April 1, 2007


Eyes on Hanover (The New Criterion, April 2007)

Anyone who cares about the state of higher education in this country should cast a wary eye upon what is happening just now at Dartmouth College. Since the late nineteenth century, the college has turned to its alumni for nearly half of its board of trustees. This is a democratic innovation that more colleges and universities should embrace. Imagine, letting the people who care about and help pay for an institution actually have a voice in how it is run: What a novel idea! Currently, Dartmouth alumni, 67,000 strong, vote for eight out of eighteen spots on the college's governing board. In principle, that procedure might be expected to subject the college to welcome outside oversight and accountability. In practice, since alumni candidates have been fielded almost exclusively by the Alumni Council, a body that is de facto a tool of the Dartmouth administration, alumni trustees came bearing the same rubber stamp that most other trustees at most other colleges have wielded. For decades, the Dartmouth administration in effect proposed the candidates they wanted, and the alumni had no choice but to ratify them.

In 2004, however, something unexpected happened. T. J. Rodgers, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, ran and won as a "petition candidate"--one not sanctioned by the Alumni Council. The election of Mr. Rodgers was not a balm to the Dartmouth administration. For one thing, he came to the post without the usual rubber stamp: he betrayed troubling signs of independence and even skepticism about some cherished pieties concerning such things as speech-codes, political correctness, and other items on the menu of left-wing grievance-mongering. But if the election of Mr. Rodgers caused some uneasiness among the powers that be at Dartmouth, the victories of Todd Zywicki and Peter Robinson in succeeding elections instigated something close to panic. Mr. Zywicki is a law professor with conservative leanings; Mr. Robinson is a former Reagan speechwriter who is now a fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. These were not at all the sorts of chaps James Wright, Dartmouth's president, wanted hanging about the henhouse. Why, they might actually ask him to do something about ensuring intellectual diversity and freedom of expression at Dartmouth instead of simply mouthing the party line about such issues.

The election of Messrs. Zywicki and Robinson to the board put the fear of that great but non-gender-or-religiously-specific supreme being, if there is one, into the Dartmouth administration. As an editorial in The Wall Street Journal noted, "A few reformers have achieved a bit of influence, and now the New Hampshire school's insular establishment is doing everything it can to run them out of Hanover."

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2007 12:22 PM

The good part about the disgraceful behavior of the administration and the majority of the governing board is they are being exposed as the dictators they are.

Posted by: erp [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 2, 2007 8:31 AM