Promoting Student Assembly
The role of Student Assembly at Dartmouth is pretty simple: to help improve life at Dartmouth and to convey student concerns to the administration. To accomplish our task, SA has a few tools: relationships with the administration, money and, most importantly, motivated students. Dartmouth students know how to effect change, and SA members are no different. Think about what they have accomplished recently on big issues relevant to students: funding for club sports (SA secured a $30,000 increase this year), ROTC (SA asked the trustees to consider the issue, and they voted to support the program last weekend), divestment from the Sudan (SA worked with other campus groups to accomplish this), college judicial policies (SA has established peer advisors for Committee on Standards cases), the Good Samaritan policy (after SA's work, there are no limits on the number of times you can call), concerns regarding class size (the hiring process is underway for several new economics and government professors). The leadership of SA members has been critical in all of these issues -- in raising them, solving them or contributing to campus discussion.
The way SA uses its funds is also a key part of our efforts to serve the college. Recently, the Assembly chose to financially support the production of a documentary video featuring the Biloxi Education and Service Corps trip. The video will document how Dartmouth students are giving back and learning about our broader civic conscience. After the video is finished, SA will work to distribute it to Dartmouth students, alumni and even other colleges. In this way, SA will take the invaluable learning experience of the 30 Dartmouth students who travel to Biloxi, Miss., and share it with others for the purposes of education, fundraising and providing a model for other colleges to follow.
Another initiative that SA recently has helped to fund is the Party Packs program, which provides food at Greek parties. To ensure the program's success, SA coordinated with a number of campus organizations including the Greek Leadership Council, the Programming Board and even some administrative offices. Students want party packs because they make our weekend scene more inclusive for non-drinkers and safer for those who do choose to drink. Without SA's help, the party packs would have only been available for part of this year.
There has been some recent concern from The Dartmouth editorial board (Verbum Ultimum, Nov. 11) about these expenditures, but many students support the effort to expand service-related educational opportunities, and even more students will be happy to down some free pizza next weekend at a party.
The Biloxi trip and party packs are just two examples of how SA money is used. All our projects go through a process for approval that is both organized and responsive to student input. Those in attendance -- including non-members -- can bring an idea forward to one of the SA committees; there, it is researched and discussed with the appropriate parties -- such as administrators, student groups and alumni. If the idea or project passes the committee, it is then brought before the whole Assembly for a vote, an Assembly that includes representatives from each class and numerous campus organizations. This way, students from all over campus get a say in SA's projects, and we get input from administrators and alumni. It is not a perfect process, but it does provide a basic framework for addressing the issues that students raise.
SA has a big mission -- to look at every part of student life, help preserve what is good and improve what can be changed for the better. Although we sometimes fall short of our lofty goal, SA has already made some incredible progress just this term: everything from a 100-percent increase in club sports funding to providing free coupons for students to take professors to coffee to organizing direct buses to New York City for the Thanksgiving break.
According to the U.S. Army Ranger Handbook, "Two of the gravest general dangers to survival are the desire for comfort and a passive outlook." Now I am not too worried about my personal survival or that of SA, but it is true that complacency is corrosive. As the President of the Assembly, I do not want to be content with where SA currently is; we need to do more. If you have ideas, suggestions or new projects you would like to start, let me know. Or better yet, prepare your ideas, come to an SA meeting, and lead the charge.