Improving Council's Image Looms As Quigley's Top Challenge By Steve Libowitz After this spring's Student Council elections, election supervisor Peter Dolkart was dejected. He had made a huge effort to get out the underclass vote for the 33 council slots on the ballot, including president. He realized he was fighting somewhat of a losing battle. The Student Council, by many students' own admission, is not highly regarded--if regarded at all--and there was only one candidate running for president. A sophomore. Matt Quigley. He won. While Dolkart rightfully stewed over the dismal 20 percent turnout, Quigley took the next three months to prepare to succeed the highly visible Jamie Eldridge as council president. He began his one-year term last week, making no apologies for winning unopposed. "Just because 17 people run doesn't mean they are all qualified," Quigley said. "This year's underclass chose to get involved in other activities, and I can understand that. This job is a big headache, it's not a piece of cake." That said, Quigley feels ready to get the job done. He understands that at the heart of the task of guiding the Homewood undergraduate student body--about 3,400 this year--is combatting what he calls the council's very bad image among that student body for getting anything done and a very, very, very bad job of publicizing itself when it has done something. "This year, we accomplished a lot of good things, but a lot of it was policy, which is hard to see," he said. "Before policy changes, we need to make visible changes. But I'm not the kind of guy to say, 'Didn't I do a good job, isn't that great, aren't you proud of me?'" he said. "I just do it and hope people say, 'Hey, he actually did something.'" Although Quigley understands that council president is not the Student Council, he does bring to the table the seeds of an agenda he believes will catch the attention of students by helping them with more material concerns. "I have my own ideas, but a specific agenda will emerge by mid-August, after I have had a chance to talk to the other council members," Quigley said. A list of those ideas includes getting a shuttle bus to Towson to complement the Fells Point shuttle service, which he, and others, see as mostly serving graduate students and undergrads who are of drinking age. He also wants to see more than two printers in the Homewood Academic Computing lab in Krieger Hall. "If you go there when it is crowded, you might get a computer but it takes forever to print out your work," he said. "Getting more printers in there would be a very visible accomplishment." Among the somewhat less visible aspects of Quigley's developing agenda is to continue council's encouragement for improved undergraduate faculty counseling, something on which the administration, deans and faculty are already hard at work. He also would like to see a change in the policy regarding foreign language courses. "Right now, you can't take language classes at the intro level pass/fail," he said. "This precludes engineering and hard-science students and students with a heavy workload from studying a language because it is so time consuming and could damage their grade point average. "Unfortunately, the faculty think that undergrads only want to take a course pass/fail so we don't have to do the work, but that's not the case. A lot of times we want to take courses because we are interested and want the information. "There's a lot of criticism about the undergrads being apathetic. And sure, some are, but I'm always amazed at how easy it is for students to start volunteer projects here and how many do. That's outside the classroom. Hopkins is rumored to be the No. 2 school in the country for course workload," Quigley said. "If you take a semester of history courses, you'll probably have 1,500 pages of reading a week. So, we do the work." Quigley admits that undergrads' and the Student Council's image with administration is very good, and he is very enthusiastic when describing the support the undergraduates receive particularly from Larry Benedict, dean of Homewood student affairs, and Susan Boswell, dean of students. But it's the image with the faculty that Quigley believes needs work. He articulates a related concern he hears often from his peers: the feeling that undergraduates are treated as third class citizens, behind the faculty and graduate students. One thing he wants to do is try to get faculty to serve more as mentors for undergraduates. "They are available to talk about class business," he said. "But it would be good if we could just talk to them about their work. I'd think they would want to encourage students to enter their fields." He also intends to push along an idea circulating through council for several years: getting an undergraduate representative on the Academic Council. "Right now, the Academic Council meets without student input," Quigley said. "We don't want a vote, just someone who can attend each meeting and record what goes on so we can discuss it and have some input. I just think it's a courtesy to keep the largest segment of the Homewood population informed. What's the harm? Matt Quigley knows that his opinions may disturb some people, but he does not back away from them. Perhaps that comes with his background. Quigley comes from a tightly knit Boston family. His father is a high school principal, his mother a schoolteacher. Growing up, he always tried to get his parents to do things in better ways, a key aspect of his personality. "I'm just not the kind of person who can let things slide if I'm involved," he said. Although he was not politically active before coming to Hopkins, he admitted that politics is probably in his blood. "Coming from Boston, [getting into politics] is kind of unavoidable," he said. "It's like a sport there, like watching the Red Sox. He seems to have a knack for it. When he ran for sophomore class president, he had 1,000 pens printed up that said "Vote for Matt Quigley." "I still see them around," he said, his recollection punctuated by his trademark machine-gunlike, self-deprecating laugh. "I've seen baggage handlers in Boston with them in their pockets. A lot of people hated it, but others liked it. It's like any politician, I guess. I hope more people like it than don't." They did then. He was elected. He also has served as class representative to council his freshman year and chaired the undergraduate portion of the search committee that recommended Steven Knapp for dean of Arts and Sciences. All this political activity comes after relatively little activity in high school. "My involvement in high school was more behind the scenes. I prefer to work that way to get things done. I think I'm more effective that way. And I think that's partly why people voted for me this year. "I'm not going to fix all the problems of council or of the undergraduates in one year--most likely my only year--as president," Quigley said. "A lot of students know me and my style. They also know I talk a lot but respect what I have done so far. I think they're encouraged."
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