All large organizations — business corporations and government agencies as well as nonprofits like Dartmouth — are run by managers or administrators. Human nature being what it is, these managers or administrators tend to use the power delegated to them for their own advantage. Instead of simply performing the functions with which they are charged, they divert their efforts and the organization’s resources to furthering their own interests. This is not because they are bad people; it is because they are perfectly normal people and so have difficulty resisting temptation. The problem of governance is the problem of limiting such undesirable behavior.Kohn hones in on the underlying question: what's the point of a Board of Trustees if it is artificially engineered to be docile? What's the purpose of oversight if it's designed to acquiesce? I'm not saying Wright is wrong, or that I agree with the petition candidates (on most points, I don't), but there are larger issues at stake, for the future. How well insulated should Dartmouth's administration be? Shouldn't an alumni feedback mechanism be protected when the future is unknown, when nobody can predict what issues will be at stake twenty, fifty, and one hundred years down the road? Well, I'm going to sleep on that one, but at least it's good to see a professor demonstrate a little academic freedom.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Professor Kohn Speaks Out Against Board Changes
Meir Kohn, a professor of economics at the college, wrote an editorial in today's The Dartmouth, criticizing the changes the Board of Trustees made to their composition. Kohn, who is both loved and feared for his notoriously hard but rewarding Econ 26 classes, frames governance as the ability to prevent the powerful from excess: