In a recent letter to the editor ("SA Shouldn't Fund Pet Projects, Regardless of Merit," Nov. 7), Tatyana Liskovich '08 recounts two main reasons why Student Assembly should not fund specific organizations or student groups, such as the KatrinaHelp or any other effort for Katrina Relief. First, because it is not a part of SA's mission statement, and second, because it will allow "influential student leaders" to use their positions and "dip into the deep pockets of the SA purse." But despite that fact that SA has initiated some great policies in the past, it has also toyed with the idea of using its money for such excessive expenditures as $700 for two foosball tables in East Wheelock and Topliff. Thus it is not a waste of money for SA to dip into its pockets and allocate $7,000 of its $90,000 budget to finance the production of a documentary video chronicling the upcoming Katrina, Relief Trip to Biloxi, Miss.
Some of SA's current members who do not support the allocation of the funds argue that it would contradict the past precedent of not sponsoring specific organizations and student groups, no matter the proposal. But to go against this precedent, as most of SA's members unanimously voted to do for the Katrina trip, SA is setting a new precedent: showing its commitment to service, among other things.
While SA's purpose is "to coalesce and strengthen student participation in the College's decision-making process," even this long-standing and well-said mission statement must be assessed under extraordinary circumstances. As Kaelin Goulet '07, one of the sponsors of the proposal, was quoted as saying in a recent article in The Dartmouth, "extenuating circumstances call for extenuating measures. When we consider the devastation, the Assembly should buck precedent and buck tradition" ("Assembly backs Katrina relief with $7,000," Nov. 2).
As it stands, if the College administration sees fervent student backing for any one particular activity or in any one particular direction, this in theory should lead the administration to also offer support. This is no different from the College's relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. On the College's homepage, it is easy to see that the institution and its students regard this as something very important that it ought to take part in. Since the effects of the hurricane became apparent, the College has prominently displayed a "Hurricane relief information" banner under its Dartmouth News header on the website. This clearly asserts where the College's priorities lie. Likewise, this shows what members of the Dartmouth community regard as being vital to the image and the consciousness of the College.
In fact, among the many useful links on the page is one that accesses a page discussing Dartmouth's student volunteers in Biloxi, Mississippi. It informs visitors that: "Dartmouth will provide funding to send a group of 35 students to Biloxi, Mississippi over the first two weeks of the College's winter interim break. The team will work with other volunteers in the region to meet a variety of needs, ranging from construction to advocacy to resume building for hurricane victims searching for employment."
In relation, SA's approval of $7,000 to Dartmouth's Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts is part of the student-initiated and student-sponsored response to the catastrophe. Disregarding the possibility that students who have sponsored the projects have some kind of self-interest at work -- senior fellowship or chairmanship of a committee -- in sponsoring the act, the intended use of the program as a whole is without doubt a noble one that SA cannot be faulted in supporting.
While Liskovich's point that SA should not be a forum for students to promote their own personal agenda is well taken, the reality remains that any project or event aiding in something as far-reaching as the Hurricane Relief efforts or the Asia Relief Efforts should not be limited to funding by the Tucker Foundation, COSO or the Rockefeller Center, nor should it be banished from consideration by SA.
As Student Assembly is also responsible for representing student opinions and concerns to the Dartmouth community, trustees, administrators, faculty and staff, it was clearly the opinion of the students at Dartmouth that dictated SA's funding allocation to the Katrina Relief efforts.