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Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College

Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College

The Board of Trustees of Dartmouth College is the governing body of Dartmouth College, an Ivy League university located in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. As of September 5, 2008, the Board includes twenty-three people. The current Chair of the Board is Charles E. Haldeman.

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.


Of the twenty-three current members, two are traditionally described as trustees ex officio, eight as alumni trustees, and thirteen as charter trustees. The Charter mandates that the Governor of New Hampshire always be a trustee ex officio, and the Board traditionally makes the current President of Dartmouth College a member in a similar capacity. Both trustees ex officio may participate fully in Board affairs, although most Governors do not. All but the trustees ex officio are elected by majority vote of the Board, as the Charter requires. Of these elected trustees, eight are nominated by alumni of the College and thirteen are nominated by a committee within the Board.

Nomination of alumni trustees

The process of nomination and election involves several steps. When an existing alumni trustee nears the end of his or her four-year term, or when a new alumni trustee seat is created, the Dartmouth Alumni Council proposes two candidates to fill the vacancy. If there are two vacancies, the Council suggests three candidates. Any alumnus/na who collects at least 500 alumni signatures may join the candidates on the ballot as a petition candidate. Then the Association of Alumni polls all Dartmouth alumni by paper and electronic ballots, using a preference voting system, to select the nominee or nominees. Finally, the Board traditionally elects the alumni nominee.


The system of alumni balloting to determine a nominee dates to the late nineteenth century. In 1876, Dartmouth's Board of Trustees resolved to fill some upcoming vacancies with alumni. Vacancies were rare at the time, however, and the number of alumni seated was small; most of the members of the Board were still elderly non-alumni clergymen who were seen as theologically and educationally conservative.

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.

Changes in the process

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.

Recent controversies

In 2004, T. J. Rodgers sought the alumni nomination as a petition candidate and won the balloting, after which the Board elected him as its newest trustee. This was an unusual occurrence, since alumni candidates are typically nominated by the Alumni Council. The only previous petition candidate to successfully be seated on the Board was John Steel in 1980. In 2005, petition candidates Todd Zywicki and Peter Robinson similarly won nominations to the Board. Because they were critical of the College administration and were described as "outsiders," the conservative student paper The Dartmouth Review called their election "The Lone Pine Revolution" and described it as "the most significant event in [Dartmouth's] recent history. Stephen Smith, the fourth petition candidate, also critical of the direction of the College, won the nomination in 2007.

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.

Current trustees

Alumni trustees

Name Elected Graduated Reference
2001 1984
2000 1968
2003 1982
2002 1977
2005 1979
2004 1970
2007 1988
2005 1988

Ex officio trustees

Name Office Appointed Reference
James Wright President, Dartmouth College 1998
John Lynch Governor, State of New Hampshire 2005

Charter trustees

Name Elected Graduated Reference
2002 1973
1999 1965
2003 1964
2000 1984
2004 1970
2008 1978
2001 1979
2007 1978
2004 1970
2008 1982, T'86
2008 1980
2008 1962, T'63
2008 1977

Notable past trustees

Name Elected Left/retired Graduated Reference
1992 2002 1961
1964 1974 1941
1911 1931 1878
1850 1870 n/a
1859 1881 1829
1793 1808 n/a
1982 1993 1951
1809 1849 1786
1971 1981 1954, T'55
1793 1821 n/a
1961 1976 1931
1784 1793 n/a
1806 1829 n/a
1773 1793 n/a
1769 1773 n/a
1905 1915 1874
1879 1895 1856
1834 1837 n/a
1988 1993 1968
1942 1952 1930
1946 1960 1915
1993 2003 1964
1788 1809 1773
1801 1821 n/a
1857 1866 1835


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