Duncan Pickard elected Tufts senate president
Carrying on a tradition of involvement in student government and activities that he began at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) , Duncan Pickard won the presidency of Tufts University's student senate in an election last week.
A 2006 Martha's Vineyard Regional High School graduate, Mr. Pickard is now a sophomore majoring in history. Before taking on the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate's highest office, he gained experience as one of its elected student senators over the past two years.
In an election on April 23, he won 42 percent of first-choice ballots in an initial three-way race for the senate presidency. In a "post-rank" vote in which second-choice ballots were factored in for an instant run-off, Mr. Pickard achieved a 56-percent majority.
"I'm just so excited about where Tufts is going and what Tufts could do if we really came together more as a community and collaborated more on working with the administration in figuring out where we're headed as a university," Mr. Pickard said in a phone call a few days after the election. "And I think the role of the senate president is really powerful in that decision-making process and in getting a lot of students to collaborate in what we're doing."
Mr. Pickard said that his campaign platform focused on the idea of a campus community to ensure that all students feel connected and represented by their student government. "Without explaining too much about what's happening on campus, there are a lot of different communities here, and especially right now, some students feel like they're kind of getting lost in the shuffle as our endowment increases and as we approach having a need-blind admissions process," he explained.
Using the slogan "let's work together" in his election campaign, Mr. Pickard also presented ideas about improving campus security, developing a clear policy on freedom of expression and lowering costs on campus, according to an article in The Tufts Daily on April 22.
The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate consists of 35 elected undergraduates, including 7 senators elected from each class for a total of 28, 4 community representatives from campus ethnic organizations, and 3 students selected by the senate as representatives on the university's board of trustees.
Photo courtesy of Duncan Pickard
"In addition to being an advocate for students, we also allocate $1.3 million of the student activities fee," Mr. Pickard pointed out.
Serving on the student senate requires a major time commitment. In addition to a senate meeting once a week, student senators are divided up among five committees that meet weekly and also may serve on student/faculty committees that meet monthly.
As a student senator his freshman year, Mr. Pickard took on the office of assistant treasurer and was a member of the allocations board. In his first semester as a sophomore last fall, he served as the student senate's parliamentarian, the news editor of the Tufts Observer, the university's weekly magazine, and as chairman of the media advocacy board. Mr. Pickard gave up the editor position this semester in order to focus more on his senate duties, which grew to include membership on the executive board.
When asked if his election as senate president might portend a future career in politics, at first Mr. Pickard groaned, then said with a laugh, "Maybe someday - way in the future." He did point out that the 5,000 students at Tufts outnumber the voters in his hometown of Oak Bluffs.
Mr. Pickard's involvement on campus resulted in his recent nomination for the Office of Student Activities' Lighthouse Award, the university's top student leadership award. Despite his busy schedule, however, he has made the dean's list throughout his two years at Tufts.
Those in the Island community who know Mr. Pickard will not be surprised that he has continued to achieve academic success and remain involved in student activities. At Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, Mr. Pickard served as student council president, played soccer and basketball, sang with the Minnesingers, and participated in Model U.N. He also worked two years as the co-editor of The High School View newspaper, winning three New England Scholastic Press Association awards in 2006 - for a sports story, a feature story, and a bylined column.
The son of Paul Pickard and Gretchen Mayher of Oak Bluffs, Mr. Pickard plans to spend a week and a half on the Vineyard after his spring semester ends in a few weeks. Then he's off to Yemen for 10 weeks where he will study Arabic.
"I took Arabic my freshman year and just realized it took much more time than I had with other courses," Mr. Pickard said. "So I still really want to learn the language, and it's just going to be so helpful to be in an environment learning it intensely."
Considering Mr. Pickard served as a Times summer intern in 2007 and continues to contribute articles occasionally, at the very least he is expected to email a photo from Yemen for a future "Islanders Read the Times."