Roger L. Simon

Dartmouth: The Empire Strikes Back

Dartmouth Vader

Just about three years ago, this blog and several others you may read participated in a palace coup at my alma mater Dartmouth College…. Okay, I’m funning. What I really mean is we helped do something that almost never happens in Ivy League institutions — get two graduates (Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki) actually democratically elected by the alumni to the Board of Trustees. This did, I guess, actually amount to a palace coup on college terms because, as many of you know, our universities, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are no longer exactly bastions of free thought — unless you consider free thought to be cultural relativist tripe of the sort that leads the Harvard gym to schedule special hours for Islamic women. The university has become a more or less stultified institution where the failed Marxist dreams of my generation (and, yes, I dreamed them) are spoon fed to our children with an unremitting regularity that would cause even the strongest stomach to regurgitate. Witness that at Dartmouth recently a group of students was so obviously fed up with their professor’s hooey that the offended prof (now teaching elsewhere) is suing them for restricting her speech. (Go figure.)

Fortunately or unfortunately, at Dartmouth and our other “distinguished” institutions the faculty and the administration are not nearly as smart as the students. Also they are more threatened by a real diversity of views (meaning… gasp!… a few actual conservatives in the mix of myriad liberals). So what did they do when Robinson and Zywicki got elected?

Yes…. you’re right…. they tried to raise the bar. And how are they doing that? As the very Peter Robinson wrote on The Corner:

Ever since the Agreement of 1891, the Board of Trustees has been composed of equal numbers of elected and unelected trustees. Displeased with recent elections, last September the Board of Trustees voted to end this longstanding parity. If the Board’s plan goes into effect, the number of charter trustees-that is, the unelected, self-perpetuating trustees-will double. And after possessing equal standing for more than a century, alumni trustees-that is, the trustees elected by graduates of Dartmouth College, the Tuck School of Business, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Dartmouth Medical School-these alumni trustees will find themselves outnumbered two to one.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, as they say. But failing that–dilute them. Peter, being far more of a gentleman than I am (I think we would both agree), offers readers the chance to go to websites supporting both sides of the Dartmouth controversy. I say pish-tosh and offer only the link against the Board-packing plan. Hey, as many know, I supported the War in Iraq because I’m pro-democracy, not because of the WMDs. (Don’t understand that analogy? I’m not sure I do either, but it has something to do with democracy, which I’m sure you’re for.) So, if you’re a Dartmouth alum, go ye to the link and vote accordingly. Otherwise they’ll never teach G. K. Chesterton at Dartmouth again. (I’m not kidding.)

But seriously, I doubt there’s anything more important for our future than returning free discourse to our universities. And it’s not just to protect that endangered academic species conservatives. It’s for all of us. Another blogging Dartmouth man Joe Malchow sent me a pdf of a statement on the controversy from Daniel King, Dartmouth ’02. The first two graphs are worth a read:

I am an openly gay man, a teacher, a card-carrying member of the Democratic Party, the ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaign. Heck, I even voted for Bill Bradley in the 2000 New Hampshire primary, Howard Dean in 2004, and am currently one of those “Obamaniacs.” To call me anything near a conservative would be a gross misnomer.

I don’t really think my political leanings should have anything to do with how I vote in the current Association of Alumni elections, nor should it have determined how I voted in the past four alumni Trustee elections. But, according to the slate of candidates supporting theTrustees‚Äô Board-packing plan, it does.

I’m voting against the plan with Daniel King. Anybody from the class of ’02 who is still proclaiming his sexual orientation deserves to be listened to! [It’s not that ’02, doofus.-ed. Oh, sorry.] Don’t let the empire strike back!