Student Assembly Senate elected over the weekend

by Alex Fredman | 10/4/16 12:34am

student_assembly_chalk_by_tiffany_zhai

Students wrote campaign messages in chalk outside South House.

by Tiffany Zhai / The Dartmouth

On Sunday, students chose classmates in their house communities to serve as grade-level representatives in the newly-formed Student Assembly Senate. Each house community elected four representatives, with one student elected per grade level. Twenty-four students were selected out of 33 candidates. In total, 794 ballots were cast.

The Allen House representatives are Eric Chen ’17, Jeff Fastow ’18, Isabelle Leonaitis ’19 and Kojo Edzie ’20. East Wheelock House elected Blair Duncan Jr. ’17, Josue Guerrero ’18, Mark Dominguez ’19 and Iris Wang ’20. The North Park House representatives are Foster Song ’17, Warren Schorr ’18, Matthew Giegerich ’19 and Luke Cuomo ’20. School House chose Austin Welch ’17, Jordan McDuffie ’20 and two write-in candidates for the ’18 and ’19 positions. South House elected Kush Desai ’17, John Glance ’18, Margaret Jones ’19 and Jamie J. Park ’20. The West House representatives are John R. Lewis III ’17, Anabel Moreno-Mendez ’19, Timothy Holman ’20 and a write-in candidate for the Class of 2018.

Students voted on the Dartmouth Pulse website from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pulse is a survey platform launched this term by Terren Klein ’17. Students had the option of selecting a listed name or writing in a name.

Certain races were more competitive than others. School House, for example, had eight first-years, but only one upperclassman, run for office. Three houses — North Park, South and West — each had four students in total run for office.

Under the new system, all Assembly spending, proposals and reports will go through the Senate. Most measures will be approved by a simple majority vote while more serious matters, such as the budget, will require a two-thirds majority. Representatives can form committees in order to address specialized topics. The newly-elected Senate will begin meeting this week and will meet every seven to 10 days.

“The whole idea is to take power away from the positions of the president and the vice-president … and give it to this representative body,” Student Assembly President Nick Harrington ’17 said.

In past years, the student body only directly elected the president and vice president; the president and vice president then personally appointed members of the Assembly and exercised direct control over decision making.

The new Senate is the brainchild of Harrington and Vice President Sally Portman ’17. The two ran for office last spring on a platform of reform with a promise to overhaul a system they said was corrupt.

“We thought [the old system] lent itself to all sorts of patronage and nepotism,” Harrington said.

In 2014, the Undergraduate Finance Committee sanctioned the Assembly for spending $1,876 on customized Patagonia sweaters for its executive members, among other instances of misusing funds.

“We wanted to create a Student Assembly that was more transparent, democratic and inclusive,” Portman said.

She added that democratizing the Assembly will bring in broader perspectives and more accountability.

Harrington said that it is possible for future presidents to undo the changes, but if successful this year, the Senate will become a permanent fixture in the Assembly.

Students who are interested in participating in the Assembly but are not elected members can become associate representatives. These members will not have voting power, but will participate in committees and planning policy proposals, Harrington said.

“Any student who is willing to put their name on a ballot must either care enough about this community or be curious enough about Student Assembly that I ultimately believe they should be part of Student Assembly,” he said.

Campaigning began at 11:59 p.m. last Wednesday night. Several first-year candidates posted videos and advertisements on the Class of 2020 Facebook page. Sixteen first-year students submitted applications, more than any other class.

Initially, Harrington did not intend for first-years to be a part of the Senate. However, he decided that he wanted first-years to have a role in the Senate because they are the “hungriest” group of students to get involved on campus.

Portman said that the relatively short 10 week terms and complications with Senate members’ D-Plans pose an institutionalized challenge to implementing the system.

She added, however, that the new house communities has helped the Assembly implement the senate system.”

Austin Welch ’17, a newly-elected representative from School House who also serves as chair of the Greek Leadership Council, said that he wants to work with the Greek system and the new Assembly in order to improve the inclusivity of social spaces on campus.

“I am very encouraged by the opportunities that the new housing system presents,” he said.