Free Dartmouth
3/09/2005 01:45:00 AM | Timothy

My Thinking on the Trustees
So far my comments about the Trustees elections have basically been confined to offerring argument against views that advocate voting for the petition candidates regardless of one's positions on the issues. I didn't have strong feelings and didn't give any arguments for voting for or against the petitioners (or any of the other candidates), but rather knocked down cases not based on issues. John Kalb responds to my criticism of him in a gracious way. Yet he effectively concedes his original point and he (I think) admits that he was wrong to say that if you are dissatisfied you must vote against the status quo. On his blog, he had said that this is not about the greeks, etc., but now when he offers some substantive reasons for voting, he focuses on issues surrounding the student social life. (At least he did on his blog. Joe's blog also posts this blitz sent out by Kalb.)

Kalb says to me:
I don't know whether it's reasonable on your part to say, "well, I'm a leftie, and none of your arguments appeal to me, so why not give me some?" As callous as it may sound, if the pro-Greek people all vote for Zywicki and Robinson, we win, so we don't need you, and you haven't provided me with anything that might make you consider the two write-in candidates. You haven't said, "if such-and-such were true, I'd consider them," which makes it kinda hard for me to find arguments that might appeal to you.
One reaction I've had to this comment is to argue with Kalb about the substantive merits of the Student Life Initiative (SLI). But I have another reaction: I'm being written out of the picture and told my vote does not matter. Kalb might be right that he does not need me. He might have even been right that I was unwinnable. But his post more than anything made me realize I might be unwinnable for his side. If the same arguments about the Greeks and the SLI are the reasons to vote for the petitioners, this is not an argument that is going to sway me.

But so what? Kalb does not need me, right? Well, I was honestly asking what is the case for the petitioners. I'm concerned about how education functions (being in the business of wanting to be a teacher), so I was willing to assess the strength of how a law prof. might approach the issues of teaching here at Dartmouth. Maybe my hatred of the frats would outweigh everything else, but I was willing to engage in the weighing without ruling out the possibility of voting for the petition candidates without hearing their case.

Here's the thing: I don't think it is true that petitioners only need the pro-Greek people to vote for them and they don't care about other votes. Here's why: first, turn-out matters, and this depends on enthusiasm. Kalb more than any other comment has 'convinced' me that I should care (even if this is through activating emotion) and that The Little Green Blog might be right that this is about making the college go in a more conservative direction. All I was asking was for was a case, and then I could judge for myself how to vote. I didn't ask you to tailor your case to me, just present it. Hopefully, some of the case rests on a general appeal. If it doesn't, then that says something to me.

Second, I want to mention the decision procedure for this election. You can vote for 1-5 out of the six candidates, as many, or as few, candidates as you feel are qualified. Here is another way strength of opposition matters. If I really feel strongly against the petition candidates (or really strongly for any of the others) I will vote for only a select few and not for the petition candidates. If I am really against the petition candidates, I will vote for all four of the establishment candidates, and none of the petitition candidate (I would do this because I do not know which of the establishment candidates other people who are in the know will vote for; I assume that other people like me who are just against the petition candidates will see the likely focal point as being voting for all four establishment candidates. The other possible focal point for people who are strongly anti-petitioner is to go with the D's two endorsements. The D editorial board is either not that smart or is not (or cannot let itself appear to be) very anti-petitioner. Because if were both, it would realize that the anti-petitioner vote would be enhanced if all anti-petitioners voted for all 4 establishment candidates.

Now, if the case for the petitioner candidates has a general appeal and it also has an appeal about frats or 'conservatism' I disagree with, I (or other liberal alums like me) could be willing to overlook that. Specifically saying a person is not acceptable is somewhat larger gap. But if the entire case for the candidate seems to revolve around issues I disagree with, then what to have to vote for?

Furthermore, let's say I'm a lost case (or that 'lefties' like me are lost). People who are pro-Greek, perhaps only mildly so, are going to need to be convinced to vote only for the petition candidates. (Well, I'm not sure that's strictly necessarily, but I think it is if Kalb wants to say: we do not need certain people at all). I talked in my original post about liberal alums that were not as anti-Greek as I was. I asked what the substantive case for the petitioner candidates was. I have yet to hear what I think is a fair, broad exposition of it. (While I admit that Kalb makes me react, why a supporter goes the way he does is not necessarily the candidates fault.) Rogers, from what I gather, gave people additional reasons to vote from him.

I think the success of petitioner candidates will depend upon getting people to give their undivided support to petitioners. At the same time, supporters of the petitioners will have to not arousing enough anger so as to get a lot of people to specifically oppose the petitioners. People voting solely for the petitioners should need strong reason to do that, I would think. Consider Kalb's point that he is not as impressed with these candidates as with Rogers. But he says in effect, that the administration actions around social life is enough to make him go with the petitioners. Well, that is not going to move me. If anything, it will move me to oppose it, futile as he claims this is. But how many other people will it move? I think supporters of the petitioners would do themselves a favor by providing people with more reason to also vote for the petioners. It would also give those us who might definitely oppose the petitioners in a head-to-head race a reason to think about why we should still cast a vote for them.

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