The AAS on a Green Drive, Spring Concert and More

On Monday night, the co-authors of this column brought forward an ambitious new proposal to advance sustainability at Amherst College. A product of five months of work, this pilot project is designed to introduce electric vehicles into the campus fleet. It consists of two parts — the installation of an electric vehicle charging station and the purchase of the campus’s first electric vehicle.

The charging station will provide free electricity to students, faculty, staff and guests and will be located next to Grosvenor House on the Morris Pratt circle. The charging station is manufactured by Hubbell Incorporated and can charge two electric vehicles simultaneously. Initially, one parking space adjacent to the station will be reserved for electric vehicles, with the opportunity to add a second space if needed. We expect the station’s central location and free electricity (paid for by the college in perpetuity) will encourage use and establish a bridgehead for electric vehicles on campus.

To leverage this new infrastructure, we proposed purchasing a Chevrolet Volt for ACEMS. ACEMS is an organization that broadly improves student life while saving the College thousands of dollars per year. Their current vehicle — an eight year old police cruiser — stalls in winter, has trouble making it up the hill next to Keefe and delivers terrible fuel economy. By investing in a Chevrolet Volt for ACEMS, the organization will finally possess reliable transportation while ceasing to consume gasoline.

Over the past five months, we have worked to build connections with vendors and convince administrators of the merit of this project. Classic Chevrolet (next to campus) stands ready to sell and service a Chevrolet Volt for the campus. Ian is meeting with a Hubbell representative on Friday to discuss our preparations for installing the charging station. Finally, after meetings with Chief of Police John Carter, Director of Facilities Jim Brassord and Dean of Students Allen Hart, the administration lent its support and agreed to contribute $20,000 toward this effort.

Last night, the Senate was overwhelmingly supportive of the project while sharply disagreeing about the proper procedure for funding it. The AAS bylaws state that with a two-thirds vote the Senate did not need a student referendum to allocate the funding from our reserves. Some believed that this bylaw violated the spirit of the AAS constitution, while others maintained that a two-thirds margin was appropriate in the case of making long-term improvements to the college. To our discredit, one of the most acrimonious debates of the year ensued which focused little on the merits of the proposal and largely on the difficulties of the bylaw. In the end, the senate voted by a majority to approve the funding through a student referendum. With this debate behind us, the Senate should unite with the student body in support of this beneficial proposal.

This project will make Amherst a leader in green transportation and prepare the campus for the growing numbers of electric vehicles that will go on sale over the next 1-3 years. This project will prove the feasibility of incorporating electric vehicles into the Amherst College fleet and opens the door to procuring electric vans for the vanpool beginning in 2013.

In addition to discussing the charging station, the AAS held a town hall with Program Board to discuss Spring Concert. The leaders of Program Board affirmed their support for holding a spring concert this year. Program Board explained that Amherst’s disadvantages in venue size and relatively low funding levels hinders their ability to secure certain artists. This year, the leaders of Program Board explained that they faced additional difficulty in securing an artist since the date of spring concert coincides with Coachella, a large annual music festival in California.

Students articulated frustration about past spring concerts and voiced their concerns regarding the yearly spring concert survey. Because of the fluid nature of contract negotiations, students believed that the spring concert survey system did not adequately represent available artists. In addition, students expressed support for holding spring concerts outside and collaborating with other schools in the Five College Consortium to combine resources. Students also expressed dissatisfaction with Program Board’s music agent who failed to realize that Coachella conflicted with Amherst’s Spring Concert. Program Board encouraged students to give their input and become members of Program Board by attending their weekly Monday meetings at 7:30 p.m. upstairs in Keefe.

After the town hall, Program Board requested additional funding from the AAS to help secure an artist. After a brief debate, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to allocate an additional $9,950 to spring concert, bringing the total concert budget to around $75,000. While we cannot control the small size of Amherst or the location of the concert, the Senate decided they could help Program Board by increasing their funding. The leaders of Program Board were hopeful that they could line up an artist in the next few weeks.

In other exciting Senate news, Matt Echelman ’14 was named the new Campus Community Coordinator, a cabinet position charged with increasing school spirit. In addition, Romen Borsellino ’12, also created the “Diversity Officer” as a new cabinet position and nominated Rohan Mazumdar ’12 to the position. As the new Diversity Officer, Rohan will work with students and administrators to increase support for diversity as well as feelings of inclusion on campus.