What Are the Rights of Alumni? Opening Remarks at
the 195th Session
Rick Silverman '81
Alumni Council, 2007–2008
Rick Silverman '81
The past year has perhaps been one of the busiest in the history of the Alumni Council. That's saying a lot when one considers what has been going on since 2002. What we have learned in the past few years is that we will have to work harder in the future to keep alumni adequately informed and engaged, inspiring our theme for the weekend: Mission Possible: Communicate and Engage.
With that in mind, we have had a valiant effort by the Orientation Committee to ensure that our newest members would arrive in Hanover this weekend ready to hit the ground running. We have spoken with them individually and on group calls, we have sent mailings galore, and we have attempted to get them to contact their constituents even before they'd ever been to a meeting. At this time, I want to welcome our first-year councilors, and thank them for the efforts they've already put in to serving on the Council. You're arriving at a critical time in our history, and you will be responsible for seeing us through this period of transition.
What do I mean by transition? As you all know, the Ad Hoc Committee on Council Structure, or the ACCS, has been working under Martha's tireless leadership since May to look at the council's membership and committee structure, and to consider it within the framework of the 21st century and the Council's mission as developed last winter and approved in a resolution at the spring meeting. That mission is “to sustain a fully informed, representative, and engaged exchange of information and sentiment between alumni and their College, and to enhance and inspire alumni involvement that furthers the mission of the College.” With this in mind, the committee has put forth recommendations that will broaden the representation on Council as well as focus that representation within definable constituencies. This will enhance the two-way communication that is so vital to our mission. Further recommendations will improve the functionality of the Council, making it more adaptable to the needs of any given period with greater flexibility in committee structure. Finally, a recommendation that councilors be elected by their constituents will provide a more democratic approach to representation, something which alumni have focused on in their response to the failed constitutional reforms of 2003 and 2006.
It is this last recommendation that may provide the greatest challenge to the Council in the future. I say this for two reasons. The first is a simple one. Namely, we must develop methodology for running elections of Alumni Council representatives, that can be managed within a variety of types of constituencies, at different times, and using means that are practical and affordable. To accommodate this, we'll be establishing a committee to oversee and assist classes, clubs and groups with this process.
The second reason is a philosophical one. Perhaps I see a greater challenge than others might see, but that's because of my perspective as an alumni volunteer. To be more specific, I stepped forward to serve as the '81 –'82 class representative in order to give service to Dartmouth. I did not bring a political view with me, nor did I envision that I was supposed to one. I think that's true of most of us here, and if surveyed, we would have very different perspectives on national and international politics, but we would all share a deep love for and commitment to Dartmouth College. With the introduction of an electoral recommendation, we may see a more politicized process, just as we have seen develop in trustee and association elections. I think that may bring a different type of person onto the Council, that is, someone willing to run for the position. I hope that in the long run, we will still have the sense of collegiality that I've experienced here, and I'm optimistic that such will be the case when I consider one of our first representatives who is joining us though a contested election: Louisa Guthrie, from the Class of 1979. I think that applying such a principle of democracy to the Alumni Council has many potential benefits. I hope those who chose to run will come forward with the same devotion to Dartmouth that we all share, and with a desire to retain and improve upon the unique qualities of this college, rather than to have Dartmouth serve as a testing ground for other ideological principles.
I've not focused on all of the controversy of the past six months, though the struggles within our Dartmouth family are never far from any of our thoughts. In the course of these struggles, however, much has been mentioned of “alumni rights,” and it is with a consideration of those rights that I will conclude.
What are your rights as alumni?
You have the right to visit the campus as frequently as you wish.
You have the right to talk to students on campus, and to see the brightness in their eyes and the enthusiasm they share with you for this place.
You have the right to speak with faculty and administrators and explore the motivation they share in providing the best undergraduate experience possible to Dartmouth students.
You have the right to sing “Men of Dartmouth,” “Dear Old Dartmouth,” or whatever words you desire, and the right to listen to Baker's bells as they ring in the hour.
You have the right to nap in the Tower Room, to attend a hockey game, to view the galleries in the Hop and the Hood museum.
You have the right to donate money to the College.
But you have no right to expect anything in return. You've already received that during your tenure as a student, and your donation, your volunteerism, your role as an active alumnus of Dartmouth College is to preserve that institution so that the students of today and tomorrow can similarly experience this unique place that has been “miraculously builded in our hearts.”
Let me conclude by welcoming all of you for the weekend, and thanking you in advance for your efforts and engagement in the work we have ahead of us.