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The Hanover Institute
  Non-Profit Organization of Dartmouth Alumni, by Dartmouth Alumni and for Dartmouth Alumni  


Join Those Opposed to the Proposed New Constitution


ﲠdecades, the current constitution has served the College well. Instead of casting it aside, we simply need to bring it up to date.  And we can accomplish this task with a few petition amendments, all brief, all to the point, and all in plain English.

쥡se vote NO against the proposed new constitution and YES for four simple amendments to the current constitution.

Dear Friend of Dartmouth College,

Beginning September 15, every Dartmouth College alumnus will receive a ballot presenting a stark choice.

Either: junk the historic 1891 constitution that has governed alumni participation in the election of Dartmouth trustees and replace it with an entirely new constitution making it nearly impossible to elect future petition trustees; 

Or: approve four transparent reform amendments that improve on the current constitution while preserving it.

As President of the Hanover Institute, I urge you to lend your strength to our cause, before it is too late, through these actions. 

  • Vote "NO" against the proposed new AGTF constitution (which will be Item 1 on the ballot).

  • Vote "YES" for the simple amendments to the current Association constitution.

  • Urge your classmates and friends to vote "NO" against the proposed new constitution.

Dr. John Steel쯢> victory as a petition candidate for Dartmouth College trustee in 1980 was met by a set of countermeasures designed to curb alumni from exercising their political power.  

TJ Rodgers쯢> victory in 2004, followed by the success of two more petition candidates, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki in 2005, overcame those hurdles, but a controlling minority set to work to insure it would not happen again.

The instrument through which this minority now seeks to work its will is the deeply flawed AGTF constitution.

This new constitution has many defects. I will mention a few.

1) It would stack the deck against election of petition trustees like John Steel, TJ Rodgers, Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki. The contrivances the AGTF has carefully designed would make election of ANY petition trustees, regardless of whether they agree or not with the three new petition trustees, so difficult as to be practically impossible.

2) In a stunningly wrongheaded addition, the new constitution awards certain seats in the new Alumni Council (now to be called Alumni Assembly) based solely on the color of a person೫in and/or one's particular sexual practices. * See below.

What makes this new constitutionally mandated bias totally unacceptable is that if the AGTF constitution is ratified there will be no counterbalance to this absurdity. The Association of Alumni of Dartmouth College, where every Dartmouth graduate is a member on an equal footing, will exist in name only.

3) The new constitution is far too complicated, convoluted and deadening. Do Dartmouth alumni need a long-winded 20-page new constitution--a document that, at more than seven thousand words, runs longer then the U.S. Constitution plus the Bill of Rights? It is utterly unnecessary.

The most important power alumni can wield resides in their ability to elect their alumni trustees. The AGTF constitution threatens that power. (The pertinent section is 7.4, exactly and fully reproduced below.)

Under the current constitution, the Nominating Committee of the Alumni Council picks three candidates to run for each opening on the board of trustees. Ballots with those three names are sent to all alumni, who then vote for their favorite. The person with the highest number of votes wins.

Should a significant portion of the alumni not be satisfied with the choices offered, a petition process provides an alternative means for placing candidates on the ballot.

This is the current system. It keeps the whole alumni trustee selection process honest, if you will, and makes it work. If alumni leaders lose touch with rank and file alumni, if power corrupts (as it usually does), then ordinary alumni can place an alternative onto the ballot. And if that alternative is more representative of alumni at large, then that alternative can win. That fact alone can and should make the choices of the Nominating Committee better choices.

What does the proposed new constitution do?

The new constitution turns the trustee petition process entirely on its head. Rank-and-file alumni would have to submit the name of the petition candidate BEFORE the Nominating Committee even met to make its choices. This would eliminate the honest check on the establishment's choices. Instead, the few members of the Committee could game its choice of nominees to minimize the possibility of a petition candidate victory.

This new proposed constitution is supported by all the usual insider alumni leaders as it concentrates power even more tightly in their hands. Though there is more voting, there is less democracy.

It is also supported by the Wright administration. If any deny this fact, let them answer some simple questions.

Who produced and developed the mailing lists that are used to promote this deeply flawed new constitution?

Who denies use of those same lists to those of us who oppose this new proposal?

Who is ultimately responsible for the money being used (money donated by Dartmouth alumni) to design and mail the various materials promoting the new constitution, materials that will go out to all alumni with the ballot on September 15?

Answer: employees of President Wright and of Dartmouth College.

After your NO vote against the new constitution, a YES in favor of the four clear amendments to the CURRENT constitution will give alumni the more democratic governance to which they have been entitled. (Thanks to your efforts, we gathered thousands of signatures and succeeded in placing the amendments on the ballot you will receive in September.)

Each is so simple that it requires only a few words of explanationeach reflects the same underlying conviction:

For decades, the current constitution has served the College well. Instead of casting it aside, we simply need to bring it up to date.  And we can accomplish this task with a few petition amendments, all brief, all to the point, and all in plain English.

Petition Amendment 1 would simply require meetings of the Association of Alumni to take place according to Robertҵles of Order.  As matters now stand, the chair may adopt any rules he or she chooses⠤ispense with rules altogether.  If Amendment One is enacted, the discretion of the chair will be replaced with a brief body of rules that is time-honored and straightforward.  Meetings will be conducted in an orderly and efficient fashion.  Every participant will be treated fairly.

Petition Amendment 2, in just a single sentence, would allow Dartmouth men and women to vote at meetings of the Association of Alumni, either in person or by proxy. If Amendment Two passes, the tiny proportion of alumni who live close enough to Hanover to attend meetings in person will no longer be able to make decisions for all 60,000 of us.

Like the previous amendment, Petition Amendment 3 consists of just a single sentence. It makes two changes in the way alumni may amend the constitution.

First, it would enable alumni to vote on constitutional amendments in person, by mail, or over the Internet. Second, the threshold for ratifying constitutional amendments would revert, from the present two-thirds of those voting, to the original three-quarters.

 Note that the current requirement of two-thirds of those voting dates only to this past February. It was adopted at a meeting in Hanover in a blatant attempt to ease passage of the massive AGTF constitution. How many alumni attended that meeting? Fewer than 240⠬ess than four tenths of one percent of the alumni body.  Petition Amendment 3 would make it impossible for so few to make such important decisions ever again. Since the constitution concerns all of us, Petition Amendment 3 would enable all of us to vote on constitutional amendmentsrequire a large majority of us to approve of them.

Petition Amendment 4 would effect two simple changes concerning the Association of Alumni Executive Committee. .

First, it would lengthen terms of office from one year to two. This would promote continuity, guarding against the kind of churning and instability inherent in elections as frequent and numerous as those in the proposed new constitution.

Second, Amendment Four would permit alumni to vote for officers in person, by mail, or over the Internet.

Continuity and true democracy brief, simple amendment, not a sprawling and unwieldy new constitution.

Please vote for these four petition amendments and against the proposed constitution.

Please join a broad coalition including thousands of Dartmouth College alumni, all former and current Dartmouth trustees nominated by petition, hundreds of current Dartmouth students, organizations on both the left and right and vote against the proposed new constitution.

Now let me report on the status of our lawsuit to require that the Executive Committee of the Association of Alumni count all the votes made at the October 23, 2005 annual meeting of the Association. It is still active. All we have been seeking is to have the proxy votes of 450 Dartmouth alumni who could not attend the meeting counted. If the Executive Committee would commit to having all future elections for officer and executive committee by all-media voting, allowing all alumni to vote regardless of whether they can make it to Hanover, I would consider dropping the lawsuit.

In closing, please let me reiterate.

This year஥w constitution being proposed by the Alumni Governance Task Force (AGTF), and its ally, the Executive Committee, which is supported by resources of the Wright administration and its allies, will curtail our rights dramatically.  A key feature of the new AGTF constitution is its change of the rules that have allowed alumni to elect petition candidates for Dartmouth College Trustee over the past two years.  If the new proposal is adopted, it will be nearly impossible to elect petition trustees in the future.

Please vote NO against the proposed new constitution and YES for four simple amendments to the current one.


John MacGovern༯b>

Hanover Institute



* Two representatives of each Affiliated Alumni Group that has been officially recognized by the CollegeϦfice of Alumni Relations, such representatives to be elected for staggered three-year terms by each such Affiliated Alumni Group. (As of April 15, 2006, the officially recognized Affiliated Alumni Groups were the Dartmouth Asian Pacific American Alumni Association; Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association; Dartmouth Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Alumni/ae Association; Dartmouth Association of Latino Alumni; and Native American Alumni Association of Dartmouth); and


** 7.4 Petition Process: Prior to the date of the Nominating Committee meeting at which the Nominating Committee Trustee Slate will be selected, 250 of the voting members of the Association may, pursuant to procedures set forth in nomination guidelines of the Association, file with the Secretary of the Association a petition over their own signatures selecting an eligible member of the Association as a candidate for nomination as an alumni trustee, subject to his or her agreement to serve if elected. Petitions for such purpose shall be made available 30 days prior to the date of the Nominating Committee meeting at which the Nominating Committee Trustee Slate will be selected.


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