To the Editor:
I was appalled at your editorial in Wednesday's paper regarding the legitimacy of the Student Assembly. The editorial ("For the People," The Dartmouth, April 25th) was in fact not very different from the one published around the same time last year. I disagreed with it then, but thinking that my perspective was limited to only having been inside the assembly for just two terms, I reserved my comment.
However, I think the time has come to set the record straight, and to clear up many of the misunderstandings about the SA that your editorial only helps to perpetuate.
Institutional voice is not a phenomenon that takes place overnight. Groups of people have fought for hundreds of years to have their voices recognized by those in power. So while it seems that the issue of institutional voice comes up every year, the fact is that the seeds planted today will result in a more influential assembly tomorrow. No one can expect the administration to give us the keys to Parkhurst Hall anytime soon, or for the Trustees to allow a student to vote as a member of the board. However, we must continue to fight to make those dreams of a truly influential body a reality, whether it take 10 weeks or 10 years. Just because The Dartmouth doesn't publicize every accomplishment of SA doesn't mean that it hasn't taken place.
You can probably convince many people on campus of the "pointlessness of [our] 'resolutions.'" But try talking to one of the more than 50 assembly members who collectively dedicate over a 1000 hours each term trying to make this school a better place, and we'll tell you how committed we really are to enacting change.
Do I think certain structural changes are necessary for the viability of the assembly? Of course. I feel we can make the assembly a stronger institution by narrowing our focus, by targeting on a select group of important issues for our policy discussions, by actively collecting student opinion beyond the assembly membership, and perhaps most importantly, by holding the administration accountable.
The administration isn't accountable to the assembly, but it is accountable to the student body, and by making our policy debate one in which the campus wants to be involved, we can be a more effective assembly.
That said, I think we've come a long way from about a decade ago, when the assembly was nearly dissolved, or even from a few years ago, when the assembly wasn't nearly as strong as it is today. We cannot turn away now; we can not give into the rhetoric of extremism and radical change that calls for "the end of the Student Assembly." Instead, we must make the appropriate modifications to the structure of the assembly so that the dream of an institutional voice, which is much closer now than ever to becoming a reality, is finally realized.