Report: Running For Board of Trustees Sort Of Like Running for the WSA, But For Old People

Reveal yourself, Trustee-Candidates-Who-Didn’t-Make-It-Onto-The-Ballot. We know you’re out there.

Andrew Bleeker ’07 was one of 40 nominees for the Board of Trustees—and is now one of six candidates on the ballot for the Board of Trustees.

You know what it’s like to run for the WSA (it’s okay, we were all freshmen once), but do you know what it’s like to run for the Board of Trustees, Wesleyan’s most elite secret society?

According to a recent post on WesConnect, six alumni are in the process of finding out, each vying for a chance to spend sunny weekends in September, November, and May perched up in the Daniel Family Commons sipping Dom Pérignon, Making Important Decisions About Relle Important Stuff, and occasionally asking Public Safety to kick out uninvited student activists. (Or maybe they’re just running for the opportunity to kick it with West Wing star and Wesleyan trustee Bradley Whitford ’81.) The candidates on the ballot, as they present themselves on WesConnect, include:

  • Andrew Bleeker ’07, a former Digital Strategist for President Obama, president of Bully Pulpit Interactive, and fundraising expert; 
  • Kathleen Clyde ’01, a state representative for Ohio’s 75th district, member of Ohio’s Constitutional Modernization Commission, and “leading advocate in Ohio on voting rights and redistriction reform”;
  • Tracey Gardner ’96, a Chief of Staff at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service who is a member of the Alumnae Board at Convent of the Sacred Heart and began her career as a high school English teacher in the Bronx;
  • Sarah Gilchrist ’79, p’10, p’13, an alum and Wes parent who designs and creates clothing for children, volunteers as a tutor for the Washington, D.C. Board of Education, sings with the National Philharmonic Chorale, and practiced law for Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in corporate and bankruptcy law;
  • Daniel Prieto ’91, a VP at IBM, former America Online executive and J. P. Morgan investment banker who also self-identifies as a “national security expert with past fellowship appointments” and “seasoned business and technology executive”;
  • and Charles Wrubel ’59, P ’85, P ’88, president of Wrubel Communications who formerly served as partner at Admedia Partners, was president and publisher of regional non-daily newspapers in Bergen and Passaic County, has received “more than 10 awards for outstanding service in the newspaper industry,” and has also “served various volunteer roles in the media world, including president of Suburban Newspapers of America and board member of National Newspapers Association.” (Mr. Wrubel also has 11 family members from three generations who are Wesleyan graduates.)

If you’re a graduating senior, you can even vote in the election, which closes on Sunday. An April email from Susan Sutherland ’82, Chair of the Alumni Association Nominating Committee, explains the relevant details:

Each year, Wesleyan alumni elect three alumni to the University’s Board of Trustees for a three-year term. It may surprise you that Wesleyan is unique among its peers on this front: nine alumni-elected trustees serve at any given time, which means that nearly a third of the Board is elected by the alumni body.

I urge you to participate for the first time in making the important decision regarding which of our fellow alumni will serve and help influence the direction of the University. Learn about members of the slate, why they want to serve — and VOTE NOW.

If it seems strange that from an alumni network of thousands only six are running for the Board, that’s because it is. A recent Argus article reveals that the six candidates were mysteriously whittled down by the committee from a pool of 40 nominees, whose identities remain a guarded secret protected by uniformed guards Dean Culliton wielding a very large stick:

On Saturday, Jan. 26, the chair of the Alumni Association, the Committee on Nominations, and staff from University Relations met at Usdan to finalize the ballot for the upcoming election. They chose six candidates from a pool of 40 nominees.

Who are the other 34 alums who threw their hats in the ring? Radical communist who want to overthrow the Board? Alumni without the same philanthropic means as a “seasoned business and technology executive”? Martin Benjamin ’57 filing his candidacy 34 times in a row? We’ll probably never know (Susan Sutherland ’82 did not respond to three requests for comment), but if you’re one of them, let us know! Contact us at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org and tell us your story.

The six candidates have each provided statements supporting such characteristics as a “unique and selfless spirit” and a “rare drive to change things for the better.” Daniel Prieto ’91, meanwhile, champions plans to “strengthen Wesleyan’s educational and financial performance, grow public recognition for Wesleyan’s achievements, and deepen relationships between students and alumni, particularly regarding mentorship and career development.” Perhaps no candidate has attracted as much attention as Andrew Bleeker ’07, a former digital strategist who seeks to become the youngest member of the Board and has wasted no time in scrounging together Facebook ads to announce his candidacy. Bleeker took the liberty of contacting Wesleying to tell us about his experience fundraising and engaging students and alumni through social media.

“Clearly, a main focus will be how we can raise more money for Wes online,” Bleeker wrote. “I have helped run some of the largest political and non-profit online fundraising programs around and believe I can help Wes raise real money online — which would obviously be a step in helping us fund much-needed programs and get back to need-blind. And I promise not to spam the hell out of people.”

I asked Bleeker how he plans to return Wesleyan to need-blind admissions, a goal President Roth has shrugged off in recent statements, calling it “unsustainable.”

“I am fairly practical on the how, I guess,” the digital strategist wrote. “I don’t have millions of dollars to give, so the best I can do is help fundraise to close the gap. “If the thinking is we can’t afford need-blind because of the ever expanding operating costs, I think we just need to put a number on it. How much would it actually cost each year?  My theory of online fundraising is that you need to present people with a plausible theory of change.”

Fellow candidate Sarah Gilchrist ’79 expressed similar goals in her candidate statement.

“I believe it is essential that Wesleyan maintain a strong commitment to financial aid,” she wrote. “We must support diversity, in all its dimensions.”

Other alumni have been less inspired by the Trustee elections.

“Plenty of vague nods to the need for maintaining financial aid and ‘access,’ but that’s the equivalent of politicians saying they’re for fighting crime,” commented a member of the Class of 1993 who asked to remain anonymous. “Keeping the alumni-at-large atomized and in the dark is obviously part of the strategy in essentially rigging the trustee elections — as well as most big board decision. This electoral process is exactly how Cuba and China choose their national legislatures: everybody votes, but only for pre-approved candidates.”

On the bright side, voting is open until tomorrow. Do so here, find out about the current trustees here, and email us if you’re one of the 34 mystery candidates, especially if you’re going to be at the Tent Party tonight.