A Letter from the Honorable Angus King '66, former Governor of Maine
Mr. King provided a copy of his letter to Trustee Stephen Smith, ’88, with permission to use it as he saw fit. Mr. Smith believes it is a thoughtful articulation of concerns, and that it would be valuable if shared with other alumni.
We recently promised to help any alumnus initiate new discussion topics, in order to provoke thought and encourage dialog with fellow graduates, as described here. Accordingly, the following is posted on behalf of alumnus Smith:
From the Desk of:
Angus King ‘66
Ed Haldeman, Chairman, Board of Trustees
I am Angus King, Dartmouth '66. After graduation, I went on to Virginia Law School and progressed from law to business to politics (if one considers ending up in politics progress), serving as Governor of Maine from 1995 to 2003. I have always cherished my experience at Dartmouth and have stayed close to a number of my friends from those days. I have also had two sons graduate from the College, Angus III in 1993 and James, '98.
I write as one of the Alumni who has been on the sidelines during the various controversies and contested elections of the past several years but who, in the end, has voted for the "independent" candidates for trustee and against the changes proposed in the alumni constitution last year. I understand now that the Governance Committee of the Board is contemplating proposing changes in the manner of the selection of trustees and a possible dilution of the role that the Alumni have historically played in this selection process.
I am writing to urge you not to undertake such an effort. It would be extremely disruptive of the traditionally strong relationship between the College and her alumni and, I believe, would ultimately only harm the College and her mission.
I have read the various materials on the College's website with regard to this matter, including your letter, the FAQ and the memo from the Governance Committee, and find them uniformly unpersuasive as to the need for such a process at this time. To an outside observer, the conclusion is inescapable that the real motivation for this project is the fact that insurgent candidates keep winning and that the changes in the constitution last year failed.
I realize that these events must be frustrating to many of the trustees and certainly to the College's Administration, but suggest that a better response than an alteration of the rules would be to listen to and try to understand the reasoning and motivation of those who keep electing dissident (if that is the right word) trustees.
The issue for me (and, I suspect for many others) is really quite simple: we believe that Dartmouth's proper mission is to be the very best undergraduate college in the world and not a second-tier research university. Given her history, resources, size, student body, reputation, faculty, traditions, and a host of other qualities, Dartmouth could be the best college on the planet. Not one of the best, not in the top five, but the very best--and with proper leadership and focus, this goal is eminently attainable.
Instead, the Administration over the last twenty years or so--first under President Freedman and now under President Wright--seems intent upon trying to compete with Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and others as a small scale research university. We should compete with them, to be sure, but the competition should be between alternative views of the best setting for a quality undergraduate education, not head-to-head as essentially equivalent institutions. In the latter competition, we inevitably lose and, ironically, the muddy focus which results from this pursuit diminishes our chances of achieving the undergraduate pre-eminence that is realistically within our grasp.
This has nothing to with politics or ideology; there is no conservative or liberal position on this issue that I can discern. For me, it is simply a matter of Dartmouth realizing her highest potential and providing her students with the best possible educational experience.
There is much more I could say, but the above pretty well sums it up. I hope that with some honest dialogue (there are many good people on each side of these sometimes complicated questions), we can make Dartmouth even better and closer than ever to the loyal band of alumni which has, over the years, been such an important source of her strength.
If there is some way I can be of help on bringing the factions together and finding a mutually satisfactory solution to the present divisions, please don't hesitate to let me know. The inevitable bitter confrontation over a change in the rules would be disastrous, regardless of the outcome.
With appreciation for your service and dedication to the College and warmest best wishes,