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Dartmouth Trustee in Hot Water over Critical Speech

Check out John Miller’s discussion over at Phi Beta Cons about the latest controversy at Dartmouth regarding their alumni trustees. It appears as though the university is attempting a “trustee-stacking” maneuver to eliminate the influence of the so-called “insurgent trustees” who were elected by popular ballot. In the midst of all of this, some critics are calling for the removal of alumni Trustee Todd Zywicki after a speech he gave at the Pope Center harshly criticizing Dartmouth’s former president and the state of the academy in general. Zywicki apologized for some of what he said during his speech, but some at Dartmouth, perhaps seeing an opportunity to reduce the ranks of the alumni trustees, are still calling for Zywicki to be removed. While the First Amendment and free speech principles apply differently to trustees than they do to students and professors, removing trustees for their outside exercise of free speech does pose some serious questions. After all, part of the reason the alumni trustees were voted on to the board was to fix what many alums saw as problems in the academy in general and how they manifest themselves at Dartmouth in particular. In other words, he was elected precisely because he was critical of the academy’s practices and abuses. The trustees would be well-served to remember that voicing dissent may not always be pleasant, but it is often a powerful antidote to complacency, group think, and calcified thinking.

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