Asch ’79 seeks trustee position
By Greg Berger, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Joe Asch ’79 intends to enter the race for a position on the Board of Trustees as a petition candidate, provided he successfully collects the necessary 500 signatures by Feb. 4, Asch told The Dartmouth on Tuesday. Asch will oppose John Replogle ’88, an Alumni Council-nominated trustee candidate, in the upcoming election.
Asch said he is in favor of maintaining parity between alumni-elected and charter-selected trustees on the Board. Both Replogle and Morton Kondracke ’60 have said they will not decide their opinion on parity until after the trustee election.
“My sense is that there was an agreement in 1891 on parity — whether it was binding legal or gentlemen’s agreement, I don’t much care,” Asch said. “I think the Board is honor-bound to respect that agreement.”
In the fall of 2007, the Association of Alumni filed a lawsuit against the College, challenging that the Board’s decision to increase the number of board-selected trustees violated what the Association felt 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 group of alumni filed a second lawsuit making the same argument for parity against the Board in November 2008, which is still ongoing.
“[The lawsuit] is a shame in terms of the waste of resources to have a lawsuit, it’s a shame in terms of lost time, it’s a shame [because of the] conflict it engenders, but I have to say I understand why somebody would do that, because the Board of Trustees did not honorably respect an agreement that had been respected,” Asch said.
Asch actively supported the four petition candidates — T. J. Rodgers ’70, Peter Robinson ’79, Todd Zywicki ’88 and Steven Smith ’88 — elected to the Board in recent years, The Dartmouth previously reported.
Although Asch said he understands the success of these candidates’ elections, he added that Kim’s administration provides a “different environment.” He said he hopes the petition candidate will be seen as providing alumni with a choice in who they elect to help support Kim in completing his goals.
Petition candidates garnered popular support largely for their opposition to former College President James Wright’s administration’s policies, The Dartmouth previously reported.
Since August, Asch has contributed to the Dartblog web site with frequent posts that have often challenged the Dartmouth administration. Dartblog, founded by Joe Malchow ’08 in 2004, gained notice in the alumni community due to its posts chronicling important issues and controversies related to the College.
The most important issue in his campaign will be ensuring that the College has “prudent” budgeting practices, Asch said.
The College has “engaged in boom-and-bust budgeting for too long,” he said, asserting that the College spent too liberally during times when the endowment was increasing. This spending leads to situations in which the College must cut its budget because it cannot maintain the higher levels, Asch said.
Another main focus of his platform will be ensuring academic excellence by eliminating over-subscription in undergraduate courses and offering more courses in popular departments, Asch said.
As the College faces impending budget cuts, it will have to correct a “hiring binge” of non-faculty employees that occurred over the past ten years, he said.
“I think before the College hires anybody, it should ask several questions,” Asch said. “The first is — is that person really going to improve the student experience? And secondly — can we make sure that person can remain with the College for an extended period of time?”
The College can hire more faculty members with the money it saves from laying off non-faculty employees, allowing the College to enhance its course offerings, Asch said.
Other issues that Asch said he will work to resolve if he is elected as a trustee will be establishing stronger communities in residence halls and establishing a program of “writing technicians” within departments to aid in improving the writing abilities of the student body.
In 1998, Asch established and funded the Departmental Editing Program, which provided College academic departments with professional editors who worked with students on their assigned essays.
The program was discontinued in 2007. There remains disagreement between Asch and the College over the reasoning behind that decision.
“I think the idea was so successful that I would talk about it at great length with President [Jim Yong] Kim and ask him to look at it closely,” Asch said when asked if he would resurrect the program if he were elected as a trustee.
Asch would also like to renegotiate benefits programs for College employees, he said. He explained that the “richness and extravagance” of current benefits programs costs the College approximately 40 cents for every dollar it spends on employee salaries — a figure he feels is too high.
“As an alum, when I am asked to give money, I say to myself I want to give money for the students, yet I look at the College and I see a benefits plan that is far more generous than I give my employees or my own family — that makes me hesitant,” Asch said. “When I see President Kim trimming the benefits to a more rational level, I say I am going to give more money because it is now a well-run institution, not just a contribution that goes to the health care of employees. From that point of view, alumni donations will go up once they see the College is being well run.”
Asch said he chose to run against Replogle because Replogle’s expertise in the business world would not add “diversity” to the Board.
Replogle is the president and chief executive officer for the personal care company Burt’s Bees. He emphasized in a previous interview with The Dartmouth that his business and personal experiences make him a strong candidate for the Board.
“[Replogle’s] expertise — and it’s very valid expertise — is already present in abundance on the Board,” Asch said. “I am not clear what [Replogle] has to teach Jeff Immelt [’78] about corporate strategy or any number of other people on the Board.”
Immelt is the chairman and CEO of General Electric.
Asch, a Hanover resident, said that his ability to interact directly with students, faculty and staff would enhance the Board if he were elected. Asch has also audited 30 courses over the past 20 years, he said.
“The Board needs someone who is on the ground, who really understands day-to-day what is going on in the College,” Asch said.
Morton Kondracke ’60, the candidate nominated by the Alumni Council for the other available alumni-elected spot on the Board, would be a strong trustee because of his background as an investigative journalist who will dedicate the time “doing the legwork” that is necessary to understand the issues the College faces, Asch said.
Asch said that he is currently unaware of any alumni who plan to run as a petition candidate against Kondracke in the upcoming trustee election.
Candidates in prior elections for alumni-elected seats on the Board spent over $100,000 on their campaigns, The Dartmouth previously reported. Asch will personally fund all of his campaigning as a petition candidate, he said.
“I would hope that alumni would give their money to the College,” Asch said, explaining why he will not use money from other alumni to fund his campaign.
If he receives the required amount of signatures to be included as a petition candidate for the Board, Asch said he intends to approach Replogle and Kondracke about coordinating their campaign efforts through a single joint mailing from all three candidates, Asch said.
“If each candidate has two sheets of paper — four sides — to make their case, they can say everything they need to say and count on alumni who are going to vote to make an informed decision,” Asch said. “If the other candidates agree, I’ll pledge right now to limit my campaigning to a web site, a Facebook page, all the e-mails I can type in 24 hours in a day and a single mailing just before the election.”
Following his time as an undergraduate at the College, Asch attended Yale Law School and then worked at Bain & Company consulting firm for two years, The Dartmouth previously reported. Asch currently owns the River Valley Club in Lebanon, N.H., and owns a paramedical products firm based in Europe that he founded.