Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 15, 1995

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

     "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

     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

     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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