• Interim Report of the Alumni Governance Task Force: A Working Document

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005
    News Type

WORKING RECOMMENDATIONS: An interim report of the Dartmouth Task Force on Alumni Governance

This paper is an interim report on the work of the Task Force on Alumni Governance, which is focused on improving Dartmouth alumni organization and governance. The task force's working recommendations would create a new Association of Alumni structure to bring alumni in closer communication with the Board of Trustees and administration and open leadership positions to the entire alumni body. What is envisioned is a transparent Association of Alumni working in partnership with the Trustees, empowered by the whole alumni body. The Association would include two components: a representative Assembly of alumni of all classes, affiliations, interests and viewpoints and an Alumni Liaison Board that would reach out actively to the alumni body to gather sentiment on issues and concerns. The task force, appointed by the Alumni Council and Association of Alumni, seeks alumni views on this proposal before drafting a new constitution for approval by the Council, the Association annual meeting and ultimately the whole alumni body in 2005-06.


The Task Force on Alumni Governance was created in spring 2004 by the presidents of the Alumni Council, the 92-member representative alumni body, and the Association of Alumni, the 65,000-member organization to which all matriculated alumni automatically belong.

The first charge of the task force was to propose a new constitution that would win a three-quarters vote of the Association membership after an earlier proposal won Council approval but narrowly failed to pass in the Association annual meeting in December 2003. That constitution had been drafted by an earlier Council-Association group, the Joint Committee on Alumni Governance and Trustee Nominations, which had been formed in summer 2001. Its mission was to reconcile thorny governance questions that had been debated by various Trustee and alumni committees and bodies since 1990 and draft a modern-day constitution for the 151-year-old Association and 92-year-old Council.

The second charge of the Task Force on Alumni Governance was to seize an opportunity to mend fences in the alumni body after the governance debates and controversies of the past decade, which included four lawsuits.

The task force includes current and former Council, Association and Joint Committee representatives as well as leaders of a group called Dartmouth Alumni for Open Governance, which has been outspoken about these issues. The members are Jim Adler '60, Anton Anderson '89, Trevor Burgess '94, John Daukas '84, Kelley Fead '78, Martha Hennessey '76, Bill Hutchinson '76, Joe Mandel '60 and Joe Stevenson '57 (chair).

The Issues:

It is clear that Dartmouth's alumni organizations need to be updated and improved. The Association in 1913 created the Council as a representative body to handle communications and other tasks in support of the College (witness the Council's creation of the precurs or to today's Dartmouth College Fund and the alumni admissions interview process and, more recently, its involvement in reinstatement of the swim team and feedback on the Student Life Initiative).

In the early 1980s, the two were separated to make it easier to amend one constitution without approval from the other organization. Thus, the Council became divorced from the group- essentially the entire alumni body- that gave its voice real meaning. Meanwhile, the Association continued to hold annual meetings with no real connectionto the administration and Trustees (having ceded this role to the Council). Its executive committee had a limited role, essentially serving as inspectors of elections in the alumni Trustee balloting process.

The result was that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many alumni said they didn't feel represented by the current alumni governance structure and were confused by the two organizations.

Also overdue for improvement is the alumni Trustee nomination process established in 1990- especially after the recent expansion of the Board of Trustees from 16 to 22 (of whom 10 are nominated by alumni). The current practice of regularly putting forth three-person slates for open Board seats causes a 'churn and burn' of talented alumni. Moreover, today's voting process, in which alumni vote for all candidates they deem qualified, leaves many alumni scratching their heads about the meaning of their votes.

While all of these issues were addressed in an earlier proposed joint constitution (known as the Joint Committee's Draft 15), there were sticking points that impeded final passage by the three-quarters supermajority of voting Association members. These concerns included representation of affiliated groups on the Council, the leadership structure of the Association, the clarity of voting procedures and a more generalized concern that 'insiders' dominated alumni leadership positions, potentially thwarting participation and expression of thetrue sentiments of all alumni.

Working recommendations:

After a series of face-to-face meetings and conference calls, the task force has hammered out working recommendations for discussion with the alumni body.

In the recommendations, the Association of Alumni would be the overarching alumni organization. It would have two major components: the Assembly and the Alumni Liaison Board.

Assembly. The Assembly would replace the current Alumni Council. It would consist of 122 members who would either represent classes, clubs, affiliated groups and officer organizations or be democratically elected from the alumni body at large.

The Assembly would operate as an extension of the College's executive function: finding ways to boost alumni participation; assisting in alumni recognition and the granting of honorary degrees; providing feedback for College communications and alumni relations work; and supporting class, club and affiliated group endeavors. It also would serve as an integral partof the communications link between alumni and the College, acting as a representative forum for discussion of issues on the minds of alumni and at the request of Trustees and the administration.

Six at-large members would be elected per year (18 total) by the alumniwide balloting. Four would be directly elected to Assembly seats; two would be granted Assembly seats by virtue of being elected to serve on the Alumni Liaison Board. To run for the at-large seats, an alumnus/a could either be nominated by the Association Nominating Committee or gather 50 signatures of Association members.

Officially recognized affiliated groups representing historically marginalized populations would have eight to 10 seats in an Assembly dominated by 55 class representatives and 20 representatives of regional alumni organizations. This provision- as with all othermembership issues- would be subject to yearly examination.

Alumni Liaison Board (ALB).The Alumni Liaison Board (ALB) would be a new entity designed to improve- heighten, broaden, simplify and increase- communication among Dartmouth alumni, the Trustees and the administration.

The ALB would solicit information from all alumni (via town meetings,surveys, interviews and other opinion-gathering tools) and from the Assembly to be able to speak with authority about alumni viewpoints. In addition, the ALB would preside over the yearly forum meeting of the Association to draw out more alumni feedback. The goal would be a continuing, deep conversation with the Trustees and administration- one in which all parties are free to raise concerns and objections as well as voice agreement- in the name of partnership with the College.

The 12-member ALB would include six members elected directly by all alumni (two per year). To be placed on the ballot for an ALB seat, an alumnus/a could either be nominated by the Association Nominating Committee or gather 50 signatures of Association members. If elected to the ALB, they also automatically would hold seats on the Assembly.Other ALB members would include the Association president, president-elect, and three Assembly members nominated by the Association Nominating Committee and elected by the Assembly. The ALB would be chaired by the Association past president.

Association officers. The Task Force envisions a three-officer leadership structure,including a CEO of the overall Association and certain divisions of responsibility in the running of the Assembly and the Alumni Liaison Board. Alumni would elect a president-elect each year for three years of Association officer service.

In year one of the three-year commitment, the person elected would serve as president-elect, helping with the smooth functioning of the Assembly and chairing the Association Balloting Committee. The following year, the president-elect would become president of the Association, serving as CEO and running the annual meeting of the Association as well as Assembly meetings (in concert with the president-elect). In the third year, with plenty of experience with alumni opinion, the president would become past president, overseeing the Alumni Liaison Board and its communications activities as well as the annual review of the alumni constitution.

The Association Nominating Committee would nominate two candidates for president each year. Their candidacies would be voted on by the entire Association using the same mail or Internet ballots used in Trustee (and ALB and at-large Assembly) voting. All third-year Assembly members- whether they were class, club, affiliated group or at-large reps- would be eligible for nomination. Petitioners who meet the same eligibility criteria also would be able to place their names on the ballot if they received the signatures of one-half of 1% of the Association membership or signatures of 20 Assembly members.

Nominating and balloting. The Association would have two key standing committees: Nominating and Balloting.

The Nominating Committee would nominate alumni trustee candidates, Association officers, ALB members and at-large Assembly members.

The Balloting Committee would oversee all voting, both for people and constitutional amendments. Chaired by the president-elect of the Association with membership elected from and by the Assembly, the committee would be empowered to promulgate election procedures and guidelines and impose sanctions as necessary.

Trustee nominations and voting.The Association Nominating Committee would put forth two alumni trustee candidates. Petition candidates would be added to the ballot after securing signatures from 1% of the alumni body.

Alumni would vote for their first and second choices (rather than the current process of voting for every candidate they deem qualified) so that the votes would truly reflect alumni preference. If no candidate received a majority of first-place votes, the candidate receiving theleast number of first-place votes would be dropped from the ballot, andall those who cast first-place votes for that candidate would have their second-place votes distributed to the remaining candidates; the process would continue in this manner

until one candidate received a majority of first-place votes (including redistributed second-place votes).

'All-media' voting. Association members would be able to vote through the Internet or by mail to elect Association officers, ALB members and at-large Assembly members and to approve constitutional amendments. Association votes no longer would be required in person.

Constitutional amendments. For passage, amendments first would have to clear a two-thirds vote of the Assembly, followed by two-thirds approval of Association members who voted via Internet or mail. Ballot materials would include arguments for and against amendments. Members of the Association would be able to propose a constitutional amendment, provided that they had signatures of 1% of the Association membership. Members of the Assembly may also propose constitutional amendments.

If an amendment did not pass two-thirds of the Assembly membership voting, but did receive a simple majority, it would go forward for a vote by the Association (if requested by its proponent) with its failure to receive two-thirds approval noted. A defeated amendment could be brought up again.

Next steps:

The task force would like to hear alumni reactions to these working recommendations. An ad in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine and an article in Dartmouth Life are soliciting opinions. Reactions and ideas will be solicited until April 1.

Email: AGTaskForce@dartmouth.org

Mail: Alumni Governance Task Force, 308 Blunt Alumni Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755

Online bulletin board: www.dartmouth.org/counciltalk/

In addition, Alumni Council President Karen McKeel Calby '81 is traveling with Dartmouth President Jim Wright '64A discussing and seeking feedback about the recommendations at Dartmouth clubs around the country.

After receiving opinions and suggestions, the task force will draft a constitution to be presented for a vote in meetings of the Alumni Council and the Association. The constitution ultimately would be ratified by vote of all alumni via Internet or mail balloting.

For questions, please call 1-603-646-2258 or visit /leadership.