The Student Assembly's primary purpose is to rally the student body behind a cause. They demonstrated this power in working to preserve the College's swim team over interim last December. A disappointing lack of this type of focused campaign has plagued the Assembly's agenda this term, resulting in few substantial accomplishments to the benefit of Dartmouth's students.
The conduct and content of meetings this fall reflects this failure. One meeting was outright cancelled, another featured Assembly President Janos Marton '04 "kegstanding" at a Keggy appearance. The Assembly occupied its time with noble ideas, such as a condemnation of the USA PATRIOT Act and a Student Bill of Rights, but those ideas hold no hope of tangible impact. Resolutions with little or no effect on the student body at large -- such as a resolution on field rushing at sporting events -- round out a lackluster term for the Assembly.
To its credit, the Assembly did make an extensive effort to gather student opinion on the mascot issue and has identified several valuable goals, including appointing a younger trustee and improving the Kresge Fitness Center. However, even these efforts are diffuse, constituting primarily the formation of numerous committees with vague goals.
The Assembly needs to identify specific problems affecting the majority of the student body and target its energies toward rallying student support behind them. The expansion of gym facilities, improving the availability of physicians at Dick's House and bolstering support for athletics are all stated objectives of the Assembly that would benefit more from concentrated campaigns than they would from additional bureaucracy. Yet despite widespread student interest in these issues, no petitions circulate to garner student signatures in support of expansion of gym facilities, no posters hang in Food Court decrying lack of access to doctors and few efforts have been made to improve campus advertisement of sporting events. Mass blitzes -- often deleted as soon as they are received -- are simply not enough to motivate students. This weekend the swim team will have their first and only home meets, yet the Assembly has done nothing to promote attendance at a sporting event they helped enable.
The Student Assembly needs to remember that it is one thing for the administration to ignore the findings of subcommittees and quite another for it to squelch the outcry of thousands. Through its excessive bureaucracy and meaningless publicity stunts, the Assembly has forgotten that though it speaks for the students, change happens when it can rally the students to speak for themselves.