Keep It

On the proposal of a shadowy, blitz-happy Publius.

This proposal is cute but impractical. My understanding of the assembly– vague, admittedly– is that it serves basically as a group of students with which the administration can interact, to ‘represent’ us as governments do. Now, suppose that we replace representative democracy with pure democracy. With whom will Wright, Larimore and company negotiate? (Surely not all decisions can be made in a public forum.) It won’t be with all the students or even the most enthusiastic ones– probably the ones they like the most or the ones that are most willing to suck up to them. Our de facto government will be just as sycophantic if not more. Our current system gives us choice, whereas that system would place the choice in the hands of higher ups. Apple-polishing and demagoguery will proliferate.

Next, crowds are dynamic, enthusiastic, and demanding but not particularly responsible. As easy as it is to laugh at the politicking that goes on at the SA, sitting in on meetings with uncooperative, dull, scary, ugly, stubborn administrators is time-consuming. It’s far easier to just make a five minute statement at a town-hall meeting. Commitment to ‘public service’ keeps these people involved. The marginal amount of civic virtue that is found among our current SA representatives would be effaced by this proposal.

Finally, meetings are a fine way to administer a government if the citizens are sovereign. In a town, they are, more or less, so long as their decisions do not conflict with federal and state requirements. We are not– the administrators have final say, with the exception of law. A town-hall meeting for a town makes sense because it places the deliberations– which are significant and meaningful– into the open. Student government has fiat about little. It can advise, condemn and beg but it basically has no leverage against Dartmouth‘s true government, except maybe causing a PR stir if it’s brave enough. So, having this group, as ineffectual as it can seem, may actually be better than this proposed alternative.

If I have mischaracterized the Student Assembly, correct me– with much flattery to mitigate the pain of your criticisms, please.

(I also noticed that someone– the author of the proposal?– has added a mention of his or her statement in the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry on ‘Town Meeting‘ today. So congratulations on making yourself Encyclopaedic– it will go well with your web site.)