Trustees discuss announcement plans

by Deborah Bernstein | 11/5/99 6:00am

While the date for the revelation of the steering committee's recommendations to the Board of Trustees on its Student Life Initiative is now fairly certain, debate on how the announcements will be made and discussed is just beginning.

College President James Wright's Wednesday night meeting with student leaders announced the report's release date -- the week of January 10, 2000 -- but it also began what will be substantial discussion surrounding the methods of dissemination and debate of the report.

Student leaders have expressed desire for the release to be "personal," while at the same time, questions have arisen over whether the Student Assembly should facilitate discussions on the report following its release.

Both steering committee co-chair Trustee Susan Dentzer '77 and Board of Trustees Chair William H. King '63 said the steering committee and Board are just beginning discussion on how the recommendations will be released.

King said both groups are following one general requirement: they must make sure, he said, "the report is made available to everyone interested as quickly as possible and simultaneously."

King said the release will not be timed to favor one sector of the community over others.

The Board's chair would not say whether the introduction of discussion before the committee's announcement is reaction to criticism of the way the Initiative was first introduced to the College, saying only what matters is the future of the Five Principles.

King said "aside from the pros and cons of the way the Initiative came out last winter, what we have done now is far, far beyond that."

King said the "foreseeable future" is important now, and that no matter how the report is released and discussed, the plan will be "designed to make sure that it's a free table and that everyone sits down at the table."

Suggestions from student leaders meeting with Wright Wednesday -- including executives from the Assembly, Class Councils, Coed Fraternity Sorority Council, and affinity organizations -- ranged from putting the report on the web to a town meeting broadcast live on Dartmouth Television.

Dentzer said while the committee is focused on compiling its report, it is trying to get feedback from the College community on the best way to present its proposal so "everyone can digest it effectively."

She said the committee recognizes that everyone in the Dartmouth community is going to want to read the report instantly and that the web is an effective way of reaching students.

Dentzer said questions being discussed include whether students will read the report in its entirety and how to time discussions around releasing the report.

Representatives from the organizations that met with Wright Wednesday stressed personal interaction between students and the committee in announcing the proposals.

Jaimie Paul '00, the CFSC president, stressed the need for the release of the report to be personal, clear and outreaching.

She said HB mailings are not effective. The committee has to bring the report to homes, so that students are "not just reading it casually by the HB recycling bin."

Student Assembly Vice President Margaret Kuecker '01 said a town meeting should be part of the announcement, with a "good opportunity for the rest of the process to be laid out."

She said a "mechanism for community members to respond" must be outlined with the release of the report.

"Everyone in the Dartmouth community must feel like they are being directly spoken to when the report comes out," Palaeopitus member Ben Berk '00 said about the report's release.

Discussion and debate

In addition to the manner of the proposal's dissemination, how it will be discussed is also under consideration by community members.

Opinions of the student leaders Wright assembled were divided about whether the Assembly should serve as the coordinator for community discussion that the steering committee has said will follow its proposal to the Board of Trustees.

The actual decisions about how to implement change by the Board will not come until April 2000.

"We expect there will be great deal of discussion by all interested groups of campus," King told The Dartmouth yesterday.

Assembly President Dean Krishna '01 said as the College's representative body, the Assembly should organize discussions.

Kuecker said the Assembly is the only organization charged with the responsibility of representing the entire student body and the group with the funds, staff and connections to organize effective, encompassing dialogues.

Whether the Assembly will be voting to endorse or condemn the actual content of the proposal to the Trustees has not been decided yet, Krishna said.

Paul said she has broached the subject of Palaeopitus -- the senior society that advises the College president and dean-- possibly being the group to facilitate campus discussions, since she joined others in her concern that the Assembly is not viewed as representative by the student body.

That stigma, she said, could keep students from engaging in forums the Assembly organizes.

Paul said Palaeopitus members have leadership experience at the College and while they have in the past interacted as a group with administrators, proposal discussions could offer representatives a chance to work with students.

Berk, too, said he thinks Palaeopitus could begin to think about submitting a proposal to the president on how discussions in the Winter term could work.

He said while Palaeopitus is not a representative body, its members have four years' experience with how the College works.

Writing the report

No matter what the format, discussion on the proposal will begin in the Winter term, following the report's presentation. Originally the committee hoped to present its conclusions by the end of Fall term but Dentzer said the desire to avoid presenting the report when the campus was largely absent for winter break pushed the presentation into January.

King said the Board of Trustees has maintained the philosophy of making sure the committee has sufficient time and does not feel rushed throughout the process.

Dentzer said committee co-chair Trustee Peter Fahey '68 and she are coordinating the proposal creation.

She said they are trying to draw on "voluminous notes of committee members" and written material members have prepared as well as distilling decisions from the last few meetings into the report.

Dentzer said the Trustees will receive the report but will likely not have met to discuss it as a group when it is presented to the community.

The steering committee is officially known as the Committee on the Student Life Initiative.