A group of independent candidates has challenged the previously-announced slate of nominees to the Colgate Alumni Corporation Board of Directors. This is the first time the Board’s proposed candidates have been challenged since the current election procedures took shape over 20 years ago.
In a letter to alumni, Board President Joanne Spigner ’76 joined the Board’s current officers in encouraging alumni to pay close attention to the elections.
“You will be presented with a clear choice in this election,” the letter reads. “Cast your vote. Your voice matters.”
Since 1983, the Corporation has appointed its Board by proposing a slate of eight candidates, selected after receiving a proportion of Board votes. The proposed slate could be either approved or challenged by petition. Until now, no individuals have attempted to challenge the slate.
The Corporation’s move toward a slate election system came in response to declining participation levels in standard majority voting for seats on the Board. The Corporation’s website notes that only five to 10 percent of alumni in the late 1970s and early 1980s turned in ballots for the position.
Additionally, as the website notes, the system created tension between “losers” and the University; Colgate risked losing dedicated volunteers who were insulted by their failure to win seats on the Board. The slate system was devised to ensure that qualified individuals would have a chance to serve on the Board.
After reviewing nearly 300 nominations to the Board this year, the Corporation announced its slate of nine candidates earlier this spring. Nominees represent seven eras of the University from pre-1962 to the present and come from diverse backgrounds. The slate includes four women.In opposition to the slate proposed by the Board, eight candidates petitioned to have their names included on the ballot. The eight independent candidates represent a similarly broad range of class years, including one woman.
Profiles of the candidates on the Alumni Corporation’s website reveal little difference between the Board-nominated individuals and the independent candidates. All voice their commitment to Colgate and desire to support its students, faculty and administrators.
Sean Devlin ’05 is one of the candidates running on the independent platform. He noted that his fellow independent candidates were not necessarily representing an agenda different from that of the Board nominees, but rather presenting an alternative choice.
Devlin said that some alumni perceive the slate system as allowing the Board to “self-select” its members. In challenging the slate, he and his fellow candidates hope to show alumni that they have a choice in electing their representatives.
Although offering a choice was the most important motivation behind his decision to run, Devlin said that the independent candidates do share some commonalities in the feelings toward the Corporation and its relationship with the University.
“The Alumni Board has a track record in terms of representing
the views of the alumni, and that track record shows a certain direction that the University has gone down,” he said, alluding to the New Vision for Residential Education that has proven to be divisive among some alumni.
Devlin said that the independent candidates share a belief in the importance of freedom, accountability, individuality, and independence – and will bring those beliefs to the Board, if elected.
“The reasons why we are running speak to individuality and independence by offering a choice,” Devlin said.
Devlin also pointed out that there was no link between the independent candidates and Students and Alumni For Colgate, Inc., a group that is frequently critical of the University administration.
Ballots from alumni are due back to the Corporation by June 2 and will be processed by an independent vote-tallying company.
The Colgate Alumni Corporation Board of Directors is composed of 55 individuals dedicated to supporting the University and its mission. The Board’s recent accomplishments have been the creation of the “Real World” program for seniors looking at post-graduate plans, roundtable discussions with Greek-letter organizations and the facilitation of student and alumni mentoring programs.