Student Assembly will vote on whether to confirm Dari Seo '16 as VP

by Katie Rafter | 9/16/15 6:14pm

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The general Assembly will vote on whether to confirm Dari Seo ’16 as Student Assembly vice president.

by Kate Herrington / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Student Assembly will discuss the confirmation of its new vice president over the next two weeks, Assembly president Frank Cunningham ’16 said. Cunningham announced in June that he was nominating Dari Seo ’16 as vice president, immediately following the resignation of then-vice president-elect Julia Dressel ’17.

Kate Herrington

The general Assembly will vote on whether to confirm Dari Seo ’16 as Student Assembly vice president.

Kate Herrington

The general Assembly will vote on whether to confirm Dari Seo ’16 as Student Assembly vice president.

According to the Student Assembly constitution, a nominee must be approved by two thirds of the General Assembly when there is a vacancy in the post of vice president.

Dressel, who was elected with Cunningham in last April under the #wecantstop campaign, wrote in a campus-wide email that she was unable to commit herself to the team, and “Dartmouth deserves a leader that can fully commit her or himself.”

Dressel has not commented on her resignation since her email three months ago. She did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The Assembly has faced a number of challenges over the past year. In fall 2014, the Assembly was sanctioned by the Undergraduate Finance Committee for misuse of funds, including the spending of $1,876 on customized Patagonia jackets for 23 Assembly executives and $966 on an invite-only lunch to discuss sexual assault prevention.

In May, a video of Cunningham yelling at a female student protesting outside Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority’s annual Derby event was posted on YouTube. The video had over 20,000 views as of press time. Following the incident, a petition calling for his resignation received more than 500 signatures, though not all signatures were from College students. Cunningham then sent a campus-wide email apologizing for approaching the female student in a “threatening” manner.

Cunningham said that Seo’s confirmation is the first item on the Assembly’s agenda for the fall term, so the Assembly can move on to other points in its agenda.

“It’s critical that we get an Assembly together and they start to understand what Student Assembly does as well as why it’s so important that [Seo] is confirmed as vice president,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said that he believes Seo will be confirmed as vice president.

“I think the question is why wouldn’t he be — because [Seo] is a phenomenal human being,” he said.

Cunningham said that he respected Dressel’s decision to step down. He said his next move after her resignation was to determine what was best for the College, and he sought to find a candidate who represents a host of demographics on campus and embodies Dartmouth’s values. Cunningham and Dressel pledged during their campaign to unite all corners of campus around a shared mission.

Seo and Cunningham are both members of Alpha Delta fraternity, which was derecognized last spring. Cunningham said that despite their common affiliation with the organization, he believes he and Seo can still reach a wide range of students on campus, as they are also members of several other different campus organizations.

“The biggest thing about me and [Seo] and AD is that we understand that it’s a brotherhood, but it’s not our only community,” he said.

Seo is a member of several other groups on campus, including the men’s club soccer and the Korean Student Association. He is also an undergraduate advisor.

“I want to be able to connect different communities on campus and bring the students together, and I think I’ll have the opportunity to do so,” Seo said.

Seo appeared in an advertisement for Cunningham and Dressel’s spring election campaign. In the video, he praises both Dressel and Cunningham.

“[Cunningham] and [Dressel] are the leaders we need, the leaders to rebuild our school — make it our home, make it our Dartmouth,” he said.

Cunningham said that he considered and spoke to other candidates.

“When I spoke to [Seo], there was something that just clicked,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham declined to name the other students he considered for the post. He noted in an electronic message that all other students declined the position because they were concerned about the public nature of the post. He also wrote that he considered students from a variety of backgrounds and campus communities.

A committee of representatives of the student body will vote on Seo’s confirmation. Cunningham said he believes that the confirmation process is fair.

Seo said that he does not know how the student body will respond if he is confirmed as vice president. He said that a big difference is that he does not need to sell himself.

“I’ll be in a position from the very beginning where I have to act — I hope that my actions will speak for themselves,” he said.

Seo has had previous leadership experience on the Assembly and Class Council — he served as the president of the Class of 2016 in the 2013-2014 academic year.

“I feel like being a senior, you have the choice of just chilling and doing nothing, or actually taking responsibility and making an impact,” Seo said.

2016 Class Council president Daniel Reitsch ’16, who succeeded Seo as president in 2014, said working with a friend can often make for a smoother transition.

“It all comes down to not who you are or how you’re connected — it’s all about what kind of job you’re going to do,” he said.

Cunningham said that he and Seo plan to keep working on the platform on which he ran with Dressel, but they have made some changes and are working to decide on goals for the year.

Seo said they spoke throughout the summer about potential plans.

“We wanted to start, not only brainstorming, but also structuring what we want to do, and understanding what the values and goals of Student Assembly should be,” he said.

Jake Gaba ’16, who ran for Student Assembly president against Cunningham, said that he approves of Seo as vice president. He noted that Yik Yak was very supportive of Seo last year.

He said that the Assembly should follow the rules — if general Assembly must approve of the president’s appointment, then that is what should happen, he said.

Gaba said Cunningham did not reach out to him or Penelope Williams ’16, who ran for vice president alongside Gaba, when Dressel stepped down.

Williams said that she does not think she should have been approached, because Cunningham should choose the candidate with whom he will work best, as long as that person cares about the College and its student body.

She said that she questions the fairness of having an un-elected vice president, but added that she thinks many students would have voted for Seo if he had run.

“I have heard from several people I know that [Seo] is the person that they would have chosen anyway,” she said.

Garrison Roe ’18, who serves as co-chair of the Assembly’s financial oversight committee and Student Assembly delegate to the Undergraduate Finance Committee, said he doesn’t know Seo very well. The interactions that he has had with him so far have been positive, he said.

“It seems like he fits the mold of a Student Assembly vice president quite well, as he always appears energetic and ready to get involved with Student Assembly initiatives, and I trust that if [Cunningham] thinks he will make a suitable vice president, then the Student Assembly will be very effective under his leadership,” he said.

John Damianos ’16, a member of the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault and an undergraduate advisor, signed the petition last year calling for Cunningham’s resignation. He said that the Assembly is under intense scrutiny, but he noted that additional attention could help them ensure they accomplish their goals.

Damianos said Seo’s work as a UGA demonstrates his dedication to the health and safety of students.

“[Cunningham] had faith in himself that he could overcome all the things in the past, and he decided to take a different approach as president. And I think [Seo] can help him and even keep him in check if he does see something questionable,” Damianos said.

UFC chair Carolyn Parrish ’16 said that she believes that Cunningham chose a candidate in which he is confident. She expressed a cautious optimism for the Assembly’s spending habits this year — although she said the Assembly has had an inconsistent presence on UFC, she hopes that the Assembly will have a stronger voice on the committee.

“I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and believe that he thinks that, after [Dressel] resigning, [Seo] will be the best vice president, and they will work really hard to make sure that no slip-ups happen in terms of the way that they use their money,” she said.

2017 Class Council president Elisabeth Schricker ’17 said that while she’s disappointed with the conduct that has become the reputation of the Assembly, students should not disregard the importance of the organization.

“Those calling for the abolition of SA are effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” she said.

Palaeopitus Senior Society moderator Robert Scales ’16 declined to comment since Cunningham is a Palaeop member.