From the Red Room: Feb. 28 AAS Meeting Updates

In their fourth meeting of the semester on Feb. 28, the AAS heard from the Office of Fellowships, voted on Budgetary Committee (BC) funding requests, discussed community engagement, held committee elections, and approved a proposal to supply eco-friendly detergent to students.

On Monday, Feb. 28, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) met for the fourth time this semester. The meeting was conducted in person in the Red Room, but all senators, including those in quarantine or isolation, also joined via Zoom. Senators heard from the Office of Fellowships, voted on Budgetary Committee (BC) funding requests, discussed community engagement, held committee elections, and approved a proposal to supply eco-friendly detergent to students.

After taking attendance, the Senate heard from Associate Director of Fellowships Eric Myers. Myers, a new hire at the college, asked senators to help advertise the Office of Fellowships. He emphasized that the office wants to meet with all kinds of students, and as students themselves, senators are in a unique position to reach out to their peers. Myers then asked if the senators had any suggestions for student outreach. Jaden Richards ’25 suggested a newsletter of some kind, and Kya Rincon ’22 proposed collaborations with the Loeb Center and other offices. Myers encouraged senators to reach out if they had any other ideas.

Since there were no further public comments, Treasurer Jae Yun Ham ’22 went over the BC discretionary funding recommendations. Requests included money for The Student’s trivia night and funding for Hillel’s weekly Shabbat dinner. Ham then asked if any senators had budgetary requests. Cole Graber-Mitchell ’22 requested $4,594 for The Green Room’s day trip to Broadway, which would be open to all students but capped at an attendance of 40. Other senators, many of whom were interested in attending, warned Graber-Mitchell that once he advertised the trip in the campus GroupMe AmherstBussin as planned, he would get an influx of interest. Graber-Mitchell responded that if many more people wanted to come on the trip, the club would reassess. Three more requests were placed on behalf of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the Archery Club, and the Middle East North African Association (MENAA). All budgetary requests were approved.

Vice-President Basma Azzamok ’22 then announced that, from March 8 through April 3, AAS meetings would begin at 9 p.m. due to scheduling conflicts in the Red Room. Richards asked how that would work timing-wise as “we all love to talk,” and Azzamok told him that they were going to start cutting people off. Although the Senate looked into temporarily holding meetings in another space, they decided to remain in the Red Room so that members of the public could still find them, as well as for social-distancing purposes.

After that announcement, President Angelina Han ’22 opened up a discussion about the AAS’s community engagement. Many senators, including Gent Malushaga ’25 and Gillian Quinto ’23, thought it was unfortunate that students don’t know the full extent of what the AAS accomplishes. Malushaga specifically referenced the email students had received earlier in the day giving them access to Grammarly Premium, an AAS project spearheaded by Shreya Mathew ’25. Senators had a multitude of suggestions for community engagement, including AAS office hours, tabling in Val, and better engagement with first years during orientation. Eight senators signed up to work further on community engagement.

Following this discussion, Sirus Wheaton ’23 shared his proposal to put zero-waste detergent sheets in all first-year laundry rooms. According to Wheaton, the proposal aims to reduce hygiene insecurity on campus and alleviate Amherst’s carbon footprint. It would cost $24,000 to buy a year’s supply of detergent sheets and install seven detergent refill stations — six in the first-year laundry rooms and one in Keefe Campus Center. Wheaton spoke about wanting to create a culture of sustainability and hygiene security at Amherst. After a few logistical questions from senators, the motion to fund Wheaton’s proposal passed. The detergent station in Keefe will be installed later this week.

The meeting then transitioned to committee elections. Wheaton nominated Malushaga to the Appointments Board, and as the only nominee, Malushaga won the position. Lori Alarcon ’24 and Quinto were nominated for and won the two available seats on the Elections Committee. Min Ji Kim ’25, Hannah Kim ’25, and Mathew were elected to the Orientation and First-Year Life Committee. Azzamok also began the election process for an available seat on the Committee on Education and Athletics, but halted the election upon realizing that Malushaga was already filling that position.

Han then began talking about a Five College student government meet-up, but the Zoom meeting ended in the middle of her speaking and had to be restarted.

After the transportation committee gave an update, senators provided updates on their campus projects. Richards discussed the lack of fun parties on campus and proposed working with Student Activities to host more Powerhouse parties, but also acknowledged the challenges of hosting a party with the college. Mathew updated everyone on her successful Grammarly Premium initiative and was met with a round of applause. Chloe Metz ’23 and Quinto spoke about working with students Charlie Sutherby ’23E and Mason Quintero ’23 — who have been publishing an op-ed series in The Student on the college’s failure to connect students to impactful careers — to improve the Loeb Center’s public service, non-finance, career resources. Malushaga and Richards advocated for an accessible database of public service internship opportunities.

The Senate then approved the minutes from their last meeting, as well as an email to the student body about the Grammarly Premium initiative. The email was sent out, and the meeting adjourned.

The next AAS meeting will take place on Monday, March 8.