Under new leadership, SA focuses on advocacy

by Allie Lowe | 11/17/06 6:00am

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Student Assembly members debate advocacy issues during a November meeting. Some students have voiced concerns about them Assembly this term.
by The Dartmouth / The Dartmouth

Andreadis said that one of the Assembly's greatest accomplishments thus far has been the increased diversity of its membership.

"A lot of communities on campus who felt that in the past they have not been represented by [the Assembly] do feel like they are being represented by Student Assembly this year," Andreadis said. "It's a lot of those voices that often aren't heard and that we as an advocacy body need to make sure are being heard."

Chair of the Student Organizations Committee Josh Jacobson '09, however, said that part of the Dartmouth community is underrepresented within the Assembly this year.

"I think there are a couple projects where not having as much of a majority ... of the campus will hurt us, because for instance, there's a couple projects that we might be pushing that I don't think the campus wants," he said.

Some students have also noted that new Assembly members who represent different interests than in past years have come at the expense of more experienced members, as the Assembly saw a high turnover within its executive board this year.

"It seems [Andreadis] has drawn from a wider pool than previous administrators," said Christopher Bertrand '07, who left the Assembly this fall after serving on the body since his freshman year. "I credit him for reaching out in that respect, but I think the flip side is that there is a little less institutional memory and a little less experience."

Andreadis said that he does not feel this change in membership has decreased the Assembly's efficiency.

"There's a little bit of a lack of institutional memory," Andreadis said. "I don't think [that it is] affecting our effectiveness. It's more that it's a different group of people with a different set of interests and different set of issues that we want addressed."

Despite this assertion, Andreadis and several committee chairs noted that action on some issues has been slower as a result of the inexperience of some members.

"[The new membership] brings a lot of creativity, but it definitely puts up some roadblocks with how to get things done," Andreadis said.

Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee Adam Shpeen '07 is the only senior Assembly member who began his freshman fall. In an interview with The Dartmouth he questioned the Assembly's overall productivity this term.

"One of the biggest problems I have with Tim so far is that he hasn't been able to match his campaign rhetoric with his actions," Shpeen said. "He displayed audacity in his campaign, and that's admirable, but the problem is that this year he has displayed caution and timidity so far."

Andreadis said that the new membership may be one of the reasons why certain projects, including the sexual assault committee he campaigned for last spring, have been slow to progress.

Jacobson agreed that the new membership has posed some problems .

"That adjustment period in the beginning of the year was much longer than it would've been otherwise," said Jacobson, who had served on the Assembly last year. "A lot of the committees, especially myself, have kind of had trouble learning what we want to do [and] meeting with all the different people. I've spent half the term just learning who's in charge of different things, and it's really frustrating."

Shpeen said that this lack of productivity is one of the reasons he has decided to resign from the Assembly at the conclusion of this term.

"I'm disappointed that [Andreadis] has not accomplished as much as he set out to do," Shpeen said.

Student Body Vice President Jacqueline Loeb '08, however, said that the Assembly has made some progress on these campaign issues.

"A lot of Tim and my main concerns and goals and objectives for Student Assembly are things that task forces have now been created for," she said.

The Assembly has created task forces on the issues of Greek life, gender neutral housing, sexual assault and the distribution of Undergraduate Finance Committee funds, which Loeb said is evidence that the Assembly is addressing these issues.

"I think the Winter [term] is going to be a really exciting term because I feel like at this Fall [term] we're at like at the brink of developing a bunch of new things," Loeb said. "We've finally sort of understood how to deal with these more important issues and that come Winter [term] it's just going to flow much more easily."

Chair of the Student Life Committee Kenneth Brown-Klinger '07, who is new to the Assembly this year, agreed.

"I think one of the things that [the Assembly has] done a good job of is not holding events for no reason, essentially," he said. "I think this year some of our goals are longer term and some of the successes might not be visible now."

Andreadis said one of the Assembly's biggest tangible accomplishments this term was a discussion last Saturday of the history behind Dartmouth's Indian mascot. He also cited the Committee on Standards Task Force Report, which was essentially finished last spring, but required updates over the summer and early fall.

Although he said he objects to some of the recommendations included in the report, Andreadis maintained that he was pleased with the COS Task Force's efforts.

"I think most of the recommendations are really, really solid," Andreadis said, "[But] all of them benefit the accused and not the accuser, and that's something I was a little leery about... We should be creating more avenues where people feel comfortable and supported in reporting, rather than putting up obstacles to doing so."

He said that he is confident that the COS review that will occur under the eventual new dean of the College will take these concerns into account.

Andreadis also highlighted the Assembly's legislation addressing The Dartmouth as a point of success for the Fall term.

"I think people were specifically looking for me to say something about it because the article did have elements of this debate about sexual assault, or whatever you want to call it, within it," he said in reference to a controversial comic The Dartmouth published on Nov. 6.

Andreadis noted a change in the Assembly's overall focus this year, commenting that the group has become more of an "advocacy body" on campus.

"Something about this year's Student Assembly which really differs from years past is that the tone and the breadth of issues that are covered in our meetings with administrators is very different," Andreadis said, "I think administrators automatically start the conversation by [saying] 'Let's talk about gender relations,' or 'Let's talk about sexual assault,' or 'Let's talk about racism on campus.' And I think that's very different than past year's assemblies."

Past Assembly member Dave Zubricki '07, who ran against Andreadis in last year's elections and later decided to leave the Assembly because of disagreement with the direction it was headed under Andreadis' leadership, questioned whether this change in focus has been a positive one.

"From an outsider's perspective it seems as though the Assembly has been focused more on social issues, which I don't see a student government necessarily being that effective in, and I believe a lot of simple and effective and really popular programs have been neglected as a result," Zubricki said.

In particular, Zubricki pointed to BlitzMail terminal maintenance, the "Uh Oh" blitz program, Dick's House and dining magnets for students as small projects that he feel have been neglected thus far.

"Generally, I think that there's a lack of pragmatism and a lack of listening to the student body and the institutional memory that was harnessed within the leaders that have left the Assembly is really gone," Zubricki said.

Andreadis said that he disagrees with students who left the Assembly last spring because of its new focus.

"I think that we've become more of an advocacy body, and I think that we're spending less money, we're not wasting money that's been done in the past," Andreadis said.

Jacobson did say that there has been increased interest in the Assembly throughout campus this term.

"We have a lot more members than we usually do at this stage of the year and a lot of the people are really dedicated to [the Assembly] and a lot of that I'd attribute to Tim because he really knows how to get people to come and get people to stay interested," Jacobson said.

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