Ds Scholarship

Student Assembly president and vice president reflect on year of leadership

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a shift in academic and mental health policies.

by Maya Kempf-Harris | 2/11/22 5:05am

This article is featured in the 2022 Winter Carnival special issue.

During last year’s Student Assembly campaign cycle, then-candidates Jennifer Qian ’22 and Maggie Johnston ’22 outlined their promises for their respective roles as president and vice president. While they said that COVID-19 and omicron have caused them to shift focus this year, they are still proud of the progress they have made on their promises.

“Because of COVID and the turnover going on at the administrative level, we’ve been forced to focus heavily on advocacy a lot of the time,” Johnston said. “We’re hoping to get more projects going this term, and I think we’ve done a great job of getting some of them up and running already this time.”

Qian said that she has focused on three main topics during her presidency: mental health, student and community aid.

“I think throughout the course of fall term and now winter, we’ve definitely been able to make pretty substantial progress on those things,” Qian said. “Obviously, COVID-19 has been a pretty big one as well with the omicron surge. That definitely took up a lot of what we’re working on as well.”

Student Assembly mental health committee chair Jessica Chiriboga ’24 pointed to several successes in student advocacy this year, including the introduction of online scheduling for Dick’s House mental health triage appointments and staffing two nurses at all times on the crisis hotline. She said that the next big priority is expanding telehealth options.

“There’s a number of different platforms that we’ve explored,” Chiriboga said. “The idea is that we would have 24-hour access like unlimited counseling, essentially, through these online platforms to try to compensate for some of the bandwidth issues that we’ve experienced with Dick’s House, especially in terms of the inability to do long -term care.”

In Oct. 2021, Student Assembly piloted a project helping students gain access to mental health resources through the Calm app, a digital meditation service. Chiriboga said that this pilot is being used to understand how students are engaging with that service, and that Student Assembly is currently funding 100 subscriptions.

Qian also emphasized that student aid projects, such as restocking a pantry for students and the menstrual product project, have taken precedence this year due to increased need.

“We get a lot of items to stock the pantry during winterim, whether it’s for students who don’t go home or international students who are just staying here,” Qian said. “We’re making sure that we address food insecurity, because dining options are limited during [winterim] when people aren’t usually on campus.”

Qian also emphasized that Student Assembly is “really excited” to have organized access to menstrual products in restrooms around campus.

“Basically every restroom on campus that’s women’s or gender neutral has menstrual products, pads and tampons,” Qian said.

Student Assembly student aid committee chair Anthony Fosu ’24 said that, despite a lack of response from the College, he is still advocating to institutionalize the Dartmouth coach voucher program that Student Assembly runs.

“We’ve been trying to advocate for every student to have access to free coach vouchers, which [would be] included in the calculation for financial aid,” Fosu said. “Despite our efforts, we have not gotten as much of a response institutionally as we would want, but this is something that we’re still working on.”

Qian said that, in addition to those projects, Student Assembly was able to expand the GreenPrint quota to sixty dollars per student for printing.

Johnston said that overall she has been pleased with Student Assembly’s relationship with the administration.

“I think that this year’s administration has been especially receptive to our input,” Johnston said. “And that’s not always been the case. I think we’ve seen progress there. But I think that they know that our job is first and foremost to advocate for students. And so far, we found that we’re able to maintain mutual respect afterwards.”

Qian said that one of her biggest hopes moving forward is to see the telehealth program become institutionalized at the College level. According to a Feb. 6 newsletter sent by Student Assembly’s, the mental health committee is “pushing” for a telehealth option for all Dartmouth students.

Johnston said that she was hopeful to see an expansion in student involvement with the Board of Trustees beyond the current Student Liaison Committee.

“Ultimately, I would love to see a student representative on the Board of Trustees,” Johnston said. “For example, for something like the COVID-19 policy task force, whatever the equivalent is in the future, I would love for a student to be in those conversations and have a say in that process. Whatever is going on behind closed doors we’d love to have a student representative there.”

Fosu voiced his hope that Student Assembly becomes a more recognized entity with the administration during the rest of his years at Dartmouth.

“I’ve seen this assembly as probably the most viable vehicle for effecting change at the institutional level,” Fosu said. “And that’s not to say that Student Assembly doesn’t have its flaws, but it’s more so to say that if we continue on the path we’re on, I think the administration will see us not just as advisors, or just as sounding blocks for various policies, but they will continue to actively consult us for advice before moving forward.”

Special issue editor Kami Arabian, who also serves as the treasurer of Student Assembly, was not involved in the production of this article.

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