Alumni vs. Alma Mater

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From the Dartmouth College office of public affairs comes news that a New Hampshire judge has rejected a lawsuit by Dartmouth alumni that challenged the school’s decision to expand its board of directors:

Judge Timothy J. Vaughan ruled that the seven alumni plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the action and could not pursue claims that had already been dismissed in an earlier lawsuit.

Dartmouth Counsel Robert Donin said: “Dartmouth is pleased that the Grafton County Superior Court has granted our motion for summary judgment. The court has rejected this meritless lawsuit against the College orchestrated by John MacGovern and the Hanover Institute…. We urge the plaintiffs not to appeal this decision, which would only continue to drain resources at a time when the College is addressing the impact of the prolonged economic downturn.”

Well maybe legally meritless, but the case stems from highly dubious Dartmouth plans. In 2007 the College’s Board of Trustees voted to expand the Board from 18 to 26 trustees, reducing proportion of trustees that are elected by alumni. Alumni revolted, citing breach of contract.

The trouble is that there is no contract. It’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened in Hanover. Who controls Dartmouth has long been an issue over at the Big Green. In 1819 New Hampshire attempted to give the governor the power to appoint Dartmouth trustees, effectively converting the college into a large state university. The school objected and in Dartmouth College vs. Woodward the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the college’s corporate charter was a contract between private parties; Dartmouth College, not New Hampshire, had the power to determine what was good for Dartmouth.

Back then Dartmouth College and Dartmouth alumni were essentially the same thing, however. It looks like things have changed.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer