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.

3/09/2005 01:12:00 AM | Timothy

Great Moments in Dartmouth Blogging
Dartmouth Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick recommends some blogs including: "Joe's Dartblog: A fellow member of the Dartmouth community, well on his way to becoming the Instapundit of his generation."

Hmmm... Samwick probably thinks that this is a good thing.

Via The Little Green Blog, I saw that Joe had posted this about how the car of the Italian journalist was fired upon and her driver was killed: "I'll echo a popular sentiment: we fired 400 rounds and didn't kill both of them? We need better guns."

All I can say is thank you to Reviewers and conservatives who have recently wrote me and linked to me regarding alumni elections, and with which I have recently had pleasant and intelligent conservations on blogs and over email.

3/09/2005 01:00:00 AM | Timothy

Trustee Elections and Ideological Diversity

Chien Wen of the Dartmouth Observer endorses at least one of anti-establishment petition candidates. He says he does this because: "This ideological diversity is healthy even if you don't agree with their views." I already disagreed with Kalb's view that 'this election is about disatisfaction, not issues'. Now Chien Wen, who says he is not even a disgruntled alum, nevertheless makes an argument for the candidates that does not depend on the merits of the issues advocated by the petitioners (and unlike Kalb, he does not seem to agree substantively on the issues with the petitioner candidates). I offer six points for consideration.

First, it is not necessarily true that ideologically diversity is always better. While in some situations it is better to have people you disagree with (I see the argument for this with faculty), in other situations you do not want many heads, but one. Often it is better to go with one coherent idea, whether you disagree with it or not so that at least it is implemented well. Of course this is a bad idea other times. I would say sometimes ideological diversity in some situations can be healthy; in those situations there is an argument for voting for someone you disagree with.

So, my second point is the question is more whether this situation one of them where ideological diversity is a benefit? Maybe it is just obvious. It could be a situation where of those cases. I'm not sure the election really forces disgruntled voices to be heard, any more than they already are.

But my third point is that even if diversity is important in boards, is 'more' diversity always important? If you have a minority viewpoint, but add more people to the board with the same viewpoint, how is that expanding diversity? Diversity usually means 'offering a perspective'. Well, the board has Rogers and has his perspective. People say that the petition candidates have been pushing the same buttons as Rogers did (I am not asserting that as true, but I am assuming it here). That argument about diversity could have worked well with Roger's election. It could have worked well if Janos or another young alum candidate was on the ballot (but it turns out you can stop a moving train). That would have added another, different voice, and hence diversity. But how does the diversity argument work by adding more people that basically have the same viewpoint as each other and someone already there (let's call them 'conservatives' for simplicity)? Why not add Marxists or people of an entirely different persuasion (Also this shows that diversity for diversity's sake is not always valuable or helpful for running a board. I bet the board will have a lot harder time assimilating their diversity than conservatives and libertarians.) Now, one argument is the one used by schools defending affirmative action policies: they say we need a 'critical mass' of minority students for diversity to have benefits: Tokenism doesn't work. I'm not too sure that argument works well for a small board. What additional benefits come with more members?

My fourth point is this. The arguments about adding the petitioners to the board do not revolve around 'oh, we'll give input the current board has not thought of... we'll represent groups not usually heard from'. As I said, I bet Rogers is voicing the opinions. The petitioners seem to want change. The key is power and numbers. The petitioners and/or their advocates don't want to change things merely by being the one advocate. Now maybe one or two more conservatives will mean a 'critical mass' such as that their voice will be taken seriously, and that is why Chien Wen is voting for them. But another alternative is simply get enough relatively like-minded people to implement your preferred type policies, or block those you disagree with (the equivilent of a filibuster). Whatever the merits of that are, it does not sound like an argument for diversity. Maybe it is an argument for 'balance'. But I am not sure that 'balance' (or equal 'division' and polarization) is always best. It can be. It hardly seems a good reason for 'conservatives' not to push ahead. But how is it an end in itself, necessarily?

Fifth, The other point is that I doubt 'conservatives' will be happy with an expanded voice. If they can succeed, why not get their whole slate in eventually? They did not stop with Rogers, why would they stop after that? Why should they? How are you voting for diversity? (This is more conjectural and remote fear, I admit, but it is a possibility that those who advocate 'diversity' and 'balance' should consider, at least in other contexts if not this one. I would weigh this only against the claim that more than one 'outsider' trustee will not ensure that 'disgruntled alumni...have trustees who'll listen to their criticisms' but having two or three 'outsider' trustees will ensure their complaints are heard.)

Sixth, I don't the exact nature of the petitioner's candidates ideas. But I bet they would not be able to consistently use the diversity argument for themselves. I'm not sure that this affects whether Chien Wen should vote for them. I don't have any reason to doubt Chien Wen's sincerity when he states his reasons. But I wonder how much sense they make. (Of course, a lot of what I said here turns at crucial points around the *assumption* that the petitioner candidates don't actually add much diversity considering who is already there. Of course, they are not the same men, but neither are any of the other candidates. Not all minor diversity is important here. For example, is the 'Law Professor perspective' really that important as a perspective at *Dartmouth*? )

So is anyone going to make a substantive case for the petitioner candidates?

3/08/2005 11:47:00 PM | Timothy

Chien Wen and The Little Green Blog
Chien Wen of the Dartmouth Observer points to this Little Green Blog post and says:"In another example of postmodern logic at its worst, The Little Green Blog, without citing any evidence except an op-ed in The D, accuses them of 'covering up their ambitions to make Dartmouth a conservative and backwards institution.' Right."

I have to add my suspicion (emphasis: 'suspicion') that Chien Wen got a little of what I called 'postmodern conservatism' with reference to his co-blogger John Stevenson. I say that here because of his use of 'diversity'. But this is a label issue.

What I really take issue with is Chien Wen hyperbole and vituperation. 'postmodern logic at its worst'?!? If Chien Wen had ever read postmodernism, he would know that is not remotely true. When you see Lyotard trying to say that the Holocaust denier cannot be engaged with logical reasoning (or something like that, sorry if I get this wrong, I'm cribbing this off a book by Alex Callinicos), you see how wrong pomo logic can go (or at least how wrong people accussing postmodern logic of going). While I agree that citing the D is often not enough to prove a case to the skeptical reader, it is not on par with decrying logocentrism. The D is more reliable than Mein Kampf. Chien Wen should even be able to tell what really bad postmodern logic is like by what is quoted in the Review and other publications bemoaning the downfall of education.

Enough with my vituperation. What is so illogical about the content of that little green blog post? Lemuel of LBG says in this post that the candidates want to go in a more conservative and backwards direction. I think it is perfectly plausible to say that the candidates want to go in a more conservative direction. And though it is not 'value-neutral' to use the words 'backwards' to describe conservative changes, someone can honestly believe such changes make the college more backwards. Chien Wen tries to say something akin to (important: akin to) saying, 'well the trustees do not want to take us back to the days when jews were kept out, therefore they must not want to take any regressive steps' Surely LGB, by their judgment, is entitled to label certain steps as conservative and regressive (perhaps they feel that way about athletic programs) . Even if you disagree with this judgment, it is not poor logic, much less postmodern logic at its worst. It only gets anywhere near that level if you assume that LBG had to be saying the candidates were in favor of three steps backwards, when LBG could easily have been oppossed to only one step backward. In Chien Wen's own example, he talks about the Indian and co-education. I'm not sure that his quote proves that these candidates don't want bring back the Indian mascot. (After all, one of the arguments is that the Indian mascot is 'respectful'.) But I'll leave that aside and assume they do. I have no doubt that they want to keep coeducation (to use Chien Wen's other example) and no doubt that LGB knows that, and little doubt that Chien Wen knows that LGB knows this and was not saying otherwise. Chien Wen seems to implying, well if he's not going this far back (or this conservative, if this terminology offends) he must be acceptable. Why can't someone make the argument that 'regressing' or becoming this much conservative is not acceptable? It may not be an argument Chien Wen agrees with. But it is not the worst example of postmodern logic. So LGB is underdeveloped and does not ramble on forever into an unreadable post, as his (and mine) frequently do. Just because someone likes short blog posts does not mean they like Derrida.

Oh, and one other thing. When making his initial election announcement Petitioner candidate Todd Zywicki had four main planks. For one, he relies on little more than a D article (just like Little Green Blog!)

P.S. Mr. Ward of dartlog might be right that 'backwards' tries to frame the issue a certain way, and perhaps in an unfair way. I do not think that affects my point that calling something backwards does not automatically make your point illogical in the worst postmodern way.

3/07/2005 02:54:00 PM | Richie Jay

Trustee Election
In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven't gotten a chance to read Waligore's extensive post, but this one is purely technical--how to vote, not whom to vote for--anyway.

I just voted in the trustee election online. I believe that we are voting for 2 positions on the Board of Trustees. However, I discovered that you can vote for any number of candidates. Thus, your selections are more like a vote of confidence/no confidence for each candidate, not necessarily simply a selection of 2 candidates for 2 available slots.

Without issuing any endorsements, I am just offering the advice that you vote for all candidates whom you support, whether that be as few as 1 of them or as many as 5. I, personally, feel comfortable with more than 2 of the choices, and so voted for more.

3/06/2005 09:22:00 PM | Timothy

It's Complicated...?
Government Department Chair Anne Sa'adah says in the D editorial: "Senior hiring is always difficult; even junior hiring is increasingly complicated, in part for reasons that people watching children in two-career couples can well imagine."

John Bruce quotes this article says: "Quick paraphrase: it's very complicated. It's almost as complicated as watching children, ha ha."

Huh? From what I understand, one real problem the government department has had over the past few years is that it has not been able to keep professors who also have partners who are also in academia. Junior hiring is difficult because these partners need to find jobs in Hanover. Academics often fall in love with other academics. I wonder whether Dartmouth departments have tried to pay institutional attention to this problem (rather than deal with on an ad-hoc and neglectful basis). If this is an institutional problem, I don't see the petitioner candidates addressing this issue and trying to solve it. Perhaps it is a problem that could be solved, but one that people think should not be solved (because there are problems with potential solutions, etc.) Well, then the problem is complicated, right?

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