Assembly works to gain legitimacy

by Erin Loback | 5/28/96 5:00am

This year's Student Assembly has had a quieter year than most, concentrating on regaining legitimacy rather than arguing over political statements.

For the most part, the Assembly did succeed in refining its profile while working toward its goals, its productivity marred only by attendance problems.

Legitimacy

The Assembly "has no legitimacy within the administration it is attempting to influence and no credibility with the students it purports to represent," Rich wrote in a column in The Dartmouth more than one year ago.

But under a revised constitution and with fresh faces, Assembly members have worked well together, Vice President of Communications Jonah Sonnenborn '99 said.

Sonnenborn said one of the highlights of this year is "the renewed image of the Assembly, because in years past it was dysfunctional with infighting."

"This year it worked together and definitely got things done," he said.

Rich said one of his personal highlights was "being able to take an organization that I thought -- and many people on campus thought -- was useless and ineffective and trying to make it an influential body and a body that provided students with the kind of representation and service they deserved."

"I think we have done a good job of providing some legitimacy to the Assembly with its productivity," Rich said. "That needs to continue in the next few years if the Assembly is going to gain a permanent structure in the decision-making process of the College."

Brandon del Pozo '96, who ran against Rich in last spring's student elections, said the Assembly has gained legitimacy "but only in the narrow scope of what it is focused on -- that is services."

"They have recovered their legitimacy but only by sacrificing the realm of their legitimacy," Del Pozo said. "Past assemblies have wanted to speak with legitimacy on a very wide range of topics from services to moral issues to academic issues and have failed to do so."

"This year's Assembly narrowed the range of things it tried to speak on but was more effective in speaking on those things," he explained.

Reacting to campus events

Last year, during his campaign, Rich said the Assembly should react more strongly to campus events, and Assembly Vice President Kelii Opulauoho '96 said the Assembly should do more to create a comfortable environment for all students.

The past year's incidents of intolerance gave the Assembly an opportunity to do both.

The Assembly sponsored a "town meeting" during Winter term so students could discuss the events surrounding the racist scrawlings left on students' doors in the Choates cluster and an off-campus apartment.

"We saw the student body get together, we got people psyched up to do something and we don't want it to die," Sonnenborn said. "I don't know if it is part of the jurisdiction of the Assembly to get people active in a cause, but it is a good thing."

This month the Assembly unanimously passed a resolution asking the administration to reconsider its decision not to allow Native Americans at Dartmouth to use the Green for its annual pow-wow.

The Assembly also passed a resolution to send letters to the entire Faculty of Arts and Sciences asking them to preserve the education department, which the Social Science Council recommended be abolished.

In addition, the Assembly sponsored a candlelight vigil last fall to address recent student suicides.

Del Pozo said while the Assembly did attempt to address broader campus issues, it could have come out "stronger on incidents that were clearly wrong."

"I think students are looking for a consolidated voice on certain issues -- a flag bearer when times get tough," he said. "No one thinks of turning to [the Assembly] for guidance, advice or leadership."

Assembly President-elect Jon Heavey '97 said this year's Assembly had no "glaring shortcomings."

"There has been a lot of criticism of the Student Assembly not dealing with ideological notions," Heavey said. "That is a vague thing where you need to take care of the issues one at a time."

Heavey said some students have criticized the Assembly's political inaction.

"I think that is the word of mouth around campus," he said. "But I think people need to look at the things they have done."

For example, Heavey cited the Assembly's work to support the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program.

"Things like the town meeting got glossed over behind things that were visible from day to day, like the BlitzMail computers," Heavey said.

Campaign promises

Some of Rich's campaign goals were achieved without any work at all.

One plank in Rich's platform was his opposition to all-freshman dorms, which many believed would be instituted after the recommendation of the Committee on the First Year Experience, chaired by Dean of the College Lee Pelton.

Instead the College is making the East Wheelock cluster a "Supercluster," which will have members of all classes.

Rich said during his campaign he would fight to preserve the need blind admissions policy. The Assembly never addressed this policy, because the College seemed dedicated to it.

Opulauoho's stated support for moving the Women's Resource Center from the Choates Residence Hall cluster to a more central location "never came up at all," Rich told The Dartmouth in a previous interview.

But the Assembly followed up on Rich's plan to increase student services, in addition to his plans for taking a more active part in student life issues, after a relatively inactive Fall term.

Student Services

Part of Rich's platform was his intent to increase student services.

And, as Del Pozo said, "the Student Assembly did do well service wise," by addressing some student needs.

The Assembly published its annual course guide on-line, saving $12,000 over the old printed version. They also sent out evaluations for 210 Spring term classes to be included in the course guide.

The Assembly delivered "Student Advantage" discount cards to every students Hinman Box and installed a change machine in the Collis Center.The student life committee has been working this term on getting soap dispensers in residence hall bathrooms and putting intra-campus phones on the first floor of each residence hall.

The student services committee continued to install new BlitzMail computers around campus and to sponsor buses to Boston and New York for vacations.

Last week the Assembly announced it would offer new mailing services to students. Together with a student-run company, the Assembly is offering a package pick-up and delivery service for the end of the term.

The Assembly also worked with the Hinman post office to insure the continued delivery of Federal Express packages and extend the post office's hours.

The student services committee, along with the student organizations committee, is creating a booklet of student activities to inform students of campus opportunities.

Also to increase communication with students, the Assembly instituted office hours and resolved to hold a "town meeting" where students could air their concerns each term. But no students attended the town meeting held last night.

Rich said the Assembly has also started the production of a new version of the "Over the Hill" facebook for next year.

The academic affairs committee also researched the Non-Recording Option and has plans for Fall term to meet with professors in the economics department to discuss placing the option on more courses within the department.

The Assembly published a pamphlet at the beginning of the term highlighting its accomplishments thus far and its goals for the spring. Sonnenborn said the Assembly will hopefully continue to put out brochures each term.

The Assembly addressed the issue of academic advising, which neither Rich nor Opulauoho discussed extensively during their campaigns.

The ad hoc committee on pre-major advising, chaired by Chris Swift '97, continued the work begun Winter term with Education Professor Andrew Garrod, chair of the Committee on Student Life.

The ad hoc committee created and distributed surveys to students as well as conducted more in-depth interviews to assess student and faculty views on the current system of pre-major advising.

The Assembly also instigated a number of research activities for potential projects.

Attendance

But, as in years past, when resolutions were often tabled because the Assembly lacked a quorum, the Assembly still has attendance problems.

An amendment mandating attendance has twice failed to be voted on because too few members were present to pass the resolution.

At tonight's final meeting of the term, the Assembly will again try to vote on the resolution to tighten the rules governing membership attendance. The resolution has been debated for seven weeks.

The resolution calls for members to lose their voting privileges after missing a combination of three general or committee meetings. No absences from general meetings will be excused.

The attendance resolution, sponsored by Case Dorkey '99 and Ben Hill '98, has been revamped several times to appease two views on attendance held by Assembly members.

Dorkey said the resolution in its latest form is a compromise that he hopes will still appeal to members on either side of the issue.

At last week's meeting, Rich urged all members who disagreed with the resolution to talk to Dorkey so an agreement could be reached and the resolution could be passed.

The year ahead

Assembly President-elect Jon Heavey '97 nominated his choices for executive committee positions at his second organizational meeting last night and the Assembly approved the nominations by a majority vote.

The new vice president of administrative and faculty relations will be Theresa Ellis '97, vice president of student life will be Phil Lord '97, Sarah Cho '97 will be vice president of academic affairs, Jonah Sonnenborn '99 will be vice president of communications and the new vice president of student organizations will be Sophia Delano '98.

At its meeting last week, the Assembly discussed whether it should keep the currently inactive community service committee. Heavey last night showed his support to continue the committee when he appointed Unai Monte-Irueste '98 to chair the committee for next year.

Summer chair of the Assembly will be Hill and vice chair will be Simone Swink '98.

Opulauoho could not be reached for comment.

Charles Davant contributed to this article.

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