Board votes to ‘freeze’ membership until suit settles
By William Schpero, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, June 9, 2008
The Dartmouth Board of Trustees has voted to "freeze" its membership until the Association of Alumni's lawsuit against the College has been resolved. The decision, made Friday during the Board's annual Spring term meeting, follows the conclusion of online voting in the Association elections.
The winners of the election, to be announced following the Association's June 10 meeting, will decide whether the lawsuit will continue.
The freeze postpones the election to replace alumni-elected trustee Michael Chu '68, whose term ends in June 2009. The election proceedings and campaigning, which have become increasingly politicized, would normally begin this fall.
The Board will also not take any action regarding the reappointment of Board Chairman Ed Haldeman '70, along with trustees John Donahoe '82, Brad Evans '64, Al Mulley '70 and T.J. Rodgers '70, who all complete their first terms this month. The Board traditionally makes decisions about these reappointments internally. Those five trustees, along with charter trustee Russell Carson '65, whose second term also ends this month, will continue on the Board until the freeze his been lifted.
Alumni-elected trustee Todd Zywicki '88 refused to comment on the decision. Calls to several other alumni-elected Board members were not returned by press time.
Frank Gado '88, a member of the Association executive committee who voted for the lawsuit, said he questions whether the College's charter allows for the Board's action, but added that the decision was sensible.
"It strikes me as probably a wise move, if you just look at it in practical terms," he said. "This will then let the court decide whether the Board is free to do anything it wants or whether it is bound by contractual agreements. It makes sense even though it may be contrary to best legal practices."
Haldeman, in a telephone interview with The Dartmouth, would not specify the number of trustees who voted for the freeze. The June 10 Association elections results, Haldeman said, will not necessarily determine whether the suit will go to trial. The freeze gives the Board more flexibility to plan future membership of the Board based on the result of the legal effort, Haldeman said.
"Let's suppose that after the judge makes his adjudication, we are allowed to significantly increase the size of the Board," Haldeman said. "That would have something to do with who we might want to put on the Board next."
The decision to freeze Board membership provides the trustees with more latitude to plan its appointments strategically, according to College President James Wright.
The Board will not announce the composition of the search committee for Wright's replacement until the week of June 16, Haldeman said. The timing allows the Board to continue discussions regarding membership in the coming days. The College will also "not have too much news come out simultaneously," Haldeman explained.
Over the course of their meeting, the trustees also approved capital and operating budgets for the College and Dartmouth's professional schools. Following a previous Board decision, Dartmouth will devote six percent of its endowment to the 2008-2009 budget, an increase from previous years.
In recent months, lawmakers pressured colleges to use more of their endowments to expand financial aid. Some proposals in Congress would require colleges to spend five percent annually.
The added spending will be used to expand the size of the faculty and support the College's recent financial aid initiatives, which include free tuition for students whose families have annual incomes below $75,000, Haldeman said. The spending will also help to underwrite the construction of new facilities, including the planned Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center.