A guide to the 2020 Student Assembly election

by Lauren Adler and Caitlin McCarthy | 5/11/20 2:15am

Student assembly presidential and vice presidential candidates participated in a live debate Saturday evening.

On Saturday, this year’s candidates for Student Assembly president and vice president went head to head in a live Zoom debate to vie for students’ votes. Olivia Audsley ’21 and Cait McGovern ’21 are running for SA president, with María Teresa Hidalgo ’22 and Jonathan Briffault ’21 running for vice president as Audsley and McGovern’s running mates, respectively.

Below is a guide to the main issues around which the candidates have chosen to focus their campaigns. Voting will begin today at 5 p.m. and end on May 12 at 5 p.m.

Audsley/Hidalgo

Olivia Audsley ’21 is a Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies major and government and African and African American studies double minor from Bergen, New York. She has served as co-chair of V-February 2019 (now Visibility), co-director of Week of Action 2018 and co-director of the Coalition for Immigration Reform and Equality at Dartmouth. She is also a co-founder of and organizer with the Dartmouth Student Union. 

Her running mate, María Teresa Hidalgo ’22, is a history and government double major from San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has served as co-chair of the Latinx and Caribbean Council, a Race, Migration and Sexuality Fellow and a DSU organizer.

On support for low-income students: Audsley and Hidalgo hope to expand SA’s Dartmouth Coach voucher system and create a guidebook on financial resources at Dartmouth. They also plan to work with campus organizations like the Center for Professional Development and the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy to help undocumented, first-generation and low-income students find internships, as well as to add a filter on Dartboard that would designate work authorization status requirements, which determine the eligibility of non U.S. citizens for certain positions.

On student representation: Audsley and Hidalgo have called for the addition of a student to the Board of Trustees. Audsley said that the alumni on the board are “too far removed” from current students and thus cannot make “informed decisions” for students without student input. According to their campaign website, Hidalgo and Audsley have been “in communication” with student representatives at peer institutions like Cornell University, who have elected student representatives on their boards of trustees. Additionally, Audsley plans to hold weekly office hours to hear from students, and she plans to advocate for the SA budget to be made public.

On faculty diversity: Audsley said that she plans to work with campus organizations and administrators to promote the hiring and promotion of faculty and staff, including counselors, from marginalized backgrounds. She said it is important that students “see themselves” reflected in important positions at Dartmouth.

On inclusivity: Audsley and Hidalgo’s campaign platform includes creating tutoring sessions “for and by” first-generation, low-income students, focusing on STEM classes. Their website also says that they will work with the College’s administration to “ensure protection” for students who are DACA recipients in preparation for the Supreme Court’s decision in June.

On community outreach: Audsley and Hidalgo said that they plan to feature information about events, restaurants and “how [people] can get involved” in the Upper Valley on their webpage. They plan to work with student organizations already involved in the Upper Valley to increase accessibility to off-campus outreach programs.

On COVID-19 and communication with administrators: Audsley said that she will create a campus-wide survey at the end of remote terms to assess how students are dealing with issues including housing insecurity, access to food and academics. She noted that she will make the survey results public and meet weekly with the administration to share students’ experiences. She added that she does not believe that enough direct financial aid has been distributed from the College’s emergency student relief fund during the  COVID-19 crisis. The campaign says that they will also meet with the administration to advocate for financial support for members of the Class of 2020 to attend commencement in 2021.

McGovern/Briffault

Cait McGovern ’21 is a psychology and history modified with Russian area studies major from Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. She has served as a freshman undergraduate advisor, summer 2019 president of Alpha Xi Delta sorority and an intern in the Office of Judicial Affairs and the Office of Student Life. She has served as an SA senator for three years.

Jonathan Briffault ’21 is a history and government double major and digital arts minor from New York City. He has served as the president of Hillel, vice president of Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society, house manager for Chi Gamma Epsilon fraternity and business manager of The Sings a capella group.

On student wellness: McGovern and Briffault are calling for a new mental health committee that would facilitate communication between Dartmouth’s various mental health organizations. McGovern is also looking at the possibility of expanding the committee into a “dynamic and robust” group that “connect[s] different campus organizations” in order to “adequately address mental health on campus.”

On course registration: McGovern and Briffault plan to work with the registrar’s office to simplify and clarify Dartmouth’s course selection process, which McGovern said “isn’t very transparent.” They are calling for a single system that combines course evaluations, DegreeWorks and the existing timetable so that students can make more informed selections while choosing courses. Their campaign website also notes that they will work to help publish course syllabi so that students can better evaluate classes before enrolling.

On financial accessibility: McGovern and Briffault’s campaign website notes that they will work to make every textbook for “every major class” available at the library. The campaign also plans to use library resources and SA funds to buy or rent textbooks. McGovern and Briffault plan to make the information about financial aid and the aid application process easily accessible and work with the College administration to reduce tuition for those affected by COVID-19.

On housing and food insecurity: McGovern and Briffault are calling for the elimination of access restrictions for residence halls outside of students’ own housing communities. The campaign will also work to continue the Co-op food voucher program that McGovern started in spring 2019 to serve students at home during remote or partially remote terms. 

On communication with students and administrators: McGovern said that she plans to send a weekly SA update in order to inform students of what SA is doing, as well as to allow students to give feedback. The campaign plans to hold weekly office hours, and McGovern said that she plans to use social media to communicate with students, for example, by answering student questions on Instagram stories. They also hope to continue to hold weekly meetings with senior administrators and establish meetings with Board of Trustees chair Laurel Richie.

On COVID-19: McGovern said that she and Briffault will commit to compiling all College deadlines and resources available to students during the pandemic on a frequently updated page of SA’s website. Additionally, McGovern has called for the College to better “[adapt] its resources” in order to ensure that student needs are met to the best of the College’s ability. She hopes to continue the work of the previous SA and collect questions for the administration from the student body. The campaign also plans to work with administrators to give the Class of 2020 the “send-off … [seniors] richly deserve” next year.

McGovern is a member of The Dartmouth staff. Hidalgo is a former member of The Dartmouth staff. 

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