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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Yoeli stressed communication as president

During his time leading the Student Assembly, former Student Body President Max Yoeli '12 focused on making the relationship between the Assembly and the administration more productive while also working on concrete issues such as the problematic aspects of changes to Dartmouth Dining Services.

When Yoeli assumed his position, his first priority was changing the Assembly's strategy in interacting with College administrators, he said. Members of the Assembly and organizations with which Yoeli interacted said that he was successful in achieving this goal.

Yoeli sought to redefine "the relationship between students and the administration in a way that allowed for meaningful and impactful advocacy," he said.

Past Assembly leaders, such as former Student Body President Eric Tanner '11, had a very different relationship with College administrators, often failing to sufficiently pressure them, according to Yoeli.

"[Tanner] was much more willing to accept things at face value and exist as solely an ally and not necessarily ask for something in return," Yoeli said.

Yoeli said that although he and former Student Body Vice President Amrita Sankar '12 did not want to be "combative," they sought to both work in collaboration and compromise with the administration in a manner that accounted for student interest.

"We didn't want to be seen as pawns of the people who oversee the College, and we also wanted to be people that they could work with," Yoeli said. "We certainly retained our independence and fought for what we thought was best for students."

Yoeli said that when the administration did not respond effectively to student demands, he and Sankar did not ignore or succumb to the issue at hand. When Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson approached Yoeli and Sankar and asked them to co-sign a letter to campus detailing "very minor changes" to the dining plan for the Spring term, for example, they refused to sign it because they did not believe it adequately addressed the problems at hand, Yoeli said.

"We thought it would be disingenuous for us to blindly go along with that," he said.

Johnson later offered more substantial changes to the meal plan that was more in line with students' interests, as indicated by the results of a campus-wide survey conducted by the Assembly, Yoeli said.

Overall, working with DDS to amend the dining plan was the "premiere accomplishment" of Yoeli's presidency, he said.

Largely as a result of the Assembly's survey, changes were made to the meal plan for the current term, and additional changes will be enacted for the upcoming Fall term.

Implemented changes include extending Late Night at Collis Cafe to seven nights a week, extending weekend hours at Novack Cafe to 2 a.m. and increasing the value of meal swipes. In the fall, DDS will have a "block choice" plan that includes termly meal swipe plans in addition to weekly meal swipes, Yoeli said.

Sankar said that the increased interaction between the assembly and the College administration will be particularly important in the future given that students are becoming more concerned about administrative accountability.

New Student Body President Suril Kantaria '13 and Vice President Julia Danford '13 will have to work toward "leveraging" this new level of student interest and activism, according to Sankar.

Despite facing uncontrollable obstacles during his tenure including inherited issues such as the problems with DDS, a new dean of the College and people constantly "coming and going in the administration" Yoeli characterized his time as president as "successful," particularly with regard to being more responsive to student needs and more transparent as an organization.

In addition to their work with DDS, Yoeli and Sankar collaborated with a startup at Yale University to create an interactive calendar and a map, which enable students to view sorted events on campus. They have also worked on updating the Assembly's Course Guide. These initiatives will likely continue to be pursued by Kantaria and Danford, Yoeli said.

During the past year, the Assembly has demonstrated its potential to be highly influential, Sankar said.

Yoeli and Sankar were highly effective in making sure "students' voices were heard," according to Patrick Campbell '15, the McLaughlin residence hall cluster representative in the Assembly.

According to Sankar, while she and Yoeli effectively reached out to organizations on campus beyond the Assembly, they could have focused on the Assembly itself to address member maintenance and revise internal structure.

"I think one of the strengths of our administration is that Max and I have such a strong working relationship," Sankar said. "We tackled everything together."

Christian Brandt '12, one of the four moderators of Paleopitus Senior Society, said that Yoeli's effectiveness was also boosted by his visibility on campus.

"As students, I think we become used to having student body presidents who don't really do much," Brandt said.

In contrast, Yoeli appeared to listen to the student body and "heightened the presence" of the Assembly on campus, Brandt said, citing an opinion column in The Dartmouth in which Yoeli described his difficulties in working with the administration.

According to President's Intern Jason Goodman '12, who worked with Yoeli through both the President's Office and Paleopitus, Yoeli was extremely successful as a president who worked within the challenges of the Assembly's structure to achieve success.

"I think that [the Assembly] is a really difficult organization to be in charge of," Goodman said. "It has a lot of structural barriers to being effective, and I think that he did well within those barriers."

Goodman said that Yoeli's accomplishments regarding DDS constitute an "exemplary" instance of students providing information to the administration and eliciting a response.

"It showed the administration that students deserve to be taken seriously and that students have a voice," he said.

Goodman said he hopes that Kantaria and Danford will continue the practice of mobilizing students to gain the attention of the administration. Students often do not appreciate the Assembly because much of its work goes unseen, but Yoeli should be commended for his dedication, Goodman said.

"It's very easy for students to feel that [the Assembly] isn't doing much because they don't know what it's doing," he said. "But working with Max, I knew how invested he was with student issues and how he was constantly trying to be accessible to as many people as he possibly could every day."

Kantaria said that the response to DDS changes marked the highlight of Yoeli's presidency. He said he plans to continue the "core committees" on which Yoeli and Sankar focused.

Because membership in the Assembly has been "dwindling," Kantaria intends to build membership and then improve the Assembly's communication with students outside of the Assembly, he said.

Kantaria also plans to increase the Assembly's visibility by updating its website and encouraging students to frequent it, using posters around campus and installing a board in the Collis Center that details the Assembly's undertakings.

His planned "liaison" system, which seeks to bring representatives from campus organizations to the Assembly, will make an attempt to"reach out to more different communities" and "keep students engaged," Kantaria said.