Student Assembly will try to improve outreach, social spaces
By Kira Witkin, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, September 18, 2012
This term, Student Assembly leaders plan to focus on improving the Assembly’s reputation by increasing communication and offering valuable programs in response to criticisms of its perceived inactivity on campus. Its goals include expanding non-Greek social spaces, perfecting the First-Year Mentoring Program and working with Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson to revise her new hazing policies, according to Student Body President Suril Kantaria ’13.
Kantaria said that the Assembly hopes to revolutionize the way it communicates with students this term with its new “student senator” program, which will invite leaders from different campus organizations to vote on Assembly initiatives, he said.
Student Body Vice President Julia Danford ’13 said that the Assembly’s new website will also increase communication between the Assembly and the student body. The website, which will launch this week, will help students stay informed about the Assembly’s work, she said.
“We’re here to be the voice of the students and bring their concerns to the administration,” Danford said. “People shouldn’t feel hesitant to contact us or try to get involved.”
Kantaria said that the Assembly also plans to bring back “T.G.I.F.” emails, which include weekly reports on the Assembly’s affairs and provide lists of non-Greek social events.
“Our goal is to really be seen and be known, to be an organization that students can approach when they have concerns,” Kantaria said. “The first step is making sure that every student is aware of our role and what we already are doing.”
The Assembly’s role on campus is unclear to many students.
“I don’t even know what they do in the first place,” Laura Vang ’15 said. “It’s a fundamental problem where students that aren’t involved aren’t interested.”
Kantaria said that opinions like Vang’s are common, and the Assembly plans to address them this term.
“I think that there has been a failure on Student Assembly’s part in the past to communicate with students on what they’re doing,” he said. “We understand the reputation of Student Assembly on campus, and we are really laying down a new path forward.”
Kim Strauch ’15 said that the Assembly should prioritize the creation of alternatives to the Greek social scene for those who are not interested in drinking. The Assembly should strive to schedule more events like hypnotist Tom Deluca’s show in Collis Common Ground on Friday night, she said.
“I think what they’ve been doing with the ‘Collis After Dark’ things is a good idea because that time from 10 to 2 is when they really need to have activities,” Strauch said. “That’s when most people are going out.”
Collis After Dark is a new pilot program that hosts events on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Kantaria said that the upcoming opening of Sarner Underground in the basement of the Class of 1953 Commons, which opened last week, will give the Assembly the opportunity to schedule more late-night programming, including parties with alcohol.
“I think there is a clear lack of non-Greek social spaces, and there has been significant demand on students’ part to address this issue,” Kantaria said. “We will work very hard to do so.”
In addition to scheduling programming in Sarner Underground, Kantaria said he also hopes that the Assembly can help turn athletic events into popular social venues by planning more tailgates. This year, the Assembly will sponsor tailgates for sports other than football.
Kantaria and Danford’s campaign platform in the spring included plans to institute the First-Year Mentoring Program, which began this year by pairing freshmen in the Russell Sage and Fahey-McLane residential clusters with upperclassman mentors. If the program is successful, the College will expand it to include more freshmen next year, according to Danford.
“The lack of peer mentoring is an issue that I have been working on since freshman fall, and I felt that for a long time my work fell upon deaf ears in the administration,” Kantaria said.
The Assembly launched its advising program on Saturday with a barbecue at which many freshmen met their mentors for the first time.
“I’m so excited about it,” Danford said of the pilot program. “People really seem to be bonding with their mentors. It was so great to see so many people out there and enthusiastic about the program.”
The Assembly is also working to increase available study spaces during finals period, revamp its “Take Your Professor to Lunch” program and address the College’s new transfer term policy limiting the number of students that can attend a given exchange program, Kantaria said.
Amanda Zieselman ’15 said she hopes that the Assembly spends this term improving communication between the administration and students.
“I think there are a lot of different things that students and the administration have different big-picture opinions of,” she said. “They definitely need to find some sort of middle ground that will work for both the students and the administration’s overall picture of the College.”
In particular, Zieselman said that the Assembly should address the College’s controversial new hazing policies.
“I know a lot of students feel that they are cracking down on a lot of little issues instead of major issues,” she said.
Kantaria said that the Assembly is working closely with Johnson to address the new hazing policies and lessen restrictions that are overly stringent, including the keg policy.
“This year I think that will be a place Student Assembly can really impact in a positive way for the community,” he said. “Dean Johnson has said to me she is open to our revisions as long as we work with her in what she’s trying to accomplish.”
The Assembly’s first meeting on Tuesday night will introduce potential new Assembly members to its current executives and invite freshmen to participate on committees.
The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Kantaria hopes to implement a "student sender" program, when in fact it is called a "student senator" program.