Advising, Ad Hocs and Arts at Amherst

First, I would like to thank those who voted in the school–wide referendum last week. The proposal to build a charging station and purchase a Chevy Volt for ACEMS passed with an overwhelming majority, with 82 percent of voters supporting the endeavor. Ian Hatch ’14 and I look forward to quickly finishing this project.

Last night, the Senate hosted a discussion regarding the advising system. Our third town hall in three weeks, this forum allowed students to voice their opinion to the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Advising. While the quality of advising varies among advisors, the committee led by Dean Patricia O’Hara hoped to solicit suggestions for institutional improvements to the advising system as a whole. Students voiced their confusion about the proper role of an advisor. Some students complained that they only interacted with their advisor during registration and add-drop, and they worried that their advisors simply acted as a liaison between the Registrar’s Office and students. In order to create closer relationships between advisors and advisees, a couple of senators suggested creating a special program based on TYPO that would allow a group of advisees to go to dinner with their advisor. As an alternative, the College could also consider creating group advisor meetings where an advisor and his/her advisees would take an hour each month to meet informally as a group. These meetings would forge a better relationship between the student and the advisor by creating a more personal interaction. In addition, advisees would meet new students across grades that shared similar academic interests. These meetings would by no means replace the intimate interaction of stopping by during office hours, but create a more frequent and formalized advisor interaction that would cut down on variation between advisors. With low risk and resource cost, this project at least merits a pilot program to test the viability of the system.

In addition, the AAS Senate has passed a bylaw that works to improve the election of executive branch members. Certain e-board positions, especially the treasurer, require significant training. Individuals have argued that previous e-board members have “groomed” their successors by only giving certain individuals this training. With this bylaw, training for e-board positions will be publicized to all students through an all-school email. Any student considering running for an e-board seat should email the current e-board position to learn about what training is necessary.

This bylaw was part of a larger group of amendments created by the Elections Reform Commission. The commission passed these amendments on Oct. 29, but the Senate has yet to consider them. While our Constitution and bylaws are greatly improved from last year, we must continue to improve them so we can better serve the student body.

Finally, Dvij Bajpai ’15 and Brendan Burke ’13 created an Ad Hoc Music and Arts Committee. While I am amazed that this committee did not already exist in the AAS, I am excited because music and arts directly affects hundreds of Amherst students. The AAS has already undertaken projects to support the arts and music— for example, Jess Sidhu ’14 purchased a keyboard for a practice room in the basement of James and Chris Friend ’14 purchased a drum set for Marsh House. However, this committee will allow for more formalized support for the arts by completing more frequent and broader–based projects.

The committee should not stop with short-term projects. As a trombone player in the Amherst Symphony Orchestra, I believe that the College can do more to support the arts. This committee should work to increase collaboration between departments and various organizations. The winter musical, possibly the largest yearly collaboration between groups, did not occur this year. This should not be acceptable to the College. This committee must work to support events like the winter musical and must act as a vocal representative to the administration on behalf of the arts and music.