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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Assembly candidates debate student life issues, hopes for next president

The five Student Assembly presidential candidates participated in the last of four debates on Friday, discussing their hopes for the next College president and arguing over the best way to incentivize attendance at General Assembly meetings. The debate focused on the candidates' concrete, specific plans to address campus issues ranging from the Assembly's provision of services to communication with the administration.

Presidential candidates Max Hunter '13, Suril Kantaria '13, Erin Klein '13, J.T. Tanenbaum '13 and Rachel Wang '13 took part in the debate.

Candidates were given one minute to respond to questions posed by the moderator, The Dartmouth Executive Editor Jay Webster '13, as well as 30 seconds for an optional rebuttal. Three audience questions were debated after the planned questions had been asked.

Candidates discussed the importance of education and the Assembly's relationship with the student body and administration in combating the issues of hazing, sexual assault and binge drinking.

Kantaria emphasized that the Assembly should be a facilitator for the organizations that already exist to combat such issues instead of seeking to "reinvent the wheel" itself. Committee members should be brought to Assembly meetings to foster communication while they're "sitting at the same table," he said.

Klein said that the College has had a problem of simply adding "another level of bureaucracy" whenever it confronts campus life issues. Instead, the Assembly needs to engage in expanded education efforts, she said.

"The most important thing that [the Assembly] can do for these three issues is educate and publicize the various accomplishments of groups on campus," she said.

Tanenbaum agreed that education was paramount but emphasized that the education should be directed toward "the proper community."

Wang also said that more training and education are necessary, citing the fact that hazing does not have a clear definition. She also said the "underlying issues" that drive students to drink should be addressed with improved counseling services.

Hunter said that "real changes" are not happening at the College despite the presence of many committees and that many current policies need to be abolished or revised. Trial and error of ineffective policies is unhelpful, Hunter said.

"We need to recognize horrible ideas on paper," he said.

Two opposing ideas were proposed by Tanenbaum and Kantaria in response to a question about how to incentivize student body participation in the Assembly.

Tanenbaum said that Assembly members should go to student groups and ask them what the Assembly can to help them, while Kantaria said that student groups on campus should send representatives to Assembly meetings.

Tanenbaum said that Kantaria's idea was similar to one proposed by former Assembly president Eric Tanner '11, who sought to bring representatives to Assembly meetings and failed. Kantaria said that, having spoken to Tanner, the two ideas were dissimilar and Tanner had never attempted to invoke the system of "liaisons" from groups across campus.

Hunter said that students would have no interest in the Assembly unless it offered them something unique, namely the ability to represent their needs to the administration.

"Unless we can offer student groups something that they can't do themselves, they won't come," he said. "We can make administrators sweat."

The candidates agreed that if College President Jim Yong Kim were to leave the College, the new president must possess an intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Dartmouth as well as experience in the fields of education and administration. The 2009 student body president was the only student representative on the presidential search committee that selected Kim.

Wang said that a "history of working with students" is important because there's something "uniquely exciting" about the workings of a college campus. A combination of the values of tradition and innovation is also important in a College president, she said.

Klein said that the new President has to care about community and diversity above all else.

The debate, sponsored by The Dartmouth, was held in Paganucci Lounge in the Class of 1953 Commons at 4 p.m. on Friday. Voting will occur on Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.