Board expands with appointment of five new members
By William Schpero, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Saturday, September 6, 2008
The Dartmouth Board of Trustees moved forward today with its September 2007 decision to increase its size with the addition of five new members. The Board's attempt to implement the decision became a year-long governance saga that played out in Hanover and the courts of Grafton County after the College's Association of Alumni executive committee voted in October 2007 to file suit to block the addition.
The five new trustees were selected by the Board itself, ending the century-long tradition of parity between the number of Board-selected and alumni-elected members. At issue in the Association's suit was whether the Board was legally required to maintain the parity as the result of an 1891 Board resolution.
While the suit had been slated for trial in November, the Association withdrew it this June after a slate of candidates opposed to the legal action won election to all 11 of the organization's executive committee seats. The spring vote was an explicit referendum on the lawsuit on the scale of many local political elections and paved the way for today's announcement, made one week before the Board's annual fall retreat.
The Board originally planned to add a total of eight trustees, but decided to add five of the eight today, Board Chairman Ed Haldeman '70 said, in order to ensure that there is "staggered" participation. "We felt fortunate that we were able to find five at this time that we felt met our needs and were interested in serving," Haldeman said, adding later, "We don't want to be over-weighted with brand new people, and then at the other end don't want to have too many people on Board leave at one time."
Haldeman said the decision to add five was not a strategic move to avoid antagonizing the alumni who brought the suit."
"We really were focused on what was best for Dartmouth at this point in time -- not so much on what might be politically acceptable," Haldeman said.
Calls to several alumni who supported the legal action were not returned by the time of this update.
In apparent anticipation of this announcement and future changes to the trustee election process, the Board had previously placed a "freeze" on its membership. Despite the addition of the five new members, the Board has not made any other decisions, Haldeman explained. As a result, the election to replace alumni-elected trustees whose terms are ending has not yet been scheduled.
The Board is currently working with the Association and the Alumni Council to devise new election procedures, Haldeman said, explaining that he hopes an Association-Council committee tasked with addressing the issue will have a set of recommendations by the end of the Fall term.
"The trustees are very much reaching out to hear from alumni, so that is really a great thing that is coming out of all of this," Alumni Council President J.B. Daukas '84 said.
The new trustees include General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt '78, who has served on the Alumni Council and is co-chair of the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience capital campaign; Sherri Oberg '82 Tu '86, CEO and director of Acusphere, a pharmaceutical company, who serves on the Board of Overseers for the Tuck School of Business and is a past president of the Alumni Council; John Rich '80, chair of the health management and policy department at the Drexel University School of Public Health and a member of the Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association; Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steven Roth '62 Tu '63, a former member of Tuck's Board of Overseers who was involved in the creation of the Roth Center for Jewish life; and Diana Taylor '77, a managing director at Wolfensohn and Company, a consulting and investment firm, and past New York state superintendent of banks who has served as a class officer and Dartmouth Alumni Fund volunteer.
"They have served as members of the Alumni Council or class officers and have been heavily involved in alumni fundraising," Haldeman said. "There has been a strong connection to Dartmouth for each of them."
Oberg and Roth will be the only trustees who have graduated from one of the College's professional schools. Oberg and Taylor bring the total number of women to five, 36 years after Dartmouth became coeducational. Sherri Oberg unsuccessfully ran for an alumni-elected seat in spring 2007, but lost to petitioner Stephen Smith.
The Board's September decision to add the new trustees, it said at the time, was a response to the increased politicization of alumni-trustee elections and the Board's inability to achieve the diversity it wanted. The new trustees address this question of diversity, Haldeman said, as they include graduates of the professional schools and individuals with experience in medicine and real estate.
The decision also follows the success of four petition candidates for the Board in the last four trustee elections. These candidates are nominated by petition rather than the Alumni Council, the second of the Colleges two alumni-representative organizations. In addition, they have been outspoken in their criticism of the College's policies.
Many of the elections included intense lobbying efforts by mail and online. In the most recent campaigns, the top candidates were alleged to have spent over $75,000.
"The question going forward is will we be able to generate a capable list of alumni who will be interested in running under the current rules," Rick Routhier '73 Tu '76, chairman of the Alumni Council's nominating committee, said to The Dartmouth in a previous interview. The committee is responsible for nominating alumni to run for the Board of Trustees.
The Board announced in June 2007 that its governance committee would use the summer to undertake an extensive study of its structure and the method of trustee election.
"The alumni trustee nomination process has recently taken on the characteristics of a partisan political campaign, becoming increasingly contentious, divisive, and costly for the participants," the governance committee said in a statement on June 7. "Alumni have also raised questions about the fairness of the multiple-candidate, approval-voting and plurality-winner features of the process. We believe these issues must be addressed, lest many highly qualified alumni be dissuaded from seeking nomination."
Following the governance committee's analysis, the Board said in September 2007 that it would increase its size with the addition of eight trustees not elected by alumni. It also recommended that the Alumni Council nominate one or two, rather than three, candidates to simplify the election process.