The Student Assembly Election: Among my beliefs of a “glass is half full” variety, the saddest is undoubtedly the continuing conviction that the Student Assembly can someday become an effective instrument for empowering students against the administration. It has long been clear that no other organization, save an increasingly divided and ineffective Greek leadership structure, offers any hope of doing so. And with the adoption of the Student Life Initiative and the turn to a research university model over the past five years, the necessity of such an instrument has been repeatedly demonstrated. Yet the Assembly, year in and year out, refuses to take the actions that could make it meaningful. Every year, my belief in the Assembly’s potential has been challenged, as the students of Dartmouth who recognize the failure of the Assembly choose to spend the five minutes required to vote doing something else, while the minority who seem unaware of the problem turn out en masse.

This year presents another opportunity for change. Unlike some past occaisons, this presidential election offers a legitimate choice between credible reform and the status quo. My views on what changes the Assembly requires are unaltered since I wrote this article a year ago. Sadly, the Assembly hasn’t changed since then either. Warning: The rest of this post is written under the assumption that readers care about the current election and my (profoundly enlightened) view of it.

A year of a Mike Perry ’03 or Tara Maller ’03 presidency will, I am sorry to say, see no more effective reform than the one now past. Having worked with both of them for several years on the Assembly, I know them both to be superbly competent, but neither accepts that the Assembly should be fundamentally different than it is now, despite its manifest inadequacy to make a real difference at the College. Of the three reform candidates, Eric Bussey ’01, while deserving credit for pushing for change, presents an alternative which would in fact be worse. Universal Assembly membership, based on student referendums, would make the organization even more meaningless than it is now, even if such a scheme could actually be implemented in any functional way, which I doubt.

Which leaves Karim Mohsen ’03 and Janos Marton ’04. Both have made powerful cases for the need for change, and both have focused on important areas where the Assembly must improve. Mohsen’s push for an all-elected Assembly is perhaps the most important single change that can be made. Marton’s relentless criticism of the bloated, committee-driven structure of the Assembly goes to the heart of why it fails to achieve more than the most marginal of gains for students. Judging by the uninspiring statements (at least as reported by the D) of the Vice-Presidential candidates, it is a pity Marton and Mohsen didn’t run as a ticket. They’d probably have been elected on the alliteration alone.

That said, only one of the two can now be selected, and two things lead me to believe a vote for Marton is the wiser vote to cast: the first ideological, the second practical. On the ideological side, Marton is the only candidate to make support for the Greek system a fixture of his candidacy. My support for the system, and the reasons behind it, are on record in the Review and the D should anyone still be undecided on this issue. Given the vast majority support for the system’s continuation, and the degree of adminstrative hostility to it, a Greek apologist is far more qualified for the position of Student Body President. As to the practical, Marton is 5% behind Perry in the D poll, while Mohsen is 22% behind. Even given the poll’s unreliability, the latter is an impossible gap to close. Under the circumstances, the best option would be for Mohsen to withdraw and work with Marton over the coming year to make a real difference on the Assembly. Either way, all students who hope to actually have an influence on the future of the College should cast their vote for Janos Marton.