Advocacy or Services?

Nathan Bruschi ’10 penned a rare kind of Op-Ed in today’s Daily D, i.e. a good one.

Services or activism? Which of these things would you like to get out of your student government? In his most recent column (“Relegitimizing Student Assembly,” Apr. 7), Evan Meyerson ‘08 argued for the latter, stating, “The [SA] president must take positions on every important issue currently affecting Dartmouth students, understand the multifaceted social and political climate a student leader must navigate and become the ultimate student advocate.” This answer is indeed a popular one on campus. When asked during the last Elections Planning and Advisory Committee debate, a majority of the candidates agreed with it. Even a cursory look at SA’s structure and history, however, would reveal that of the few things the Assembly does well, student services ­— not activism — is paramount.

Chief among the fallacies surrounding an advocacy-based vision for SA’s future is the idea that it is a representative body. While school-wide and class-wide elections clearly give Student Assembly and its two lovely new leaders legitimacy, the organization’s bylaws grant voting membership to anybody who happens to wander into three consecutive meetings of the General Assembly. While I am not trying to question SA’s ability to act in the interests of the student body, the reality suggests that the opinions felt among those filling the seats do not necessarily correspond to their peers who they nominally represent.

He goes on to point out that Dartmouth students are perfectly able to advocate for themselves. The SA needs to stop deluding itself with delusions of grandeur and focus on the small things that they are capable or. Expanding GreenPrint locations, putting medicine vending machines on campus (not just at Dick’s House), and bringing Sunday newspapers to campus—these were all good (and attainable) proposals I heard from this year’s batch of candidates. Unless the SA undergoes substantive structural changes, it should leave advocacy to others, e.g. for more local sororities to the CFS.