Robinson, Zywicki win trustee election
By Stuart A. Reid, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 13, 2005
Petition candidates Peter Robinson '79 and Todd Zywicki '88 won this year's trustee election, the College announced early Thursday evening, defeating four Alumni Council nominees. Out of over 35,000 votes cast by more than 15,000 alumni, Robinson received 21 percent and Zywicki received 20 percent.
Zywicki and Robinson both expressed satisfaction and surprise with their wins, especially given their outsider status. Zywicki said his victory was an alumni response to an administration that has been increasingly making questionable decisions.
"We made it quite clear that we had some concerns about how Dartmouth has been moving in recent years. I think it's a very clear signal by the alumni as to what direction they believe the college should be moving," Zywicki said.
Robinson said the results represent a victory for alumni participation in the College.
"You could have found lots of candidates at least as qualified as [Zywicki and I] are, who believe roughly what we believe: that the College needs to rededicate itself to excellence in undergraduate education," he said.
Regarding his plans as a trustee, Zywicki said he would focus on hiring more professors and prioritizing the budget.
"The single highest priority that the board needs to act on is to deal with this problem of overcrowded classrooms and the inability to enroll in classes," Zywicki said. "A deep confusion in financial priorities best exemplified by the fact that [the administration] liquidated the speech department and hired a sustainability director in the same week."
In addition to these issues, Zywicki said he would talk to the administration in hopes of re-recognizing Zeta Psi fraternity, which was de-recognized after it published an in-house newspaper that denigrated several women by name. He called the punishment ""grossly disproportionate and completely inappropriate."
Robinson expressed similar sentiment and plans. While cautioning that he has no plans to "bring a sledgehammer to the first meeting," he said he will ask the tough questions.
"At an institution in the business of attempting to provide the best education possible, how on earth can it be that students can't get into the classes they need to complete their major?" Robinson asked.
Both candidates ran campaigns deemed "insurgent" that attacked Dartmouth's free speech stance.
"I emphasized it," Robinson said of free speech. "Todd Zywicki emphasized it. I heard enough from undergraduates, recent graduates and other alumni about their concerns for free speech. I don't have any doubt that it was one of the animating issues."
This year's election also saw the use of internet blogs to voice support for the candidates.
"I think what I found useful during the campaign were the new uses of the blogosphere," Robinson said. "I was able to reach fellow alums via my web site in a way that would have been very different even a few years ago."
The blogs that covered the trustee election were mainly conservative ones supporting the two petition candidates, both of whom are well-established political conservatives. But Robinson said that his personal political opinions on national issues are irrelevant when it comes to Dartmouth.
"I myself view the issues at Dartmouth College as specific to Dartmouth College. It would be hard to wedge into a discussion my opinion about social security reform, for example."
This year's election, one of the most heated in recent memory, attracted national media attention and the voting was marked by delayed ballots and allegations of campaign rules violations.
These strict campaigning rules constrained the candidates and supporters on both sides, prompting Alumni Association president John Walters '62 to call for a change. Robinson would like to see the rules dropped entirely, saying, "Frankly, they're silly."
College President James Wright congratulated the candidates and said he looked forward to working with them. He reacted to criticism from Zywicki and others regarding the new sustainability dean by saying the dean was "important."
Wright also acknowledged oversubscription in certain departments.
"I think that Dean [of the faculty Carol] Folt has been working on adding more faculty to the government and economics departments and we're pleased to have Mr. Zywicki help us with that," he said.
Robinson is a conservative author and a fellow at the Hoover Institution in California, and he hosts PBS's "Uncommon Knowledge." During the Reagan administration, he worked as a speechwriter and penned the President's famous line, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!"
While at Dartmouth, Robinson majored in English and wrote for The Dartmouth.
Zywicki is a law professor at Georgetown Law Center, and has taught at several other law schools. He recently worked for the United States Federal Trade Commission.
During his time at Dartmouth, Zywicki majored in government and was a member of The Dartmouth's business staff.