From the Red Room: Feb. 7 AAS Meeting Updates

The AAS held its first meeting of the spring semester on Monday, Feb. 7. Senators discussed the current Covid-19 protocols at the college, the logistics of commencement, and the student activities fee.

On Monday, Feb. 7, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) held its first meeting of the spring semester. Conducted over Zoom, the meeting included a town hall with Dean of Students Liz Agosto to answer questions from students about the new semester. Senators also discussed the student activities fee, as well as Budgetary Committee (BC) funding recommendations.

The meeting began with Agosto providing current statistics on positive Covid cases at the college, in addition to information about the expected timeline for lifting Covid protocols on campus. She relayed that 40 students are in isolation at the moment, and that she anticipates protocols will be loosened soon. Agosto also apologized for the lack of communication regarding spring housing for students, stating that efforts are currently being made to address room changes and housing concerns.

The floor was then opened up for students to ask Agosto any questions they had. Senator Jaden Richards ’25 asked for an explanation for the poor management of spring housing. Agosto responded that housing selection was initially scheduled in December, but was pushed back to late January due to a lack of knowledge on which rooms were available and the tightening of Covid protocols. She also noted that there were several data issues and inaccuracies on which rooms were actually occupied, contributing to the poor communication surrounding room selection. However, Agosto added that the data is now constantly being updated and room change requests will receive responses starting next week.

Treasurer Jae Yun Ham ’22 asked about professors being notified when students miss testing and when Val would go back to full capacity. Agosto said that faculty members will only be notified when a student’s ID is turned off, meaning that a student has missed three consecutive tests. She added that Val is expected to go back to full capacity on Monday, Feb. 14. Senator Cal Gelernt ’24 then requested an explanation behind the requirement for testing three times a week, as well as the harsh restrictions that were recently announced. Agosto explained that testing three times a week is a response to the Omicron variant and will only last until Feb. 25.

President Angelina Han ’22 questioned what would happen if isolation housing filled up, but Agosto responded that this is not likely because neither location for isolation housing is currently filled up. Senator Dania Hallak ’24 then asked why students were no longer receiving daily emails about positive test results. Agosto said that emails have shifted to being sent every Wednesday because some started to ignore the daily ones. Naya Burshan ’22 questioned whether having an excused missed test would also result in a student ID being disabled. Agosto responded that an excused missed test will not be held against an individual, but they will be expected to get a test as soon as possible.

Senator Cole Graber-Mitchell ’22 asked how the administration intends on improving its communication with students moving forward. Agosto said the administration is working on a more visible platform that will compile all important dates and deadlines for students in one place. She added that students should have move-out dates by the end of February.

Senator Sofia Guerra ’22 followed by asking about the logistics of Commencement. As of now, Agosto said she is hopeful that the college will be able to hold a more traditional and less restricted Commencement, although she doesn’t have specific dates for when a decision will be made and information sent out about the ceremony.

Senator Shreya Mathew ’25 requested more information on the status of booster vaccination within the student body. Agosto reported that 98 percent of students are currently boosted and that those who are not are regularly being urged through email reminders to get the shot. Unless exempted, further actions will be taken for students who do not get boosted per the college’s requirement.

Senator Gent Malushaga ’25 asked about the guidelines for quarantining close contacts of positive cases. Agosto responded that close contacts are not being required to quarantine, unless the individual is not vaccinated. Finally, Senator Lorett Alacron ’24 asked if the testing center will remain open until 8 p.m. for the rest of the semester. Agosto said that the 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. testing period will continue throughout the course of the semester, as it was meant to create easier access for students.

After the town hall, senators discussed the student activities fee. Ham relayed that the administration had proposed a semesterly student activities fee of $280 for next year, which is $30 more than the fee for the 2021-2022 academic year, but $70 lower than the fee prior to the pandemic. Senators were concerned that the fee of $280 would not be sufficient to fund all student activities, mainly due to an increase in club activities and a gradual return to normalcy. Since an increase in the fee would still be covered by the college’s financial aid packages senators argued for a higher fee. The motion to keep the fee at $280 failed by one vote, and a new motion to raise the fee to $300 was passed.

The meeting then shifted to the approval of the BC’s funding recommendations, which totaled $15,240. Among the groups requesting funds were Amherst Dance, Green Room, Amherst STEM Network, Muslim Students Association, and Marsh Arts House. Afterward, Mia Griffin  ’24 and Hannah Kim ’25 were chosen from the senators to be new members of the BC.

The AAS will meet again next week on Monday, Feb. 14.