Assembly moved forward amid controversy last fall

by Katy O'Donnell | 1/4/06 6:00am

Student Assembly began the 2005-2006 school year amid controversy as a result of Student Body President Noah Riner '06's religiously-charged convocation speech. The sectarian references upset members of the Assembly and student body alike, and resulted in the departure from SA of Kaelin Goulet '07, former leader of the Student Life Committee.

Upon departure from the committee, Goulet cited the speech as an "embarrassment."

"The fact that people did feel offended was a problem and Noah could have addressed that problem a little differently," Assembly Vice President Jeffrey Coleman '08 said.

But Coleman added that much of the news surrounding Goulet's resignation seemed contrived. "From my point of view, I did think it was blown out of proportion a tad," he said.

But Coleman also was initially worried about Goulet's departure.

"To me that was a little bit of a setback, because I was really looking forward to her leadership on SA, but I totally supported her decision," he said.

In the end, though, the organization recovered quickly.

"After she was replaced with Elisa [Donnelly '07], everything kept going normally," Coleman said. "Where most of the issue lied was with Noah himself. The rest of SA just kept going on with its agenda."

Goulet even reappeared at an Assembly meeting in November to push a proposal to allocate $7,000 of the Assembly's budget to finance the production of a documentary video chronicling the College's Education and Service Corps winter trip to Biloxi, Miss. and to finance some of the trip's food expenditures. The trip was conducted in conjunction with Katrina Help, a service organization created in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina this summer. Goulet co-sponsored the proposal with Nick Taranto '06, Jesse Brush '06, Donnelly and Riner, who said that the video would be crucial in persuading alumni, other Ivy League colleges and possibly even politicians to become involved with Katrina Help's efforts.

The Assembly also encountered controversy with the discussion of Dartmouth's Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

ROTC member Jason Hartwig '06 appealed to the Assembly for support of the floundering program in early October. Hartwig pointed out that Dartmouth is one of the only three Ivy League schools, including Columbia and Brown, that do not give ROTC participants full scholarships. The College currently awards each person $17,000 per year.

A week later, the Assembly elected not to pass a statement sponsored by Donnelly and David Nachman '09 urging the Assembly to support the ROTC. Donnelly stressed that neither the Assembly nor the College would be involved in actually funding the program, but that College backing would be crucial for the Dartmouth ROTC to receive Army funding. The statement cited that 69 percent of students said that the administration should support the program during a survey conducted last spring.

Members, however, ultimately decided not to support the program because of the Army's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy," which they felt would alienate gay students.

In a more successful venture, the Assembly was happy with the success in its efforts to improve funding for club sports, as the College allocated an extra $30,000 to the club sports budget in mid-October.

Riner said that members of underfunded teams approached the Assembly as they grew frustrated with having to "beg for alumni donations."

"Concerned students started asking for the Assembly's help about two years ago," Riner said. "Mats Lemberger and I went before the Alumni Council last spring to talk about what is going on on campus, and we all agreed that club sports was an area of student life that was incredibly important, and it was being underfunded."

The Assembly also co-hosted a mock Committee on Standards meeting with Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity in mid-October. Riner played the role of a student on trial for submitting an essay from the website "freeessays.com" in the hearing aimed to familiarize students with COS procedures.

Karan Danthi '07, who worked with Undergraduate Judicial Affairs Director April Thompson to set up the hearing, said the hearing was successful in alleviating students' anxiety concerning being called before COS.

"It is nice to get a sense of how the discussions go. This is an eye-opening experience because people who go before the committee usually don't know what to expect. They are freaking out and they get flustered," Danthi said of the approximately 60 cases that go before the committee for suspension each year.

The Assembly also reaffirmed its commitment to launching a textbook exchange this fall. Originally approved over the summer, the program aims to establish a free, direct student-to-student market in which sellers post used books online for other students to buy. The site is available for Winter term.

The Assembly also passed resolutions to fund a hurricane walkathon and the Assembly's Profiles in Excellence Teaching Awards, as well as a resolution urging the College fully to fund the party-pack program.