Approve Assembly Reform

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 5/18/95 5:00am

TheStudent Assembly should pass the recommendations of the Student Assembly External Review Committee as a vital first step in bringing some legitimacy back to student government at Dartmouth.

The committee's well-thought out and well-researched report, released Tuesday, is properly titled "Undergraduate Council: Toward a More Responsible Student Government." The word "Assembly" to students is synonymous with "infighting" and "incompetency." Changing the name would be a symbolic break from the Assembly's troubled past.

But the recommendations are about more than just a name change -- they address several fundamental problems that have plagued the Assembly for years. If implemented, the recommendations should provide the basis for a student government that actually serves students, instead of its members.

Many of the report's recommendations are aimed at dramatically changing the composition of the organization. Undergraduates currently elect 24 students each spring, and any student who attends three meetings can join the Assembly.

This structure leads to Assembly members who have no constituency and an Assembly without legitimacy or a student mandate. Under the new system, each class would elect eight representatives and the freshman class would chose its 10 representatives by residential clusters. An additional 16 seats would be filled by students or organizations who petition for seats.

This proposal is clearly an improvement from the current system. Motivated students and organizations can gain admission to the council, and students who are elected would have some sort of constituency to whom they would report.

Many of the committee's recommendations call for a desperately needed restructuring of the Assembly. The council's president and vice president, who would run on a ticket, would have more power. Giving the leaders more power would fix a fundamental problem within the Assembly -- governments cannot function efficiently unless their leaders have significant power.

The review group also called for seven vice presidents to head the council's committees. The vice presidents would be appointed by the president with the approval of the general council. Each general council member would be able to serve on only one committee.

These structural changes would give the council more focus and also give the elected leaders more control over the direction of the organization.

Finally, the council would have a non-elected parliamentarian to control the general meetings. This student should reduce infighting and allow the council to actually debate issues by preventing discussion from degenerating into petty bickering.

The Assembly needs to change soon. The students do not respect the Assembly, the faculty does not respect the Assembly and the administration does not respect the Assembly.

It is important to note, however, that all of the Assembly's problems will not be solved by the flick of a pen. People are still people, and there will still be students who are more interested in playing politician than in serving the student body.

But the recommendations are a major step forward. They give student government a chance to survive and once again serve the students.

The Dartmouth wholeheartedly endorses the Student Assembly External Review Committee's recommendations, and strongly urges the general Assembly to approve the recommendations.

To not pass the recommendations would be foolish.