Accountability to Colgate Alumni Initiative:

There appears to be an interesting movement afoot among Colgate alumni, the "Accountability to Colgate Alumni Initiative." The goal of the initiative, as their website explains it, is "to ask the Board of Trustees to change the By-laws to allow 18 of the 35 members to be voted by the alumni."

The initiative seems to be modeled on Dartmouth's 1891 agreement between Dartmouth College and its alumni to guarantee Dartmouth alumni the power to elect half of the Dartmouth board of trustees (discussed briefly here). The Dartmouth deal was struck during a period of immense financial hardship for the College which was plagued by poor management and other problems. The alumni decided to open their wallets to bail out the College financially, but insisted on having the power to elect half of the seats on the board in order to provide oversight to make sure their money wasn't squandered. My understanding is that in fact half of the members of the board stepped down immediately and their successors were elected by the alumni.

The Colgate group appears to be taking a related approach with respect to the financial aspect of the plan. They have set up an escrow fund to which alumni can donate contingent on the new proposal being adopted by the Colgate board. If the board does not adopt the proposal to permit alumni to elect half of the board by 2012, each donor's money will be released instead to a second beneficiary. In the meantime, the funds will be invested by Merrill Lynch.

One interesting aspect of the Colgate initiative is that those behind it are simply requesting procedural reforms to open up the trustee election process, rather than directly demanding certain substantive reforms, which has typically been the approach taken in the past by reformers.

Is anyone aware of any similar movements at other institutions to open up trustee selection processes?