Millman: Student Assembly Isn't Working

It’s time to change student government at Dartmouth.

by David Millman | 4/25/22 4:00am

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Student Assembly”? Please take a moment to think about it.

Done? Alright. Here’s what I think: 

The organization’s structure vastly limits its potential. We have the opportunity to fight for better mental health care, improved infrastructure throughout the College, housing and better dining options, but we do not have the tools to do so effectively. We should be helping facilitate community at a time where we are rebuilding our lives from the pandemic, but we do not have connections to any other governing board at the College. We have elected student representatives who do not show up to any meetings. 

That’s why I’m running for Student Body President, along with my running mate: Jessica Chiriboga ’24. We want to reimagine what’s possible for Dartmouth. We need to stand up for students when it matters. That means reforming the Student Assembly. 

I’ve been a member of Student Assembly since the spring of my freshman year, and I do not take my position for granted — I actually lost my first senate election. Over the past two years, I’ve spent countless hours listening to student concerns. Through social media and in-person conversations, I’ve engaged with thousands of students, hearing from different parts of campus and working to serve you all the best I can.

We’re unopposed, but we still believe we need to earn your vote and this position. Every vote on Monday matters and directly influences what we can do next year. We need to show the administration that the campus is united behind what we’re fighting to do. We plan to restructure Student Assembly into a new organization entirely, simply renamed: Dartmouth Student Government (DSG). 

This name change is important because we need to clarify our role on campus to students. Right now, Student Assembly’s purpose is to “serve as the primary liaison between the undergraduate student body and the administration, faculty, staff, and persons or groups outside of the University.” I don’t believe this should be the mission of the student government. We should be representing students directly. Being a liaison organization implies we are just an extension of the administration. Beyond just semantics, this means creating a cabinet where there is none, establishing a communications team and making sure to engage all parts of campus in decision making. We want to have a system where any student who wants to help us can, and we imagine this through a new at-large representative system. 

This change can mark a new era for Dartmouth student representation. A new era of addressing real issues with all the power we have. It means working to establish universal teletherapy, or to expand after-hours dining options like Collis Late Night or to reinstate safe rides and create a student representative on the board of trustees. Beyond just goals, however, we offer you all concrete plans in our platform. 

In my eyes, student government has two tools for change: advocacy and initiatives. Effective advocacy for issues that are outside of our organization comes from an effective structure and a willingness to combat administration directly. As I hope people learned from my Selectboard race, I’m no stranger to confronting bad-faith actors when I believe something will truly help people. We want to establish a cabinet, an accountability structure for elected senators and a constituent services wing. We also want to facilitate connection to other governing bodies through a representative Dartmouth Undergraduate Leadership Council (DULC). Imagine all of the groups coming together to fight for real campus issues, like a student on the board of trustees.

We have a budget that itself can be used to solve campus issues. We can alleviate food insecurity through the campus food pantry, aid transportation to campus through the Coach voucher program, improve mental health through wellness center creation and get real student opinions about campus resources through advertised and incentivized surveys.

We ask for you to vote to support our vision for what next year can be. Voting opens at 5 p.m. on Monday and closes at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, through Engage. 

Honestly? I’m tired of feeling powerless at this College. 

Let’s get to work.

David Millman is a member of the Class of 2023 and a candidate for Student Body President.

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