The Board of Trustees describes itself as having "ultimate responsibility for the financial, administrative and academic affairs of the College. Among its responsibilities are the appointment of the President of the College and the approval of institutional policies.
In 1891, in what came to be known as "The 1891 Agreement," the Board of Trustees resolved to elect five trustees who had been nominated by the alumni of five years' standing. The nomination process would be handled by the Association of Alumni of Dartmouth College, of which every matriculated student becomes a member automatically when his or her class graduates. Soon after the Board issued its 1891 resolution, five members resigned to open seats for the new nominees, and Dartmouth's first effective means of granting alumni influence on the composition of its Board was under way; the arrangement was described as being based on the system in use at Williams College.
The Board has expanded three times since it was created as a twelve-person organization in 1769. The New Hampshire Legislature approved an amendment to the Charter that expanded the Board to sixteen in 1961. In 2003, the Board grew to eighteen and stated plans to reach twenty-two. This expansion was the Board's first act under its new authority to amend its own charter, an authority granted by the Legislature during the same period. During each expansion, the Board described half of the newly-created seats as being those of "alumni trustees". The Board expanded from eighteen to twenty-three in 2008.
During the early twentieth century, much of the contact alumni had with the College was through Dartmouth's Class Secretaries Association, a group made up of the secretaries of the various alumni class organizations. In 1913, the Class Secretaries Association recommended that the Association of Alumni create a group to advise the general Association. The group was called the Alumni Council, and in 1915 the Association transferred to it the authority to put the names of potential alumni trustees on the ballot for the alumni to select as their nominee to the Board. The Alumni Council retains that authority today.
The Board of Trustees has also made changes to the process over time. The Board no longer restricts the voting for nominees to the alumni of the particular schools listed in the 1891 resolution, nor does it prohibit alumni of less than five years' standing from participation. In 1961, the Board permitted the Association to nominate a further two alumni, and it added a third (reaching the present total of eight nominees) in 2003. In 1990, the Board resolved to re-elect some alumni nominees for second terms in the future. The Association of Alumni made a corresponding amendment to its constitution at the same time in order to avoid the possibility that a nomination process would start upon the conclusion of a re-elected alumni trustee's first term.
In 2006, an Alumni Association committee proposed a new version of the organization's constitution that would have altered the process of nominating trustees, in part by re-incorporating the Alumni Council within the Association. The proposal was debated fiercely, with opponents arguing that it would tilt the election rules in favor of candidates selected by the Alumni Council or its successor and against petition candidates. Proponents argued that the constitution would solve longstanding organizational problems for the Association of Alumni and the Alumni Council. Amid significant voter turnout, fewer than the required supermajority voted in favor of adopting the new constitution, defeating the proposal.
In 2007, the Board announced that its Governance Committee would complete a periodic review of the Board's practices at the Board meeting of early September. Some alumni took this and other announcements to mean that the Board would reduce the number of alumni trustees or ask the Alumni Council to alter its nomination process, and a new controversy erupted. Newly-formed groups created websites and took out advertisements in The New York Times and elsewhere meant to influence the Board's decision.
In September 2007, the Board decided to amend the Charter to add eight new trustee seats, expanding the size of the group from eighteen to twenty-six seats. In deciding how the new members would be nominated, the Board stated that it would retain the existing number of eight alumni trustees and make all eight new members charter trustees. Thus, the proportion of alumni-nominated trustees would fall from 44.4 percent of the Board to 30.7 percent, dropping from half of the elected trustees to one-third.
The Board's decision sparked controversy among alumni. The majority of the Association's Executive Committee sued the Board in an attempt to block the change, although the new set of officers elected in June, 2008 withdrew the lawsuit. New Hampshire state Representative Maureen Mooney (R-Merrimack) drafted a bill that would force the Board to cede some control over the amendment of its Charter to the state, although it was not the Charter amendment itself that was controversial. As introduced into committee, the legislation would have repealed an act of 2003 that finally gave the Board the right to amend its Charter without consulting the state. Mooney stated that the recent governance changes at the College were a reason for her sponsorship of the bill. In February 2008, Mooney's bill was voted down in the commerce committee, and the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted against the bill on March 5, 2008.
In September 2008, the Board began the expansion announced the year before by electing five alumni to the Board as charter trustees.
|James Wright||President, Dartmouth College||1998|
|John Lynch||Governor, State of New Hampshire||2005|