Board votes to reprimand Zywicki
By William Schpero, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, January 7, 2008
Dartmouth's Board of Trustees voted to reprimand fellow Trustee Todd Zywicki '88 in response to his Oct. 27 public criticism of the College's adherence to political correctness and his remark that former College President James Freedman was "truly evil." The reprimand, which was announced on the Board's website, arose from a Dec. 18 conference call among the trustees to discuss the matter.
No other trustee has been reprimanded in recent memory.
"The Board concluded that [Zywicki] had exercised poor judgment and had violated his responsibilities as a trustee of Dartmouth College, which include acting in the best overall interests of Dartmouth and representing Dartmouth positively in words and deeds," the Board's statement regarding Zywicki, signed by Board Chairman Ed Haldeman '70, says.
"Mr. Zywicki has already apologized to the Freedman family and has indicated that he would like to retract other parts of his speech," the statement continues. "Given the wide attention Mr. Zywicki's comments have received, the Board also voted to release this letter to inform the Dartmouth community of its actions."
Zywicki declined to comment.
The terms of the reprimand have not been made public. Haldeman declined to elaborate on the board's statement.
Association of Alumni President Bill Hutchinson '76, speaking on his own behalf and not for the association, said, "If I were Trustee Zywicki, I would feel lucky to have gotten off so lightly.
"I think it is important to hold the trustees to a very high code of conduct, and I am glad the board is attempting to do that," he added.
John MacGovern '80, founder of the Hanover Institute -- a non-profit organization that has supported petition candidates like Zywicki in the past -- lambasted the board for its decision to reprimand.
"I think it is outrageous, but not surprising, that the majority of this Board of Trustees that wants to shut out the alumni from the Board would want to muzzle one of its own members for violating the rules of the multimillion dollar boys' club," he said.
The reprimand comes after a video of Zywicki's address garnered attention from Ivy League-specific blogs and circulated widely among alumni by e-mail.
Much of the criticism has centered on Zywicki's characterization of Freedman.
"They then brought in this fellow, truly evil man, James Freedman, who basically, simply put, his agenda was to turn Dartmouth into Harvard," Zywicki said in his address.
Zywicki, in a previous interview with The Dartmouth, said he stands by his criticism of Freedman, whose presidency overlapped with Zywicki's time at Dartmouth.
"In my view it is unforgivable and there is never ever any excuse for a president of the College or a senior College official to do to undergraduate students what James Freedman did when he was president," Zywicki said. "It is unforgivable to try to intimidate [students] and throw around reckless and baseless charges of anti-Semitism in the way he did."
Zywicki said his characterization of Freedman draws from essays by former Dartmouth Professor Jeffrey Hart and conservative columnist William Buckley about an episode in 1990 when a Dartmouth student inserted a line from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf into the masthead of The Dartmouth Review. The incident, which occurred on the day prior to the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, garnered national attention, including denunciations of The Review by members of Congress and an October "Dartmouth United Against Hate" rally.
Buckley and Hart both wrote that Freedman suggested anti-Semitism was more prevalent at Dartmouth than it actually was, thus propagating negative impressions of the College.
In his address, Zywicki said: "And I think what you have to understand is that those who control the university today, they don't believe in God, and they don't believe in country."
Of the many statements he made in his speech, this instance is the only case in which Zywicki said that he "plainly misspoke" and "did not mean for it to be taken literally."
Since the address first surfaced, the Alumni Council, one of the College's two alumni-representative bodies, condemned Zywicki's actions.
The Alumni Council's Dec. 3 resolution, which passed 62 to one with one abstention, describes Zywicki's criticism of the College as "inappropriate, and contrary to Dartmouth's best interests."
In response, Zywicki released a statement to the Dartmouth community, posted to Dartblog, a website maintained by Joe Malchow '08 that has often criticized College policies, on Dec. 7.
"In reviewing the oral transcript I recognize that my extemporaneous remarks were in some instances more controversial than I intended, especially when taken out of context, and I want to review them in this letter," Zywicki's statement says. "It is important to remember that these remarks were delivered on the heels of the Board's decision in September to abolish Dartmouth's 116-year tradition of parity between elected and appointed trustees. My strong words reflect the deep frustration and sense of betrayal that I and many other alumni felt -- and continue to feel -- about that decision and the heavy-handed procedures used to impose it."