Walters elected to Student Assembly

by Wally Joe Cook | 4/19/18 2:35am

by Divya Kopalle / The Dartmouth

Monik Walters ’19 will become the first black female Student Assembly president in Dartmouth’s history. Walters and her running mate Nicole Knape ’19 will also become the first all-female SA president and vice president pair since 2008.

“We understand how important it is to put our best foot forward, given that we are really setting the stage up in a completely different way,” Walters said.

Knape noted that Walters’s election as the first black, female SA president is “fantastic” for the College’s 250th year.

“[Walters] and I are ecstatic,” Knape said. “[Tuesday] night was full of happiness and joy and all of our hard work really paid off.”

Walters added that she and Knape “are really changing the game.”

Walters received 1,030 of the 1,789 votes cast for SA president, while Knape received 945 of 1,789 votes for SA vice president. Alex Petros ’19 finished second in the race for SA president with 336 votes and John Duggan ’19 finished third with 327 votes. Hannah Pruitt ’19, Duggan’s running mate, finished second in the SA vice presidential race with 338 votes; Rachel Kesler ’19, Petros’s running mate, placed third with 326; and Carlos Polanco ’21 came in fourth with 126 votes.

This year’s election saw a decrease in the number of ballots cast for both SA president and vice president compared to last year. In the 2017 election, 1,960 ballots were cast for both SA president and vice president. However, this year’s election received more ballots than both 2016 and 2015, when 1,556 and 1,632 ballots were cast for SA president, respectively.

Walters and Knape already have plans for their first days in office. According to Walters, their first priority will be to create a new Student Assembly website. Knape added that the website will update the student body on executive meetings and campus events.

After the website is completed, Walters said she and Knape will focus on addressing mental health and sexual assault on campus by creating committees and working closely with student groups that already work with those issues.

Walters added that her guiding philosophy is “it takes a village,” because she understands the importance of working with different groups across campus.

Potential candidates had to attend a Student Assembly information session and submit a petition with 100 student signatures of approval before they could receive a spot on the ballot, according to Elections Planning and Advisory Committee chair Luke Cuomo ’20. Afterwards, candidates could partake in a week of campaigning before the debate, which took place Monday night in Dartmouth Hall.

The debate featured the three presidential candidates and three of the four vice presidential candidates. Polanco did not attend.

“We had a good turnout,” Cuomo said in an interview with The Dartmouth after the event. “The candidates were well-prepared and I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and seriousness they gave in their answers.”

The one-hour debate, which was moderated by The Dartmouth editor-in-chief Zachary Benjamin ’19, covered campus issues, such as sexual assault awareness and mental health care.

In interviews with The Dartmouth prior to the debate, the candidates discussed their platforms.

Walters said that she was interested in getting more students from different corners of the student body involved in Student Assembly. She also said that some of her ticket’s most important issues were diversity, sexual violence awareness and mental health.

“If we were to get elected, our first step would be to make Student Assembly more accessible and more effective,” Knape said. She specified that she and Walters’ plan included creating the aforementioned website, opening executive meetings to the public and reaching out to clubs and organizations for input on campus issues.

Walters added that inclusivity is the greatest issue facing Dartmouth and that she and Knape aim to “bring [marginalized communities] to the larger conversation that’s being had about Dartmouth.”

Duggan said that his and Pruitt’s main priority would be to address issues with sexual assault awareness, mental health care and the house communities. Additionally, he proposed allowing upperclassmen to apply for waivers to live with friends in other house communities.

Kesler said that two of her and Petros’ priorities were to improve mental health resources and make the faculty tenure process more transparent.

Petros added that he and Kesler would also work to bridge the divide among groups of students on campus.

During the debate, the candidates discussed what motivated them to run for Student Assembly.

Walters said that her experience with Student Assembly as a South House senator inspired her to campaign for the presidency. Knape said that she hoped to represent more students on campus through her position as vice president.

“There are a lot of people [who] are left out on this campus,” Knape said. “I can’t just hear those stories and not act on them.”