Alumni react to trustee candidates
By Greg Berger, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, January 8, 2010
The two candidates nominated by the Alumni Council for the two open alumni-elected seats on the Board of Trustees — Morton Kondracke ’60 and John Replogle ’88 — will refrain from deciding whether they support maintaining parity between alumni-elected or charter-selected trustees on the Board until after the election, both candidates said in interviews with The Dartmouth.
The issue of parity between alumni-elected and charter-selected trustees has been at the center of College governance debates since the Board voted to end the parity between trustees in 2007, and has been the crux of two lawsuits brought against the College, one of which is ongoing. Some alumni have contended that the Board’s decision to increase the number of Board-selected members is a violation of an 1891 Board resolution which they say legally requires parity between the two types of trustees.
“My view is that I do not have a ‘yes or no’ answer on parity, simply because I am still listening to the arguments on both sides,” Kondracke said. “I have read through the briefs and I am undecided whether the 1891 agreement was a contract or an agreement.”
Kondracke added that if he is elected to the Board, he will work to “maximize alumni participation in the governance of the College.”
Although Replogle said his inclination is that parity is “the right thing,” he said he cannot take an official stance on the issue until he discusses it with the Board, which he said would not happen until after he is elected.
The lawsuit, originally brought against the College by the Association of Alumni in the fall of 2007, challenged the Board for breaking what they said was a legally binding contract made in the 1891 agreement. The lawsuit was dismissed in June 2008, when the College’s alumni body elected an executive board to the Association that did not support the suit. A number of alumni filed another lawsuit making the same argument for parity against the Board in November 2008.
Both candidates emphasized their opposition to a current lawsuit against the College. The lawsuit has been supported by the three petition candidates currently serving on the Board — T.J. Rodgers ’70, Stephen Smith ’88 and Peter Robinson ’79.
Some alumni expressed concern that Kondracke and Replogle have not clarified their stances on parity.
“I don’t understand how two intelligent alumni, who one would think would be on the more informed scale of the alumni, are undecided about whether they would support parity or not,” said John MacGovern ’80, founder of the Hanover Institute, which has been instrumental in funding the lawsuit against the Board, as previously reported by The Dartmouth.
Todd Zywicki ’88, a former petition candidate and alumni-elected trustee who vocally supported parity, shared MacGovern’s opinion.
“If these guys want to be elected by the alumni but are unwilling to endorse parity, they need to explain why that system that worked so well for over a hundred years is not valid anymore,” Zywicki said.
The Board voted not to reelect Zywicki for his second term in April 2009. One of the two spots on the Board for which Kondracke and Replogle are running is to replace Zywicki. Zywicki filed an amicus brief in support of the current lawsuit in August 2009.
Kondracke and Replogle, both nominated last month, have received generally positive reactions from alumni, said John Daukas Jr. ’84, chair of the alumni liaison committee for the Alumni Council.
“What they like about these candidates is they’re both obviously very successful in their respective fields, very devoted to Dartmouth, have spent a fair amount of time involved with Dartmouth — they both in different ways cover a nice long spectrum of involvement,” Daukas said.
Kondracke, a prolific journalist and political commentator, is the executive editor of Roll Call, a Washington, D.C. newspaper, and previously served as the Washington bureau chief for Newsweek magazine. Kondracke was an original panelist on “The McLaughlin Group,” a political-discussion television show, and served as a panelist for the 1984 Ronald Reagan-Walter Mondale presidential debate. While at Dartmouth, Kondracke was the president of The Dartmouth and an English major.
Replogle is the president and chief executive officer of Burt’s Bees, a global personal care company. Previously the president of Guinness Bass Import Company, Replogle launched his business career at the Boston Consulting Group. Replogle was a member of Student Assembly and Bones Gate fraternity while at the College, and served as vice president of his class.
Zywicki has previously criticized the Board for not maintaining a membership with diverse professional experience, a fact that Kondracke’s career as a journalist could combat.
“I think that the Board deserves to have diverse participation,” Kondracke said. “Diversity is good for an institution of any kind.”
Kondracke added that if elected, his unique perspective on and connections in the national political realm will benefit the Board. In particular, his connections in Washington could help the College gain more federal research funding, he said.
In a previous interview with The Dartmouth, Kondracke said his ability to research, analyze and communicate issues will help him as a Board member. From 1993 to 2003, the Board included three journalists — David Shribman ’76, David Shipler ’64 and Susan Dentzer ’77 — Kondracke said on Thursday.
Although Zywicki said that Kondracke’s professional background would bring a broader perspective to the Board, he noted that Kondracke must be willing to combat the pressures of conformity that Zywicki said he believes exist within the Board.
“The question is, are [Kondracke and Replogle] people who are actually going to show independence of mind to question the administration?” Zywicki said.
Replogle said that if he is elected, his career in the business world will enable him to help guide the College through its fiscal challenges. He added that his experience navigating strategic challenges, gaining global exposure, serving the community and establishing sustainable practices in his business add to his diversity as a candidate for the Board. Daukas also said that Replogle’s business background would be an asset.
“I don’t think that being a businessman should be a disqualifier at all,” Daukas said. “And with the financial crisis or financial challenges facing all colleges now, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have people who are successful businessmen or women on the Board.”
Zywicki said that he was surprised by Replogle’s nomination because “it seems like the main reason they chose him is because of some purported expertise he has in environmental sustainability.”
Replogle has managed Burt’s Bees with the stated goal of maintaining environmental sustainability and creating social well-being, The Dartmouth reported previously.
Since the Dec. 4 announcement of their intentions to run for the Board, Kondracke and Replogle have been working together to mobilize their campaigns and reach out to alumni and other members of the Dartmouth community, Replogle said. Although the candidates share the same campaign manager — Stephanie Welsch-Lewin ’88 — both Kondracke and Replogle said they will remain distinct candidates as the election approaches. Lewin is not receiving compensation for her campaign work, Replogle said.
Lewin was unavailable for comment by press time.
If petition candidates file to challenge Kondracke and Replogle in the election, the two will have to run separate campaigns because each will oppose a different candidate, Kondracke said. The two are now working together because each brings “different historical perspectives and friends to efforts,” Kondracke said, especially because they graduated 28 years apart.
Both candidates have created individual web sites and Facebook pages for their campaigns. Kondracke and Replogle said they intend to campaign by travelling to Dartmouth alumni clubs throughout the country.
Petition candidates can enter the race until Feb. 4. Voting for the election will occur in late March and early April 2010.