Presidential and Vice Presidential Student Assembly debate takes place online

The debate saw Jennifer Qian’s ’22 with Maggie Johnston ’22 and Attiya Khan ’22 with Sebastian Muñoz-McDonald ’23 campaigns engage on a number of burning issues.

by Daniel Modesto | 04/19/21 2:10 am

Did you miss our live broadcast of the 2021 Student Assembly debate? Watch it here! The voting period begins on Monday April 19 at 5:00 p.m. and ends on Tuesday April 20 at 5:00 p.m.

On April 18, more than 1,600 viewers logged in as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the Student Assembly participated in a live debate. The debate, which was broadcast on The Dartmouth’s Facebook page, featured SA presidential candidates Jennifer Qian ’22 and Attiya Khan ’22, with Maggie Johnston ’22 and Sebastian Muñoz-McDonald ’23 as running mate for the vice president, respectively.

Following the presentation of the two campaigns, The Dartmouth moderator and editor Reilly Olinger ’22 kicked off the debate by asking each campaign what they think about the current leadership of the Student Assembly – Cait McGovern ’21 and Jonathan Briffault ’21 – did well during their tenure and what each campaign would do differently if elected.

Khan said that while she viewed a recent move by McGovern and Briffault to create a student liaison committee to the board of trustees a “fantastic development,” the current leadership may be pushing the administration “a little harder.” for the addition of a student representative. with voting rights in the Council. Khan cited Cornell University as an example of an institution with students on its board. Muñoz-McDonald added that their campaign would focus on increasing the transparency of SA as an organization.

In his response, Qian noted his and Johnston’s accomplishments over the three years that each candidate worked for SA, citing the Dartmouth Coach and Co-op Grocery Store voucher programs as initiatives that the candidates helped with. to organise. She also discussed SA’s recent efforts to help student mental health by increasing accessibility to meditation apps.

According to Qian, their administration’s approach would be to achieve “gradual but realistic change” by working in conjunction with the college administration and “pooling[ing] collective voices.

“We have to be strategic in making changes and be prepared to work with the administration instead of just making demands and taking aggressive positions,” Qian said.

During the debate, each campaign also spoke about the importance of addressing campus mental health, an issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Qian and Johnston have advocated for initiatives such as improving access to telehealth and for increased funding for Dick’s house over the long term. Khan and Muñoz-McDonald highlighted recent suicides in Dartmouth and Yale, and discussed the need to reduce wait times on the Counseling Center’s 24-hour mental health hotline, implement online booking for appointment and “restructure[e]Dartmouth’s leave policy, which Khan says may deter students from seeking mental health resources.

On how to approach the reopening of the campus and support student-athletes, the campaigns have found common ground. Qian and Khan both pushed for a normal reopening of the campus in the fall and advocated for the reopening of social spaces on campus.

Qian said her campaign was “consistent” with her support for student-athletes, noting that she and Johnston have contacted the Student Athlete Advisory Coalition to discuss issues that concern them with student-athletes. Khan further stressed the importance of transparency around the college budget and noted that student-athletes “deserve to look at the numbers” and know the reasons for these cuts.

The debate also focused on the recent decision of the Election Planning and Advisory Committee to temporarily suspend the Khan-Muñoz campaign for spreading disinformation. According to Olinger, the Khan-Muñoz campaign was suspended for sharing inaccurate figures on the Student Assembly budget, without consulting the budget itself, which was available on request. Khan admitted that “[the campaign] messed up ”, and apologized for their mistake.

Khan added that although their campaign misinterpreted the Student Assembly budget infographic on Instagram, the misunderstanding demonstrated the need to have the budget available on SA’s website. The campaign has since looked at SA’s budget spreadsheet, Khan said, and spoke to McGovern and Briffault about the error.

The different SA experience levels of the two campaigns were also questioned. While Qian and Johnston have been senators in South Africa since their freshman years, Khan and Muñoz-McDonald have no experience in South Africa. Johnston noted that the misunderstanding that led to the suspension of the Khan-Muñoz campaign highlights “where experience is valued and needed”.

Khan acknowledged that she and Muñoz-McDonald were “outsiders,” but pointed to the leadership roles each of them had in other areas of the campus. Johnston responded by saying that the positions of president and vice-president require “relationship building” with current senators from South Africa.

Diana Alvarado ’22 said she looked forward to the debate as it was an opportunity for candidates to come together and speak in a year when campaigns were carried out entirely on social media.

Alvarado added that she noticed that the Qian-Johnston campaign spent time during the debate “discrediting” the other campaign for its lack of experience with AS, rather than focusing on “what the students need and on how to behave with students “.

“The Student Assembly as a whole should really prioritize how it communicates with and advocates for students, and not just as an internal structure,” said Alvarado. “So I think that’s where my frustration really lay in the debate.”

Josh Freitag ’23 said he attended the debate because he wanted to be an “informed voter” and hear what candidates have to say live, apart from the “strong” social media presence of the two campaigns .

He added that although he thought the Khan-Muñoz campaign had been “very aggressive” towards the administration of Dartmouth and SA, their campaign had made a good choice by “stepping back a bit” during the debate.

In addition, he said that Qian-Johnston’s campaign “[came] as empathetic ”and noted that their approach to creating change by building relationships with the administration resonated with him.

Although Alvarado intends to vote for Khan-Muñoz, Freitag said he was still undecided after the debate. Voting begins Monday April 19 at 5 p.m. and lasts until Tuesday April 20 at 5 p.m.

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