Opinion Asks

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 4/29/15 6:29pm

We asked our opinion staff: "What purpose does Student Assembly serve? What sorts of changes would you like to see from SA leaders?"

In March, I helped put together Student Assembly’s “Profiles in Excellence” event, a termly dinner held in honor of extraordinary professors. Computer science professor Prasad Jayanti — the professor whom students voted most committed to undergraduate teaching — arrived to a packed house. Over Boloco burritos, more than a dozen of his students shared how they had been moved by his teaching, recalling the wisdom and energy that brought his lectures to life. Jayanti, in turn, spoke at length about his joy for creating and sharing knowledge. This is how Student Assembly can thrive — by bringing our community together — faculty and students, administrators and Greek leaders, social activists and guardians of the old way. SA can facilitate meaningful dialogue through an exchange of perspectives. That is where progress lies.

— Jon Vandermause ’16

As I argued in my April 27 column “With Great Responsibility,” I believe SA should focus on addressing and clarifying the implications of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative. I think that SA absolutely has a purpose and is relevant to students — after all, they represent students to administrators and are elected to advance the interests of the student body. Without SA, we would not have a forum dedicated to allowing student voices to be heard. As I have argued, however, there are some flaws in the campaigning process, particularly in the visibility of different campaigns and apparent student interest in public debates. The level of effort that candidates put into the campaign varied, with some seeming to take more interest in the process. I believe, therefore, that candidates need more structure and guidance when campaigning.

— Caroline Hsu ’18

I think it’s telling that I — and many other students — do not know what exactly SA does. As a member of the Class of 2018, my only impression of SA is a vague knowledge of the Great Patagonia Scandal of 2014. Other than that, I am unaware of anything it has done during my time here. Ostensibly “here to coalesce and strengthen student participation in the College’s decision-making process,” it feels like the assembly has not been doing a great job, especially in light of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” initiatives.

For a Government 10 project last term, my group and I sent out a campus-wide survey to collect data on student support for each of the main pillars of the plan — academic rigor, new sexual assault measures, the hard alcohol ban and new regulations on student organizations. Responses were overwhelmingly negative for both academic rigor and the hard alcohol ban, with most students disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with these new measures. If we, as students, are so against “Moving Dartmouth Forward,” then why is it being implemented in this way? Isn’t it SA’s job to understand our wants and communicate those to administrators? That in the past year administrators have made one unpopular decision after another is proof of SA’s lack of power. Even if SA leaders are trying to make our voices heard, they certainly haven’t been effective. And if they aren’t doing their job, why do we have them at all? Some sort of reform needs to happen — either our representatives need to work harder for us, or administrators need to listen to and recognize the opinions of our representatives and take them into account. Either way, there’s a break in the communication between administrators and students, and the organization that is supposed to bridge that gap isn’t doing so. This is still our college — we should be heard.

— Jessica Lu ’18

I do not see the point of SA. There are several student organizations on campus that can advocate their own issues to the administrators who have the power to change things. Student Assembly seems a little bit like forced representation where it doesn’t exist. The most frustrating element of the recent SA campaign was that the elected president and vice president “staffed” their own team as if they were real-life elections. In college, this “staffing” almost always includes friends of the president and VP and lacks inclusivity.

— Reem Chamseddine ’17