As far as I can tell, here’s the most important thing about AAS politics: No one really cares about AAS politics. Most of us are vaguely aware that a group of people sometimes gets together in a room of questionable color scheme and talks about campus issues, but that’s about as far as it goes. In particular, you can add another to the list of Amherst social divisions: Those who can navigate (read: exploit) AAS funding procedures, and mere mortals.
On the other hand, plenty of us care quite deeply about the content of policies that the AAS addresses. We often worry about the continuity of campus traditions, but, if there is such a thing as a legacy of complaining, we’ve inherited it with arms wide open — I’ll leave it at “Val.”
So the problem isn’t (necessarily) that we’re apathetic, politically or otherwise. We care about plenty of campus activities and plenty of campus policies, just not the campus activity whose constitutive function it is to work on campus policies.
The situation reeks of inconsistency, but I don’t think we need to worry too much. When the AAS works, it is because it is attuned and receptive to student perspectives — regardless of how immersed students are in an insular political culture. Tomorrow, when you vote for your new AAS president, I believe that your foremost concern should be which candidate is most tapped into the consciousness of the student body.
With that in mind, I’m writing in support of Will Savino. Maybe I ought to tell you how long I’ve known Will and how extensive our professional relationship is. On second thought, though, after last year’s presidential election, maybe I ought to be totally forthright: I’ve really only been hanging out with Will since this past interterm, and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s mostly just a guy I hang out with. Of course, I knew Will from afar, as many of us do, given his roles in Mr. Gad’s, various jazz ensembles and writing ill-conceived jokes in the back of The Indicator. I actually didn’t like him all that much, because I tend to resent people who are so markedly funnier than I am.
As The Indicator layout sessions and lonely nights on the first floor of Hitchcock began to accumulate, though, I got to know Will much better. I discovered that he was exceptionally responsive to everything I had to say about Amherst and beyond. I don’t mean to say that Will agreed with everything I said — far from it, really. What struck me, rather, is how clear it was that he was carefully thinking about my concerns. In many cases, he had heard similar concerns, and was able to speak earnestly and perceptively to a larger campus conversation.
It’s frighteningly easy to get down about Amherst. Perhaps this is just the case for me: Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially morbid, I like to recall that the fall semester of my freshman year occurred. But I’m more inclined to believe that I’m not alone in this thinking. Our conversations as Amherst students tend to revolve around the subject of Amherst College, but rarely do you overhear someone saying at Val, “Gee, this place is so great.” But our time here is too short for that type of thinking. We ought to be able to voice our concerns to an AAS president who will listen. Will’s most important qualification for this position is that he will listen to you.
It’s worth considering what’s truly at stake in this election. Both Chris Friend and George Tepe are remarkably qualified candidates who also happen to simply be good guys. And frankly, all three candidates’ platforms are essentially the same; a comparison of Facebook pages reveals some differences in rhetoric and social media strategy, but not much else. All of the candidates have realized some of our most widely shared sentiments. It’s no secret, for instance, that our drinking policy, as enforced this year, is inane, archaic and generally at odds with any reasonable worldview. I don’t intend, then, to compare Will’s proposals with those of his competitors.
Instead, I submit to you that the platforms themselves don’t really matter. What matters is how the platforms can evolve with respect to the concerns of us non-politicians. We need a president who will craft his agenda not by rigorous reflection, but simply by lending an ear. As funny as Will is and is known to be, he is also, in this critical way, one of the most serious people I know. If you were at the candidates’ speech night last night, you might recall Will’s notebook. Since deciding to run for president, Will has been filling — and now filled — a notebook of impressions and observations from meetings he’s had with students across campus subcultures.
We may feel disconnected from the important Amherst conversations and AAS goings-on — they seem so lofty, so political, so insoluble for the average student. But we shouldn’t forget that those conversations and goings-on are about you and me. We don’t need a career politician for a president, because it’s not really the politics that matter. We need one of us.