Voices in the Wilderness

A forum for discussion of all things Dartmouth.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Fourth Communication

The fourth email to the Dartmouth alumni body regarding the Alumni Trustee Election was sent today. Candidate Curt Welling '71 T'77 weighed in with a succint, memo-like missive that made some good points and, for the most part, kept platitudes to a minimum. In my view, the highlights of his message included his stated beliefs that

1. "That the Board needs to create a culture of aggressive self-criticism. This will require an openness to all voices that has not characterized the Board in the past. All truly great institutions relentlessly examine the quality of their programs and the validity of their assumptions. In a dynamic marketplace, organizations that are not aggressively self-critical are dying."

2. That the First Amendment means what it says. Freedom of expression is the cornerstone of the pursuit of the truth. Speech codes, social or academic pressure on speech cannot be tolerated in any shape or form. It is the Board's responsibility to ensure that they are not tolerated. In the debate between civility and freedom of expression, civility is nice and a worthy objective-freedom of expression is quintessential and cannot be compromised.

However, I did not understand this point:
"That Dartmouth today is, of necessity, an intricate entity that operates in a complex and dynamic environment. The critical issues facing the College are similarly intricate and not amenable to caricature. I believe that some of the rhetoric of this campaign is ideological generalization, hyperbole and oversimplification. I do not think it is informed by the complex reality of Dartmouth today."

I can't tell whether the latter point is a jab at the petition candidates or Dartmouth administration. In any event, it's clear that the alumni candidates from whom we have heard so far have moved their rhetoric in the direction of the petition candidates. Regardless of the outcome of this election, the candidacies of the "outsiders" will have had an indelible influence on the debate about the soul and future of Dartmouth.