One of the few off-key notes from Morty’s presentation at the Road Scholars event in Foxboro was his response to a question about the continuing controversies at Dartmouth. (See here for a recent Wall Street Journal article and here and here for previous EphBlog coverage. Wikipedia provides a useful history.)

The short version of the debate is that Dartmouth, unlike Williams, used to have an relatively open process for alumni elections to the Board of Trustees. Interested alumni could gather signatures and earn a place on the ballot even if Dartmouth insiders did not like them. At Williams, of course, that’s impossible. Even if 90% of the alumni would like to see, say, Wick Sloane ’76 on the Board, there is no way for us to get him there.

Morty was asked a question about these debates at Dartmouth. His response was reasonable, to some extent, noting that much of the controversy was sad and unfortunate, that out-going Dartmouth President James Wright is an amazing guy and that Williams has nothing like this sort of acrimony. But then he refereed to Wright’s opposition as the “hard right.”

And that’s absurd. Although some of the non-insider candidates are (Gasp!) Republicans, some are not. And all of them focus on changing specific parts of Dartmouth: lower class size for undergraduates, providing more support for athletics and so on. The debate is not about left or right. It is about what is best for Dartmouth, a topic about which reasonable people can differ. It is also a debate about the best process for including alumni opinion in the discussion.

If I ever got really upset about the direction of Williams, I would use the details of the Constitution of the Society of Alumni to push for change, mainly by making it easier for outsiders (like Wick and me) to get elected to the Board. And it wouldn’t be that hard to do! Fortunately, Morty and the Trustees are 90% correct in the decisions they make (and reasonable Ephs may differ over the other 10%), so there is no need to agitate for radical change.

Just don’t call people who think that alumni ought to have a meaningful role in choosing Alumni Trustees the “hard right.”

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