Council files amicus brief to dismiss
By William Schpero, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, November 12, 2007
The Dartmouth Alumni Council filed a brief Thursday calling on the Grafton County Superior Court to dismiss the Association of Alumni's lawsuit against the College. The "friend of the court" brief, or amicus curiae, argues that the executive committee of the Association does not have the authority to file a suit and that its legal action goes against the will of a majority of the alumni body.
"The lawsuit is contrary to the interests of Dartmouth alumni and of the College itself," the brief states. "It is a distraction from the College's primary mission of educating students."
The Association originally filed suit against the College on Oct. 3 in response to the Board of Trustee's decision to add eight new seats. This reduced the proportion of seats chosen by alumni from one-half to one-third, excluding the president of the College and the governor of New Hampshire, who are also board members.
The Council argues in part that the Association's lack of standing is due to its position as a "vestigial and traditionally ceremonial body with very limited responsibilities and powers." The Council, in contrast, describes itself as "the principal spokesperson for the alumni."
"This is obvious in that whenever the trustees want to quote a supposed alumni opinion they go to the Alumni Council," said Frank Gado '58, a member of the Association executive committee who voted in favor of the suit. "This is a steady campaign to marginalize the Association."
A significant element of the Council's argument centers on the differences between the College's two alumni representative bodies. These differences, while unknown to many and prone to different interpretations, may be used to determine whether the Council's assertion of its authority is accurate and whether the Association, therefore, does not have the standing to sue.
"The executive committee is trying to fulfill a role they haven't fulfilled in 80 or 90 years, and they have really jeopardized themselves," John Daukas, Jr. '84, president-elect of the Council, said.
Daukas added later, "the Alumni Council is charged under its constitution with being the principal spokesperson for alumni and act on the alumni's behalf -- we felt we really had to speak out on the lawsuit and explain to the court why it should be dismissed."
In its brief, the Council argues that Association meetings have been "sporadic, brief, and sparsely attended" and that "from 1990 to the present, the Executive Committee of the Association's only additional role has been to oversee, through a balloting committee, Alumni Trustee elections."
Gado, however, said he believes the Association has the most legitimacy because it is the more democratic of the two organizations.
"We [the members of the executive committee of the Association] are the only ones who are elected by all alumni, and the Council itself and its own leaders concede they are not elected -- only a tiny minority have gone through any type of election," Gado said. "They are making some claim for legitimacy that they really do not have."
This legitimacy provides the standing necessary for legal action, Gado said.
"On what basis does the Council have standing? On the basis of this strange confection they have put together called an amicus brief," Gado said. "When this Council was created in 1913, it was called an auxiliary association -- that says something."
The next filing in this case, the Association's response to the College's Oct. 26 motion to dismiss, is scheduled for Nov. 16.