Amendment to AoA constitution passed
By Hank Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, May 11, 2009
The College's alumni voted overwhelmingly to approve an amendment to the Association of Alumni constitution that substantially reforms procedures for the election of alumni to the Board of Trustees, according to results released on Saturday. The amendment came in response to the trustees' September 2007 governance report, which called for significant reform after a series of highly politicized campaigns by alumni seeking election to the Board.
The amendment passed with almost 82 percent of the vote, with 10,375 voting "yes" on the amendment and 2,293 voting "no."
Association President John Mathias '69 and the rest of the current Association executive committee were also reelected to their positions. Each candidate had run unopposed.
The amendment institutes a one-person, one-vote system for trustee elections, ending the use of an approval voting process in which alumni could vote for an unlimited number of candidates. The amendment also allows the Alumni Council, the College's second alumni representative body, to nominate only one or two candidates for the Board, as opposed to the three required in the past.
It is unclear whether the passage of the amendment will end the Board of Trustees' current "freeze" on the replacement of its alumni-elected members. The Board previously postponed the election to replace outgoing Trustee Michael Chu '68 in response to the Association's 2007 lawsuit against the College and had threatened to take over trustee elections if the reforms did not pass.
Mathias, in an interview with The Dartmouth, said he was "elated" by the results. The new voting procedure is the first step in the election reform process, he said.
"This [amendment] should eliminate any real controversy about the fairness of the voting procedures," Mathias said.
Some alumni have contended that the old election system was "susceptible to manipulation," Mathias said. He added that he hopes the new system will end these arguments.
"Our alumni are all coming together on the most important things," Mathias said, referring to election reform.
Alumni Council President John Daukas '84 said he hopes the amendment will help address what he sees as a recurring problem in alumni elections.
"One big issue still is how do we get alumni to vote," Daukas said. "I hope that, because this amendment makes the election process simpler, more alumni will vote."
Only 19.5 percent of eligible alumni participated in the election, according to the "Vox the Vote" web site. While Daukas said that "the constitutional amendment is a drier issue," which could explain the low alumni turnout, he also said he is concerned about low voter turnout in other elections.
"It is inexcusable that after all Dartmouth did for all of us, alumni don't vote and support Dartmouth in this way," Daukas said. "Alumni need to be engaged in this way."
Mathias, addressing alumni in Filene Auditorium before the election results were announced on Saturday, said the Association executive committee will continue to reform alumni elections so that "outcomes are not determined by money spent."
In an earlier interview with The Dartmouth, Mathias had said that campaign finance reform would be the "highest item" on the Association's agenda after the voting period.
The committee will "approach [this issue] very cautiously," he said.
Campaign finance reform, coupled with the new amendment, "will go a long way to improving alumni elections," Mathias said.
Frank Gado '58, a former member of the Association executive committee who supported the organization's 2007 lawsuit against the College, said he was disappointed by Mathias' address to alumni before the results were announced.
"I heard nothing about establishing parity at that meeting," Gado said. "That was very conspicuous."
Gado said he supported much of the amendment, but did not vote for it because he believes the Board of Trustees "coerced" alumni leaders into advocating for it, he said.
"I objected to this amendment because the trustees said, 'Do this or else,'" Gado said. "I opposed this principally because the trustees held a gun to the head of the alumni."
Gado said he is also concerned that Mathias' calls for campaign finance reform will disadvantage candidates nominated for trustee seats by petition.
"If he wants to cut back on what candidates can spend, then the official candidates have an overwhelming advantage," Gado said, pointing out that these candidates traditionally have the backing of the administration.