Monday, July 30, 2007

In Defense of Democracy

For a while now, I've been ignoring the brewing controversy over the Board of Trustees' decision to review the trustee election process. Since 1891, the Board of Trustees has been split between trustees nominated by alumni, and trustees elected by the board ("charter trustees"). The review process is seeking to determine whether this balance should be continued. The board's Governance Committee has undertaken this review, seeking to determine "what is in the best interests of the college." My decision to ignore this issue so far comes from my unease. I'm a liberal guy, so I'm reluctant to take generally conservative stances when it comes to Dartmouth politics, but I find the maneuvering by the board to be worrisome. It seems clear that this is Alumni Constitution plan B - another way to stop the threat of conservative alumni. But in truth, the proposal to change the composition of the board is wholly undemocratic.

The governance committee noted that trustees elections were "increasingly contentious," but isn't that the point of democracy? Contentious elections bring increased scrutiny on trustee candidates and hold them accountable to the public. Consider the contrast with the so-called charter trustee elections: charter trustee are selected quietly by the board and remain largely anonymous. Nobody knows who they are, what they stand for, how they're going to lead Dartmouth. But I can tell you all about Stephen Smith, and that's good. By exploring issues and candidates with a critical eye, democratic trustee elections bring transparency.

The Board of Trustees is placing present concerns over long term pragmatism. Over time, Dartmouth's alumni will be increasingly liberal, and many of today's concerns will become irrelevant. The 1891 agreement to split the board between alumni-elected trustees and board-elected trustees ensures that the board ultimately follows the will of the alumni. Some would say that the views of the alumni don't really matter, but that certainly cannot be the case. Without alumni control, Dartmouth would be running in a vacuum of its own self-perpetuating leadership. It would be like a Supreme Court that could choose its own successors. Who knows what direction its would take over many generations. An even split of trustees creates a system where the board remains firmly grounded to alumni control, but also more stable through its ability to counterbalance alumni decisions through its own choices. Without a large number of alumni trustees, Dartmouth would be like a corporate board operating without shareholders. The 1891 agreement ensures that we are the shareholders.

Edit: Several comments have raised concerns about my use of the word "shareholder." Of course, I do not think that alumni literally own Dartmouth, but I think it is an apt metaphor given the current power of alumni to nominate half of the board. One comment suggested that "stakeholder" would be more appropriate, but of course alumni are stakeholders - this is their alma mater.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Guide to Internship Survival

In this great season of summer recruiting, it's very timely that the Dartmouth Independent would publish a guide to surviving (or not surviving) internships, written by Tatyana Liskovich '08. Helpful tips include "leave that sandwich in the trash, where it belongs.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Money Mag: Hanover 2nd Best Place to Live

Each year, Money Magazine put together a list of the best places to live. This year, they put Hanover as the second best place to live. It describes Hanover as a combination of a pastoral setting with a cosmopolitan vibe. Median age? 22.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Smith: "Unprecedented Assault on our Alumni"

Stephen Smith '88, recently elected trustee, wrote an opinion article today in The Dartmouth about the trustees plan to examine "governance," i.e. prevent people like Stephen Smith from winning elections. Smith attacks the administration for being a "spin machine" against him, and he alleges that it considerably outspent him during this election. Smith attacks attempts to change the system, saying that elections are ultimately divisive because "it is democracy, pure and simple."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wayward Goes Mainstream

Nathan Empsall '09, a fellow blogger who writes The Wayward Episcopalian, got quoted yesterday in Slate, writing about disgraced Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana). Congrats.

Police Blotter

Ivy Gate, the blog that covers all the Ivy League gossip, did a big post about The Dartmouth's police blotter. As all Dartmouth students know, that's easily the best part of the D. As somebody who comes from Manhattan, the Hanover Police's conception of crime is hilarious. But it also highlights that the main focus of the Hanover Police is chasing after drunk Dartmouth students, which is a shame. Why doesn't the town cut back on the force, and let S&S handle underage drinking, without arresting everybody in the process?

In other Ivy Gate news, incoming Princeton freshman Antonio Villaraigosa Jr. wrote stupid things on a Facebook group wall. No big deal, except that he's the son of Los Angeles' mayor. It sucks to face so much scrutiny, but I guess that's life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What was Stephen F. Mandel like at Dartmouth?

At the bottom of this blog's sidebar, there's a visit counter from Occasionally, I look at the statistics it provides. One interesting piece of information is the referral website, i.e. the site that linked to Super Dartmouth. Today, one visitor got here by searching for "what was stephen f mandel like at dartmouth" on Google. Stephen Mandel '78 was recently elected to the Board of Trustees as a "charter" trustee. I don't know what Mandel was like, but clearly the searcher had unusual faith in Google being omniscient. I doubt the search results helped much.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Academic Honor and the Committee on Standards

Last week, Christian Kiely '09 wrote an opinion article in The Dartmouth about his concern over how the Committee on Standards approaches Academic Honor cases compared to cases regarding an alleged standards violation (i.e. sexual assault, violence, and other crimes). Kiely feels that COS prosecutes "academic crimes" with a far greater drive than they do for feel crimes. Today, April Thompson, the director of the Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Office, responded with an article of her own addressing Kiely's criticism. This is of particular interest to me as I am currently serving on COS. While I support the main recommendations of the Student Assembly's COS Task Force report, my experience on COS so far has been positive and it seems very well run.

Stam goes to Michigan

Dartblog reported today that Professor Allan Stam of the Government Department is leaving Dartmouth for the University of Michigan. I took Gov 5 with Professor Stam last fall, and his class was excellent. He's a very offbeat guy and a truly great lecturer, and his departure is certainly a major loss for the department. Like Joe Malchow at Dartblog, I am also concerned about the ability of the Government Department to find a replacement of his caliber.

Thursday, July 5, 2007 Revamped has a new layout, a sleeker design that's a pretty big departure from his old setup. I'm not an immediate fan, but it will probably grow on me.

Dartmouth in the Times

Nothing big, but The New York Times name dropped Dartmouth in the lede of an article about an initiative for a new website to collect information about colleges. I guess the Times is trying to be cool or something.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Libby Goes Free

Tonight, George W. Bush commuted the 30 month prison sentence of Scooter Libby, who was convicted of perjury in the CIA leak investigation. I'm not surprised, but I'm disappointed. This sets a very disturbing precedent for the Bush administration, which is the shadiest administration since the Nixon era. Certainly, Libby is not the first Bush official to break the law, and certainly he will not be the last sentenced to go to jail. By using the power of presidential clemency to forgive internal wrongdoing, President Bush is placing his administration above the law. At the same time, I think it's also clear that Libby was the fall guy for the administration. When it comes to the special prosecutor for the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, what's most special about him is that he's not much of a prosecutor.