Verbum Ultimum: Vote Frank Cunningham

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 4/19/15 7:12pm

This year’s Student Assembly elections come down to experience.

As the incumbent student body vice president, there’s no question that Frank Cunningham ’16 has experience. Though Cunningham’s campaign at times rests too heavily on his past experience — particularly considering the fact that his tenure on the Student Assembly was not without its critics — he has a point. When his opponent’s claim to fame is an upbeat video set to a Pharrell Williams’ song, one cannot blame Cunningham for reminding the student body of his qualifications.

We do not doubt that Jake Gaba ’16 wants to help the student body, but we do question his ability to do so. Gaba and his vice presidential candidate Penelope Williams ’16 reminded the audience at last Friday’s Student Assembly debate multiple times that their ticket has similar aims to that of Cunningham and Julia Dressel ’17, as if this similarity were a main selling point. While Gaba and Williams are earnest, they were unprepared. This lack of preparation was evident in the debate, as the two faltered to answer questions and veered off topic several times.

If the Gaba/Williams ticket is so similar to that of Cunningham and Dressel’s, one cannot help but wonder why the student body does not just elect the latter. Moreover, while Gaba and Williams may believe that their tickets have similar aims, their answers told a different story. Cunningham and Dressel stressed increased discussion of diversity, inclusivity and mental health, as well as greater representation of student interests on the Board of Trustees and in administrative policy. They presented fleshed out — though perhaps flawed — proposals to achieve these aims. Gaba and Williams stressed magazine subscriptions and existing programming — what they called “the little things” — as well as new programming to help students meet staff members and other students.

While reservations remain about Cunningham’s trustworthiness, he did apologize for and correct the now-notorious misallocation of funds that occurred during his tenure on the Student Assembly. Yet, while Cunningham and Dressel’s ticket holds promise, their message can come off as confused at times. Cunningham capitalizes on his image of as the pro-Greek savior of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” presidential steering committee. At the same time, their campaign rests on the premise that the two appeal to a broad swath of campus, including, as the two mentioned during the debate, LGBTQ students and African-American students. These groups and the Greek system are by no means mutually exclusive, but a continued and uncritical defense of the Greek system, by definition, does not align with the needs of all students.

What we find most promising is their professed interest in improving student life for everyone — not their appeals to the faction of campus that arguably holds the most power out of any group. Protecting Greek interests may win over a wide enough margin of the student body that the two will get elected, but it is hardly a novel or radical idea. Greek students have the Panhellenic Council, the Interfraternity Council and the Greek Leadership Council to protect their interests. We hope that Cunningham views the Student Assembly as a platform to advocate for the needs and rights of all students, regardless of their affiliation.

While we think that the Gaba and Williams have the student body’s best interest at heart, we ultimately endorse Frank Cunningham and Julia Dressel for student body president and vice president. And, regardless of who you support, we encourage all our readers to vote.