Senate funds PBG's Women's Seminar

Many senators were concerned with poor attendance. The issue of senator attendance is especially pertinent at this time because of the recent elections for AAS executive board. Senator Matt Vanneman ’06 insisted the senate proceed with its weekly meeting despite the low attendance because there were many issues before the senate. “We have to have a meeting,” he said. “There are many requests to be dealt with.”

The senate began by asking about possible new business, a change from the way in which the senate had been conducting meetings. Usually, Budgetary Committee (BC) recommendations are discussed early in the meeting. This change resulted from a suggestion made at the last board meeting by Senator Emily Silberstein ’06 in an attempt to make the meeting more efficient by discussing the BC recommendations at the end of the meeting.

Since there was no new business the senate moved right to budgetary considerations. AAS Treasurer Ian Shin ’06 mentioned that budgets were due Monday afternoon and, as per policy, they are refusing budgets from “a couple of stragglers.” The BC had recommended that the senate not fund Pre-Business Group’s (PBG) request for $3,002.92 for a Professional Woman’s seminar. Three main reasons were outlined: first, the nature of the program’s goal, second, that the PBG should pay for more of the costs of their own program, as they have an operating budget larger than that of the senate at this point in the semester, and third, that the program is restricted to women, violating the discrimination clause in the AAS constitution.

Joseph Maliekel ’06, representing the PBG, gave a presentation on why the event deserved funding. “[The PBG is] cost-effective and careful in the way we spend money,” he said.

Vanneman endorsed the PBG’s event, calling it “very-well organized.” Not all of the senators agreed with Vanneman. Senator Techo Kim ’06 said that he was troubled that the seminar is only open to women.

Senator Spencer Robins ’08 drew attention to the fact that the PBG is using $10,000 of its money to begin a school in Sierra Leone, and it is was understandable that they need assistance from the senate for the seminar.

While Robins thought it was a productive way to spend money, others disagreed. “We’re giving them money, but we have no control over what they do with it,” said Senator Marco LoCascio ’07. Maliekel pointed out that the money the senate would give the PBG would go directly to the event and not to any philanthropic endeavors with which the PBG is also involved.

Returning to the issue of gender discrimination, Senator Raj Borsellino ’08 felt that his constituents would be in favor of funding the seminar. “We need programs like this to combat institutional sexism,” he asserted. Senator Daniel Reiss ’05 countered. “How does this benefit all members of this campus?” he asked. After substantial debate of the seminar’s merits and possible problems, the senate ultimately decided to fund the PBG’s Women’s Seminar.

The BC had also recommended that the senate not fund Educate!, a recently recognized club. However, because the logic behind this recommendation was similar to the logic used to recommend that the PBG not received funds, Shin said that the AAS should now fund Educate! Although Senator Richa Bhala ’07 maintained that there was a key difference between PBG and Educate!, the senate passed a motion to fund Educate!’s planned fundraisers in full. The senate then approved $50 toward the production costs of an Amherst Dance concert, leaving only $4.05 left in discretionary funds for the semester. Shin, however, estimated that around $700 would be added to the discretionary funds from clubs that did not put on events for which they were allocated money.

Vice President Dave Scherr ’05 removed Senator Graham Lake ’05 from the senate due to excessive absences. Judiciary Council (JC) Chair Ryan Smith ’07 said that the JC has been discussing the advantages and disadvantages of reducing the number of senators and increasing the number of students at-large who sit on committees.