Novack Party aims to bring 'normal students' to SA
Every year seems to have its dark horse candidate. In years past, the Jack-o-Lantern humor publication consistently ran a joke contender. This year's dark horse, the first candidate in recent years to run representing a designated political party, is the Novack Party's Michael Valmonte '06.
Despite his humorous demeanor and unconventional campaign platform, Student Assembly Candidate Valmonte is just as serious about elections as the rest of the candidates, according to Eugene Oh '06, one of Valmonte's campaign managers.
"People can perceive it as a joke, but he is serious about running," Oh said.
Valmonte entered the race later than the other candidates, but he quickly gained speed with the aid of numerous supporters and the Novack Party.
The idea of the Novack Party first started last year, when student employee Anna Zelinsky '06 and others decided that Novack Cafe represents a microcosm of Dartmouth College, Zelinsky explained.
"It is a place where all social groups, and all races mingle," Valmonte said.
With Assembly elections approaching, the Novack Party decided it might be appropriate to have a candidate who "blends into the mix," and who is not the epitome of "the super motivated Dartmouth student," Zelinsky said. Valmonte, an employee at the Novack Cafe who works an average of 20 hours per week, fit the profile and agreed to represent the party.
"All people running are very similar. We thought it would be fun to have someone average to run," she added.
While Zelinsky agreed that there is a humor aspect behind the whole endeavor, "the ideas behind it are quite serious."
"Novack isn't necessarily based on the physical premise of Novack, but more so on the metaphorical implications that the name carries," Samuel Carrion '07, another supporter and member of the party, said.
When asked about his agenda during the public debate for the presidency on Thursday, April 29, Valmonte walked up to the podium only to say that his platform was "having no platform," after which he walked back to his seat.
Valmonte explained that he doesn't have an agenda because it only makes sense to address issues as they come." He is not poking fun of the role that Student Assembly plays so much as he is mocking the entire election process, he said.
"This is not the election for the President of the United States, and we are not going to war. I think it is important to differentiate between these two types of politics," he added.
Janos Marton '04, currently student body president, echoed Valmonte's words by saying that while the candidates have elaborate agendas, in reality a lot of the issues that will come up during their time in office are not even on their radar screens right now.
"Everyone is talking about improving communication, for example, and they have to say these things, because they are running, but I will have to disagree. Organizations do meet on regular basis in assemblies." Marton said.
Despite the "no platform" slogan, Valmonte said he does care about campus issues, and that he became serious about running after attending the Assembly election panel event on Tuesday, April 13.
"When I walked into the room, I just looked around, and what I saw were a couple of Asians -- everyone else was white," Valmonte expressed his concern about diversity issues and minorities' representation.
"The problem with politics at Dartmouth is that it seems to be very exclusive, and those involved tend to keep the rest of the students in the dark about what exactly is going on with school politics. Valmonte is hoping to get the average student involved in politics one step at a time, and for him, that meant running for president and getting things done first hand," Carrion said.
Other candidates viewed the situation differently. Dave Wolkoff '05, an Assembly presidential contender, said that Valmonte's attitude attests to one of the problems that needed to be fixed.
"It only shows that people are not taking the election, and SA, in general, seriously," Wolkoff said.
Julia Hildreth '05, who is also running for the presidency, refrained from commenting on Valmonte's campaign style, but clarified that Marton did not endorse Valmonte but only "encouraged him to run."
Marton later confirmed that he offered his help to any candidate who had sought his support and guidance, including Valmonte. Marton also said that he would not endorse anyone.
In addition to the candidates themselves, some students said they perceive Valmonte's participation as a joke.
During the debate, Valmonte showed up with an entourage, repeatedly chanting "Novack Party." Curtis Beasley '06 also accompanied Valmonte, posing as his personal bodyguard, wearing sunglasses, a suit and a headset microphone off the corner of his mouth.