Hi! Welcome back to Amherst on behalf of the Association of Amherst Students (AAS)! A special welcome to the class of 2018 and incoming transfer students. The entire campus community has been working long and hard to help you make a home here at Amherst College. So, welcome home everyone, new and old!
Let me briefly introduce myself. My name is Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes and I am originally from La Paz, Bolivia. I am an economics major and the RC of Newport, the French and Spanish House. On campus, I am the vice president, and for a brief time, the acting president of the student body.
As a result, I would like to briefly clarify the result of last semester’s presidential elections. As it stands, there will be elections for AAS president the fourth week of classes, with all candidates eligible to run. This was the decision of the Judiciary Council — the legislative branch of the student government — after a student body referendum at the end of last semester. It is an obstacle to start the semester without a president, but there is a lot that can be done with you as a unified and active student body.
The AAS is the student government of Amherst College, and is made up 32 senators that represent you. Every year, we oversee more than a million dollars and put it to good use by funding clubs, initiatives, special dinners and almost anything you can think of that can help improve our student experience. We also bring student voice when the administration considers important changes, trying to get the best outcomes for students.
However, I think that there is more the AAS can and should do beyond funding student activities and responding to changes proposed by the administration. It is my hope that the AAS can move forward with a greater focus on student advocacy. The AAS should take the initiative to reach out to student groups and offer our help to fulfil their goals, having the college act upon their needs. This year the AAS must bring us together to actively propose our own solutions to the problems we face. We are the ones with the best understanding of our problems and thus we should regularly act as a younger, but equal partners with faculty and administrators.
As part of this I would like to invite all students to attend AAS meetings, taking place every Monday at 8:30 p.m. in Converse Hall’s Red Room. To this purpose, the AAS will display initiative and invite different student groups to meetings throughout the year. We will partner with groups and ask them how we can help achieve their goals to better the Amherst community. Again, this means going beyond funding activities but really getting into a collaborative effort to brainstorm, identify challenges, connect different groups and above all, achieve more for students.
As part of the effort to build community, I have been working with the Office of Student Affairs to create a new tradition of campus-wide community dinners. The first of these dinners, open and involving the entire school, will take place the first week of October. The dinners are based around your first-year room meaning that as a first year you would be sitting at a table with your roommate and six other students that lived in the same room at some point: two sophomore, two juniors and two seniors. Because roommates and room pairs across years capture so many different groups of campus over four years, these dinners are a simple way for students to make friends with other students whom they would otherwise rarely interact. It is these kinds of events, born out of initiative, that are important opportunities to give our campus a greater sense of community despite our marked differences.
Over the summer, and this year, Amherst College as an institution has been changing. We have hired Alex Vasquez as our new dean of students, the trailers have been demolished and the Office of Student Affairs is being redesigned. Over the next semester we will see many new faces as the college is in a hiring phase after making vacancies in Residential Life, Student Conduct and Student Activities. Particularly in Residential Life, the AAS will take the initiative alongside to create a vision for a more rich residential experience that emphasises social community and personal growth outside academics.
Additionally, IT has been working on a mobile application and the AAS is helping shape its content. The app, rolling out this September, will allow students to access resources with greater ease, using their phones to load up AC Dollars, checking the Valentine menu for the night or even assignments on Moodle and more. The AAS will actively reach out to students for their opinions and ensure that the app is customizable to each student’s preferences.
This year will bring about many changes in student life and what defines our Amherst experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, run for senate or make sure that your senators are working on the projects most important to you.
I am very excited about this year and getting to know many of you! Good luck on classes, and let’s make sure Amherst is the best place to be for all!