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The Dartmouth
June 13, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Candidates debate, give speech

In a forum colored by buffoonery, a staged assassination attempt and the announcement of a Greek write-in candidate to the presidential race, a scattered crowd watched as Student Assembly candidates for president and vice-president delivered their election platform in Collis Commonground last night.

The Board of Trustees' landmark social and residential life initiative, which alluded to the end of the single-sex Greek system, and the issue of increasing and diversifying Assembly membership dominated the discussion, but the histrionics of the two candidates from the Jack-O-Lantern humor magazine -- Roshan Shah '01 and Anna Van Meter '01 -- overshadowed the serious tone of the debate.

In addition, at the end of the forum, Drew Pluhar '00 announced his write-in candidacy for Assembly president by declaring that his Greek affiliation and his seniority at the College made him qualified to be the next president.

In their two-minute opening speech, each presidential candidate differed on the role of student voice at the College -- especially in regard to the Trustees' initiative.

Tom Leatherbee '01 emphasized his "sad realization that the Assembly has no institutional power and Dartmouth students have no guaranteed voice."

Dean Krishna '01, another presidential candidate, said through a strong, focused and representative Assembly, the administration will recognize student opinion.

Casey Sixkiller '00 said students can bring about change through vociferous discussion with the administration and Trustees, and through strong and diversified Assembly membership.

Sixkiller said he wanted to increase "individual membership and make an institutionalized group. My role would be to bring in more members from different groups....to make sure all people are represented on the Assembly and guarantee our voice is heard."

Sixkiller said, in theory the Five Principles were valid, but he hoped future implementation of social options is in addition to the current options. He also mentioned that a way to broaden membership would be to actively recruit from organizations to better represent the student body.

Leatherbee said, "Just increasing numbers doesn't necessarily increase diversity, but working harder to represent all organizations [will lead] to a sense of diversity of opinions on campus."

"To deal with the Five Principles, we need to save every bit of good in this residential system [to prevent] the Trustees' stripping the benefits of single-sex housing," Leatherbee said.

Krishna said he, too, would increase the size of the Assembly so that "all organizations should be represented and everyone should feel like they have representation on the Assembly" and encouraged more cluster discussions to achieve that end.

Shah, the Jack-O's candidate for president, joked that there should be more people named "Dorkey" to add diversity to the Assembly, referring to current Assembly Vice President Case Dorkey '99.

A question that elicited divisions among the candidates was why each thought he was the most equipped to handle the upcoming challenges the campus faces.

Leatherbee asked voters to "judge us by our records" and cited his many roles on the Assembly as the Chair of the Social Space Task Force and as Chair of Working Group Number Two, which dealt with the Trustee principle regarding social space at Dartmouth.

Sixkiller said his class seniority above the other three candidates could bring student voice to the Trustees and administration.

Krishna, a brother at Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the only Greek candidate on the official election ballot, said his affiliation and perspective as what set him apart.

Yet similarities remained prevalent, and frequently during question-answer periods Sixkiller and Krishna would embrace each other's statements and proceed to make slight alterations.

Krishna even said he was "frustrated that all the candidates [sounded] the same."

Members of the Jack-O provided a moment of comic relief during the audience question session when an "assassin" charged the podium firing a toy gun at Shah. Two bodyguards dressed in suits attempted to stop the perpetrator as Shah fled in the chaos, and cheers erupted from the audience. The would-be assassination proved a dramatic exit, for Shah never returned to field more questions.

The speeches and responses from the vice presidents varied more than those of Presidents, yet focused on a similar theme of student voice and representation although less on the Greek system.

As for the Assembly itself, vice presidential candidate Joe Brown '00 said of his vision of it was "to reach out to other campus organizations and initiate social programming and create events to shape campus choice and communication."

Brown said his role in the process would consist of "pushing my agenda at the Assembly."

Donned in blue glasses, Van Meter, the Jack-O's vice-presidential candidate, decided to forego her opening speech and hurled lollipops at the audience to "bribe" them as music blared.

Each candidate had a unique response to the Assembly's on-going efforts to gain representation on the Board of Trustees and student suffrage in Trustee elections.

Kuecker, an active member in the current Assembly, focused on making student representatives on College committees a more selective process by increasing interest in them.

Brown disagreed with the effort because he said one student could not represent the opinion of the entire campus.

"I think it's a bad idea to have one student sit on the Board ... I would not continue the effort," he said.

On a lighter note, Van Meter suggested "rather than more committees and voice, [to] get rid of all committees and have a party and do something constructive that we enjoy."

Candidates gave mixed answers as to why they had chosen the Assembly as a means to devote their efforts next year.

Kuecker cited her "worthwhile" experience with the Assembly over the past two years, including Communications Chair Winter term, and thought the Assembly does create change.

As the largest and best known organization to interact with administrators, the Assembly would be in the best position to accomplish campus goals, Brown said.

Van Meter said her devotion was with the Jack-O-Lantern and not to the Assembly, which, if elected, she would use as a resume-builder like the other candidates.