From the Red Room: March 8 AAS Meeting Updates

In their fifth meeting of the semester on March 8, the AAS discussed the Sexual Violence Taskforce (SVT), Budgetary Committee (BC) funding recommendations, officer reports, and updates on Senate committees and projects.

Note: Because this week’s AAS meeting was moved to Zoom without communicating the change to the student body at large, this meeting recap was written based on an interview with AAS Senator Dania Hallak ’24 after the meeting, instead of first-hand observation of the meeting proceedings.

On Monday, March 7, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) met for the fifth time this semester. Unlike the previous week’s meeting, which was held in the Red Room with all senators also joining over Zoom, this meeting was conducted entirely online. The meeting included a presentation by Sexual Respect Educator Lauren Kelly from the Department of Health Education, discussion from the Sexual Violence Taskforce (SVT), Budgetary Committee (BC) funding recommendations, Senate fund requests, officer reports, and updates on Senate committees and projects.

After attendance was taken, the Senate heard a presentation from Kelly, who spoke about the work of Sexual Respect Education, including the office’s approach to sexual violence prevention, resources available to students, and cultural change strategies around sexual violence. Many senators asked questions about the efficacy of Title IX in supporting survivors. Kelly responded to all questions pertaining to Title IX by directing students to Title IX Coordinator Laurie Frankl. Senators also asked for information about campus resources distinct from Title IX, to which Kelly discussed the campus and community resources available to survivors beyond the Title IX office.

The SVT then presented a draft of an email planned to be released on Tuesday, which acknowledged the Instagram account @amherstshareyourstory and provided a form for students to present their concerns. The SVT, in light of new allegations against a member of the Senate that arose last week, asked the Senate’s opinion on adding a section that would guide the student body in how they might remove a senator from office. This prompted discussion on whether or not the Senate has the right to remove a senator from office, with the consensus being that while the Constitution does not provide for the Senate removing any Senator by themselves, it does allow for a senator to be removed given sufficient petition from the student body, as that would uphold the Senate’s mission of being directly representative of the student body as a whole. The Senate also discussed minor changes to content and wording, and senators were given a break during the meeting to look over the email and suggest additional information that they believed should be mentioned. Then, they reviewed those changes and voted on the email, which was sent out to students Tuesday afternoon.

After those two discussions, Treasurer Jae Yun Ham ’22 went over the BC discretionary funding recommendations. There were a large number of requests this week, including tickets to Broadway shows for both Green Room and the Middle East North African Association (MENAA), and tournament fees for Club Water Polo. All requests were approved, totaling $41,467.65.

The Senate approved the minutes for last week before President Angelina Han ’22 and Vice-President Basma Azzamok ’22 gave their report on their biweekly meeting with Dean of Students Liz Agosto. Following their report, Dania Hallak ’24 began a discussion about the shortcomings of the college’s Safe R-I-D-E system, giving accounts of Safe R-I-D-E being inadequately staffed, with reports of rides that were unavailable, that never showed up, and students asked to take double shifts despite the late hours of Safe R-I-D-E’s operation. One senator who is a Safe R-I-D-E driver responded with her account of the stressful nature of the job, especially given understaffing.

After the transportation committee gave an update, senators went through campus check-ins. Jaden Richards ’25 expressed concern about a skunk that has been seen around campus, proposing that the college should move the skunk to somewhere off campus before it hurts someone on campus or it gets hurt.

After reports and updates concluded, the SVT stayed behind to make final edits to the email, and the meeting adjourned.

The next AAS meeting will take place on Monday, March 21.

Correction, March 10, 2022: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Kelly’s presentation was on the resources available through the Title IX office. Kelly is not affiliated with the Title IX office, and spoke instead about her work in the Sexual Respect Education office of the Department of Health Education.