students and alumni on this and other matters of concern to Dartmouth at www.dartmouthviews.org.