Dartmouth College announced late on Saturday night that its board of trustees would expand to 24 members, two-thirds chosen by the college and one-third elected by the alumni.
Since 1891, Dartmouth alumni have elected eight trustees and the administration has appointed an additional eight, giving the college an unusually small board and an unusual level of alumni power.
The changes come largely in reaction to divisive trustee campaigns over the past three years, in which alumni rejected the candidates officially nominated by the alumni association and instead elected four libertarian or conservative alumni who got onto the ballot through a petition process.
The four petition trustees have said they are unhappy with the direction of the college. Among the issues they have raised are what they consider unacceptable limits on free speech, academic bloat, and an overall sense that Dartmouth, which has 4,000 undergraduates in Hanover, N.H., has been pushing to become a small-scale research university at the expense of the undergraduate experience.
Supporters of the petition trustees have campaigned furiously in recent months to stop the proposed dilution of alumni power. The governor and the college president also serve on the board.
In his announcement of the changes, decided at the board’s annual retreat at Squam Lake, N.H., Charles E. Haldeman Jr., the chairman of the board, acknowledged the difficulties of the past few elections.
“Dartmouth’s trustee elections have become increasingly politicized, costly and divisive,” he said. “It’s not the results of these elections that are the problem, but the process itself.”
“I know some will ask why we didn’t simply expand the board through an equal number of charter and alumni trustee seats,” he said. “Given the divisiveness of recent elections we did not believe that having more elections would be good for Dartmouth.”
Stephen F. Smith, the most recently elected petition candidate, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.