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Chairman of COS Task Force: Smith would be “instrumental”

The chairman of the student committee that recommended a slate of reforms to Dartmouth’s often-arbitrary disciplinary system, Adam Shpeen ‘07, wrote the following op-ed in The Dartmouth yesterday, saying that petition Trustee candidate Stephen F. Smith would, if elected, prove crucial to furthering the cause of reform.

In Tuesday ‘s edition of The Dartmouth, trustee candidate John Wolf ‘70 criticized Stephen Smith ‘s position on the disciplinary process at Dartmouth, claiming that his position undermined the administrative ability of the forthcoming Dean of the College and overextended the responsibilities entrusted to the Board of Trustees.

I strongly disagree with Wolf ‘s opinion, one that I believe distorts Smith ‘s position and defers far too much decision-making authority to the Dean of the College. Wolf ‘s prescription for the Committee on Standards (COS) is more €œswiftness, fairness, transparency, and predictability € €“ four important values that provided the material basis of the recommendations offered by the Student Assembly ‘s COS Task Force in its October report. Back in December, Stephen Smith embraced each of the report ‘s eight recommendations, and yet John Wolf senselessly insists that Smith ‘s advocacy on behalf of COS reform is somehow non- €œenlightened discourse. € If anything, Smith ‘s position (as outlined on his website) goes a step beyond Wolf ‘s suggestions and would ensure that Wolf ‘s four points of an improved disciplinary system are met.

Students on campus care deeply about the college ‘s disciplinary system in general and the Committee on Standards specifically. Last fall I was the chair of a Student Assembly task force that, after conducting several interviews, focus groups, and investigations over the course of six months, produced a report, which received near universal support from members of the SA, outlining recommendations to the Dean of the College for COS reform. Since then, Dean Dan Nelson has decided to postpone any action to improve the COS until the next Dean of the College takes office, a decision I understand but have come to believe was unwise.

In his campaign to become a trustee, Stephen Smith has taken up the issue of COS reform from the outset, endorsing the recommendations of our report and demanding that the Board act to resolve the problem. Oversight of the college by the Board is of vital importance, and Stephen Smith has not forgotten that. If the Board has the power to vote to remove a temporary cap on single-sex organizations on campus, which it has done in the past, then it can certainly move to encourage the college to do something about the COS.

Sandy Alderson has commended the task force for its work and has questioned the wisdom behind delaying reform. Still, Stephen Smith was the first candidate to draw attention to this issue and is the only candidate who has unequivocally supported the report ‘s recommendations and has pledged to seek their implementation. Stephen Smith ‘s boldness on an issue that has an enormous effect on all students at Dartmouth is truly noteworthy.

In the coming weeks, I hope that alumni do not lose sight of the issues that Dartmouth students, current and future, are concerned about. The disciplinary system at Dartmouth needs to change, and the Board of Trustees ought to be involved in encouraging and monitoring such a change. Stephen Smith would be instrumental in this process.


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