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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Assembly initiatives see mixed student reactions

As Student Assembly continues to implement initiatives such as the First-Year Mentoring program, the promotion of Sarner Underground, the inclusion of student senators from other campus organizations and the "Take a Professor to Lunch" program, students have expressed mixed opinions about the organization, its communication and the resource allocation of these programs.

The First-Year Mentoring program, which pairs upperclassman mentors with first-year students to ease the transition from high school to college, has hosted two events thus far, including a barbecue on the first day of classes, Student Body Vice President Julia Danford '13 said. While there has been no quantitative evaluation of the program's progress, the Assembly has received positive feedback from both mentors and mentees, according to Danford.

Student Body President Suril Kantaria '13 said that it has been hard to ensure that mentees are receiving constant support and communication from the mentors. In the future, Assembly members hope to expand the program, which currently only includes freshmen in the Russell Sage and Fahey-McLane residential clusters, to encourage mentors and mentees to meet outside of formal events.

In addition to the mentor program, the Assembly is working to attract student senators from various campus groups to better address opinions and concerns, according to Kantaria. The senators, hailing from established campus constituencies, will bring existing leadership into the Assembly.

Danford said that she has spoken with 25 campus groups about sending members to the Assembly, including fraternities, sororities, the International Student Assembly, the Dartmouth Outing Club and Collis Governing Board.

"Membership hasn't always been Student Assembly's strong suit," Danford said. "The idea is to improve campus-wide communication and collaboration by bringing representatives together from all over campus in an open discussion where ideas can be shared and generated, with the ultimate goal of improving our school."

The Assembly has also restarted a program that allows students to take professors out to coffee or dinner. Students who present hard copies of email exchanges with professors to the Collis information desk can obtain vouchers for Molly's Restaurant or the Dirt Cowboy Cafe.

"We weren't sure how it was going to play out to make sure people didn't abuse the system," Danford said. "Then someone from Collis presented the idea that people would have to present hard copies. It's definitely something that I will do before I graduate."

Some students interviewed by The Dartmouth said that while they were unaware of the existence of the program, they would be interested in using such an opportunity to better interact with professors. In many cases, the program can deal with first-year students' discomfort in contacting professors outside of class.

"It gives you an excuse to interact with them, since some of the professors are incredible and are in places that I want to be in my future," he said.

Along with Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority and Chi Heorot fraternity, the Assembly will host a "flair-themed" opening party in the Sarner Underground, the newest "alternative social space," on Saturday.

"People don't know that it's open, and we're really trying to promote non-Greek social spaces," Danford said. "We want to bring people together from different parts of campus in a non-Greek setting to have a good time."

Sarner Underground has already begun hosting events like Friday Night Rock, and it benefits from its lack of administrative oversight, Danford said. The space is open 24 hours a day and is completely student-run.

Students participating in the mentoring program said they appreciate its purpose but believe it could be run better.

Ralph Scozzafava '15 said that his role as a mentor consists of providing social support to his three mentees. Because one of his mentees does not drink, for example, Scozzafava works with him to help find additional social spaces, in addition to checking in with all of his mentees periodically to ensure that they are performing well academically and socially.

"Everybody felt that there was a lack of guidance in the freshman level and that current advisors are not really that accessible," Scozzafava said. "The [undergraduate advisor's] job isn't really on an individual basis, so what we've done is break that down and make it more of a person-to-person experience."

Scozzafava said that despite the program's relative success, it is unstructured and plagued by miscommunication. He said that contacting mentees has proven challenging, as many did not respond to his initial emails.

"It's just the start, and we'll learn from this year and better implement it next year," Scozzafava said. "We need to work on tracking the progress of mentees, but it's certainly a good first step."

Erik Warnquist '16, a member of the rugby team, said that the program offers a space for mentorship beyond his team and that he often seeks out his mentor for academic advice, although many of his friends have not taken advantage of the program.

"They already say it's mandatory and people still skip," Warnquist said. "They should focus resources on people who are actually going to use the program and on making it more efficient."

Vivien Rendleman '16 said that the program would benefit from more direct and earlier communication and suggested that pairings should be made on the basis of interest.

Regan Haegley '16 said she was lucky to be paired with an "attentive" mentor with interests similar to her own, but many other first-year students are poorly matched and choose not to participate.

"Me and my whole hall joke about the obscene number of mentors we have as freshmen," Haegley said. "We have UGAs, deans, [Women in Science Project] mentors and faculty advisors. My mentor helps me socially, but I just love my UGA so much that it's not somewhere where I feel I need extra help."

Felipe Jaramillo '16 said that while he has generally enjoyed the program, its organization and resource allocation could be improved, citing the fact that mentees were initially contacted by the Assembly rather than by individual mentors.

"My mentor and I couldn't find each other at the steak dinner, so I don't even know if my guy showed up," Jaramillo said. "They should make it more between the mentor and the mentee my guy has three mentees, but I think it would be better if it was more one-on-one."

Jaramillo said he appreciates discussing Greek life with his mentor, as conversations feel less guided and more organic. Efforts to connect freshmen to upperclassmen are important in the transition to college life, he said.

"My mentor helps me with things that the administration can't, like pong lines," Jaramillo said. "I see it working best as a way to get informal information that the administration wouldn't be open with you about but that you need to know at Dartmouth."