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Lawsuit Update:  September 2009


As you all know, on November 18, 2008, faced with the specter of a Dartmouth Board of Trustees that continues to reject parity and an Association of Alumni executive committee that has sought to extinguish the 117 year right of parity by giving up its own lawsuit “with prejudice”, a representative group of individual Dartmouth alumni filed suit in the Grafton County Superior Court to enforce the 1891 Agreement, to restore parity, and to ensure the preservation of the unique governance model that has placed the College in the forefront of American educational institutions.

On February 2, 2009, the Trustees
responded to the alumni plaintiffs' petition.

On July 18, 2009 the Trustees filed a “
Motion for Summary Judgment
seeking to short-circuit judicial review of the validity of the 1891
Agreement. The Trustees motion claims that individual alumni have no standing to enforce the
1891 Agreement and, in any case, that the Association's withdrawal of the earlier suit "with prejudice" bars any new suit.

Last Friday, September 2, 2009, the group of seven alumni plaintiffs
filed their
Objection to the Trustees' Motion for Summary Judgment. The alumni group’s request that the judge deny the Trustees’ motion counters the contention that the matter has been laid to rest by the court. In their court filing, the alumni argue that the June, 2008, dismissal by the Association of the previous lawsuit “with prejudice” was “a product of collusion and bad faith.”

The plaintiffs claim that the "with prejudice" filing was done in secret and without the authority of the body of alumni. Outlining the “collusion and bad faith” involved in ending the earlier lawsuit, the alumni argue that the College “virtually commandeered the entire process. For it was the College that selected the Association’s new counsel; it was the College that managed the process; and it was the College that even dictated the terms of the stipulation.”

This court filing is the latest salvo in a two-year battle between Dartmouth alumni and their Alma Mater. In September 2007, Dartmouth Trustees unilaterally decided to “pack” the college’s board and guarantee that alumni-selected Trustees would permanently be in the minority.

On Friday, September 4, 2009, the plaintiffs were joined in their efforts to enforce the
1891 agreement and to secure a restoration of parity by Professor Todd Zywicki. Through counsel, Professor Zywicki filed a motion to permit the filing of an amicus brief, supporting the alumni plaintiffs. Professor Zywicki had previously served on the Board of Trustees as an Alumni Trustee,. However, earlier this year in what his fellow Alumni Trustee T.J. Rodgers has described as a "kangaroo court proceeding", Professor Zywicki was denied a second term on the Board.

The
amicus brief describes the contributions that Alumni Trustees have made to Dartmouth and the importance of having them serve on the Board. It also recites in detail the College's efforts to silence the Alumni Trustees' voice, including but not limited to its breach of the 1891 Agreement. Harvey Silverglate, author of several books on academic freedom, is the lead lawyer on the team which prepared the amicus brief.

 

 


 

Last Updated:  Monday September 07, 2009

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