Calvin's Epiphany and Student Assembly

by Noah Riner | 11/24/03 6:00am

One of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes quotes is when Calvin says, "Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon ... everything's different." I believe that Student Assembly's achievements this term parallel Calvin's observation that significant change often goes unnoticed.

In their Nov. 21 editorial, "Stalled at the Station," The Dartmouth Editorial Board reprimanded the Student Assembly for its failure to rally students in a cause, and the subsequent failure to accomplish anything substantial. The editorial neglected that most change in college policy comes to fruition not by massive student protests, but by determined, steady contention with the status quo. The administration is a bureaucratic entity and as such must be confronted systematically. Student Assembly has an invaluable role in serving students because of the Assembly's ability to approach the administration from this angle. Change which is effected in this systematic way is often not as fast as that effected by more volatile means, however, by approaching campus issues methodically, Student Assembly serves as the foundation for regular, steady change. One of the Assembly's greatest strengths is its ability to deal with college administrators on their terms.

Even with the constraints placed upon us by the College's bureaucratic administration, Student Assembly has accomplished a great deal this term in both planning and executing initiatives.

The Assembly has a commitment to inform students of college policy and deal with issues which affect our daily lives. This term, the Assembly finalized negotiations with the Collegiate Readership Program, providing hundreds of free newspapers to the student body. Our Privacy Taskforce has begun to document areas of concern for student privacy, such as college records of all blitzes sent and video recording of students. We have worked with the Pavilion to try to raise awareness about its services for students with special dietary needs. Additionally, Assembly members have attended town meetings and initiated efforts to improve Dartmouth's often tense relations with the town of Hanover.

The Assembly is dedicated to representing accurately students' views. The Visions project came to completion this term as thousands of student responses were tabulated in an effort to identify students' concerns. Additionally, our mascot polling efforts were entirely successful. It was never the Assembly's intention to force a mascot upon students; the goal was rather merely to find out if there was any consensus among students as to their mascot preference. The Assembly achieved this goal and has forwarded the statistics to the administration and the Board of Trustees.

The Assembly is working to improve the quality of life for students. A new tradition was begun this year with a campus-wide tailgating party before the Homecoming football game. Also, the Kresge gym expansion project is being pursued actively. Currently we are awaiting the cost estimates for renovation. In response to numerous allegations that authorities used excessive force on students during the homecoming weekend, the Assembly met with the head of Safety and Security and initiated a dialogue to raise campus awareness on the issue.

Finally, this term marked an important phase-shift for Student Assembly. Instead of dealing with problems after they occur, Student Assembly has become proactive in its approach to improving the quality of students' life. This term, the Assembly has begun to draft a preliminary Students' Bill of Rights, clearly stating our basic rights guaranteed by the administration such as the right to free speech, privacy and freedom from coercion and the abusive use of force. By becoming proactive in shaping the College's policies, Student Assembly is seeking to address problems before they occur.

Student Assembly has been engaged in much more this term than merely formulating "noble ideas" as the editorial claimed. The Assembly has accomplished tangible results this term and has positioned itself to do even more next term. I realize it is much easier to criticize than to engage. I realize that change isn't always easy to see as it occurs. However, I hope in the future that The Dartmouth will not find it sufficient merely to criticize obvious hardships Student Assembly must deal with; next time I hope that The Dartmouth will take the higher ground and join Student Assembly in fighting to improve the quality of life for Dartmouth students.