If One Person Doesn't Like Someone...

by Dave Gacioch | 6/2/98 5:00am

Almost three years ago, the 1999 Class Council elected Frode Eilertsen to be its class president. Since then, the '99 Council has reelected Eilertsen as its president, and the entire campus has determined that he should serve as Student Assembly president. Not a shabby record -- for three years, significant portions of the student body have decided that Frode would best serve to represent their concerns to the administration.

This January, the Coed Fraternity Sorority Council determined that the best person to represent the more than one-half of upperclass students at Dartmouth who are CFS-affiliated was John Muckle '99. In April, the Ivy Council, the umbrella organization for the Ivy League student governments, decided that Scott Jacobs '99 was the best individual to serve as its president, and later in the month, the student body of Dartmouth voted overwhelmingly that Case Dorkey '99 should serve as the Assembly's executive vice president.

You might ask why I am telling you all of this. It is obvious that these four individuals have all served as distinguished student leaders many times over. But they hold another distinction in common: Palaeopitus decided that they weren't worthy of membership.

Ever heard of Palaeopitus? It's the elite senior society to which the president and the dean of the College turn for advice on student issues. It's composed of 20 members -- the senior class president, the Assembly president, the president of the Dartmouth, the intern to the president of the College and 16 at-large members -- who have served as campus leaders and given back to the College community during their student careers. Like other senior societies, the at-large members of Palaeopitus are tapped during their junior spring term after being selected for membership by the graduating society members.

In Palaeopitus, membership decisions are reached through group consensus. Member Elizabeth Sumida '98 put it best in these pages last Friday when she said, "If one person in the organization doesn't like someone, they (sic) don't get selected" ["Palaeopitus selects from Class of 1999," The Dartmouth, May 29].

Let me preface these remarks by saying that I have nothing but the utmost respect for both the current members of Palaeopitus and the recently-selected '99 class. The '98s were all distinguished and dedicated campus leaders and the '99s are clearly cut of the same cloth. I find no fault with who was picked but much with who was not.

You would be hard-pressed to introduce me to a Dartmouth student who has given more back to the College and his fellow students than has Case Dorkey. Through his first three years at Dartmouth, Dorkey has consistently sacrificed sleep (I know, we all do, but he has taken it to a whole new level), academic success and personal comfort to do the work of the student body. He has represented us on almost every major College committee and task force, has served as a class officer and as CFS intern and will serve next year as executive vice president of the Assembly after receiving more than 600 votes. He has helped to keep our dining costs under control, has fought to make the Trustees listen to student pleas for more social space and been among the foremost student leaders in dealing with issues of community at Dartmouth. Yet Palaeopitus has determined that Case should not advise the president and dean of the College with them.

During the past three years, Scott Jacobs has been a strong advocate for expanded women's resources on campus. He founded the Eating Disorder Peer Advisors and is currently spearheading the first annual Ivy League Leadership Summit. Over 200 students last spring thought that Jacobs should be the president of the Assembly, but the 20 students on Palaeopitus decided that he, too, was not worthy of serving among their number.

Similarly, the campus or significant segments thereof have repeatedly confirmed that Eilertsen and John Muckle are to represent them to the president and the dean of the College, but Palaeopitus has decided that it knows better.

The purpose of this discourse is not to find fault with the '98 Palaeopitus class for leaving these qualified and distinguished leaders out of the fold. After all, it seems a near impossible task to divine from within each class those 20 who are most deserving of membership. Rather, it is to point out that this year's specific circumstances are symptomatic of the greater problem of leaving student advocacy to a self-selecting, exclusive body. That a group of students can claim to give advice to the administration on behalf of the student body, while not admitting into its ranks any campus leader who is not "liked" by just one member of its current class is, in my mind, repugnant to the ideal of student leadership. Do we not want our leaders and elected representatives to take tough stands on tough issues? If so, then we must change the structure of a Palaeopitus which currently threatens to disenfranchise one for each of those stands. Who knows why these or any other campus leaders were not tapped? The important part is that Palaeopitus, in not selecting them, proclaimed that it knew better than did the rest of us who should advise the administration -- a slope far too slippery down which to proceed any further.

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