Miranda releases student voice report
If ever the tone of Jorge Miranda's presidency was in question, it has become apparent now -- he believes the Student Assembly should be at once conciliatory and activist in its efforts to increase student voice on campus.
With the release last night of a personal report entitled "The State of Student Involvement," Miranda '01 is working toward his campaign promise of institutionalizing student voice at the College, and he is doing so with all the tact of a seasoned student representative.
The report requests what many Assembly resolutions have requested in the past --increased student involvement in College decision-making. But far from the rancorous attitudes that have sometimes characterized historical Assembly claims, this report goes out of its way to acknowledge specific individuals and the extent to which students are already involved with the administration.
"There've been a lot of reports on student involvement, but there's never been one that goes into what we do have," Miranda said. "Everything we ask for is reasonable. We don't ask for a student on the Board of Trustees, for example."
As a report directly from the Assembly president that did not go through any ratification channels it is unprecedented. Past Assembly presidents have attempted to voice only opinions of the Assembly or the student body as a whole.
"Because it's not an official document, I was able to express the way I feel and the reason things need to change," he said. "It's the opinions of many people, but it's based on my own experiences."
Miranda plans to send copies of the report to administrators and Trustees later this week.
"I think a lot of the recommendations aren't new, but the way it's presented is. So I hope that will make a difference," Miranda said in an interview after last night's weekly Assembly meeting.
At the meeting, the report was met with little reaction. Miranda announced and distributed copies at the end of the Assembly's session, and only a few students had logistical questions.
The 20-page report begins by addressing current problems in student-administration relations. Miranda says that contrary to existing popular opinion, students do have a lot of interaction "that students at other campuses would dream of."
"The era of these myths is over," the report states.
Above all, the report emphasizes that an institutional voice for students is not just desirable, but necessary. Only under a cooperative relationship, Miranda argues, will student frustration give way to effectiveness.
While he makes a point to criticize the combative nature of past Assemblies, Miranda argues that current student disillusionment with the College exists for a reason, and that the administration must make changes.
Much of the report is dedicated to assessing the role of students on College committees -- a role that has expanded in the last several years to place students at the center of where most policy decisions are made on campus.
Miranda makes the case that the more students on official committees the better. He says in some cases, students should even head them.
"Change at Dartmouth most often happens in committees and students have a presence here that cannot be denied," the report says.
Notably, Miranda calls for an expanded Assembly role in appointing students to those committees.
Miranda also asks that the College give more credit to the Assembly when it has worked closely on projects, and that the administration give the Assembly advance notice and time to respond to major decisions.
The report criticizes both College President James Wrights' sudden announcement two weeks ago that there will be no major changes to the D-Plan and the Trustees' Five Principles announcement of Feb. 1999.
But Miranda also stresses that since the time of the initial announcement, the Initiative has allowed for a number of informal interactions that, he says, increased student involvement.
Miranda also acknowledges the limitations of a close Assembly-administration relationship.
"Student Assembly and administrators must have a good working relationship, but in the end, SA represents students," the reports says.
Miranda also emphasizes the difference between student opinion as a priority and student opinion as a consideration.
"When you make something a priority, you commit to it and sacrifice some things for the sake of this commitment," he writes.
And while the report does indeed request that the Trustees make themselves more accessible to students and admit a young alumnus to the Board, Miranda raises the possibility that the Assembly itself would be willing to change "if that will increase the influence that students will have."
Also at last night's Assembly meeting, the body unanimously passed a resolution allocating $3,000 for three campus-unifying events. This is the second consecutive year that the Assembly has sponsored such programming.
In addition, Meg Smoot '01, the assistant to the Assembly president, announced her resignation from that position.
" I had a long talk about it with Jorge over the weekend and we decided that the position would be better fulfilled by somebody younger," she told the Assembly.
Smoot did not elaborate on her decision.