Alumni org. takes no stance on debate
By Hank Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Thursday, March 5, 2009
The Hanover Institute, a non-profit organization that is suspected of funding the current alumni lawsuit against the College, will not take a position on proposed legislation that seeks to reform the alumni election process, according to a press release by John MacGovern '80, president of the institute. An earlier draft of the release, provided to The Dartmouth by the attorney for the plaintiffs in the current alumni lawsuit, had expressed support for the amendment.
The proposed amendment to the Association of Alumni Constitution calls for a one person, one vote system, ending the previous approval voting process, in which alumni could vote for an unlimited number of candidates. The amendment, if passed, would also allow the Alumni Council, the College's second alumni representative body, to nominate only one or two candidates for the Board of Trustees, as opposed to the three required in the past.
The institute will not take a position on the upcoming amendment because "whether it is any better thatnwhat we have now is a matter upon which reasonable men and women can disagree," MacGovern said in the press release.
MacGovern wrote that the current voting system "has served the alumni and the College very well in the past."
John Daukas '84, the current president of the Alumni Council, said he believes that the approval voting system is "broken and needs to be fixed."
"Seven out of 10 alumni don't vote," Daukas said. "Part of that is due to the complicated nature of approval voting."
The head-to-head voting system proposed by the amendment is the easy for alumni to understand, Daukas said.
"The kind of voting we here in America are used to is one person, one vote," Daukas said. "Over the years, we get all sorts of complaints about approval voting."
Director of Alumni Relations David Spalding '76, secretary-treasurer of the Association executive committee, said be believes the amendment will increase alumni participation.
MacGovern's press release comes after several weeks of speculation that the institute would support the upcoming amendment. The earlier draft of the press release obtained by The Dartmouth said that the changes to the voting procedures were imperfect, but that "they do move the election process basically in the right direction and so, the Hanover Institute supports them."
MacGovern was not available for comment and directed all questions to the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the current lawsuit, Eugene Van Loan.
The institute changed its stance on the amendment because it did not believe choosing a side in the vote was necessary, Van Loan said.
"[The Board of the Hanover Institute] didn't see any value in the Hanover Institute using its political capital on an issue that could reasonably go either way," Van Loan said.
Several alumni leaders expressed disappointment that the institute did not choose to support the amendment.
"It would have been a good opportunity for [MacGovern] to help make progress with election reform and our overall efforts to engage the trustees," Association President John Mathias '69 said. "It's a disappointment, but we are glad that he did not intervene against the amendment."
The Board froze its membership in response to the Association's lawsuit against the College in October 2007, postponing the election to replace outgoing Trustee Michael Chu '68. The Board adopted this position to force alumni to change the election policies, MacGovern said in his press release.
"As everyone knows, the Board of Trustees is attempting to coerce a favorable vote by purporting to freeze all alumni trustee elections and threatening to hand over the whole election process to the administration unless and until these changes are adopted," MacGovern said in his press release. "Unfortunately, the Association's newly-elected 'unity slate' have [sic] done nothing to protest the Board's unjust behavior."
Spalding said that the election process was not why the Board froze its membership.
"The Board has frozen elections because of the lawsuit financed by the Hanover Institute filed in October 2007," Spalding said.
Mike Murphy '61, who ran for Association president last year on the so-called "parity slate" that supported the alumni lawsuit, endorsed the amendment.
"I personally strongly support the proposed amendment," Murphy said. "The reason I would like to see it pass is because it will take this issue [of the fairness of elections] off the table. No one can complain and whine and say that elections are unfair."
In passing the amendment, the alumni and the Board will be able to focus on parity between alumni-elected and Board-appointed trustees, Murphy said. Murphy also said many of his fellow parity slate candidates share his view.
Voting on the amendment, and for the 2009-2010 Association executive committee, begins on March 25.