Senate to fund The Hamster in full

Despite the Budgetary Committee’s (BC) recommendation not to fund any of the $897.00 that The Hamster’s staff requested for a second issue this semester, several senators wanted to allocate money to the publication.

Senator Spencer Robins ’08 motioned to amend the BC recommendations in order to fund The Hamster. Robins asserted that how the senate decided this funding issue would have serious implications for “standards in the future.”

Senator Will Havemann ’07 wanted to clarify exactly what reservations senators have about funding The Hamster. “What is it exactly about The Hamster that we disapprove of?” he asked.

Senator Avi Das ’07, a member of the BC, explained the BC’s recommendation was the result of the failures of The Hamster staff to be sufficiently careful about repeating past transgressions. Das explained that after receiving a second chance from the senate following some larger issues in the past, there were still problems raised by the last issue of The Hamster. After the last issue, there were several threads on the Daily Jolt and letters to The Amherst Student condemning an article about the tsunami disaster in the magazine which many students and professors found offensive.

Das insisted that the senate take into account the source of the funds for which The Hamster is asking. “We should not censor someone, but it is the Student Activities Fee that is funding this publication,” he said. Das added that student money should not fund The Hamster since so many students found some of the content offensive.

Senator Jacob Thomas ’07 also emphasized the offensive content. “It’s not an issue of censorship or free expression,” he said. Rather, Thomas said that the publication contained “tasteless humor,” and it should face appropriate repercussions.

Senator Daniel Reiss ’05 said that The Hamster is poorly run and is not self-regulated. However, Senator Richa Bhala ’07 disagreed, stating that a group such as the AAS is not in the position to review publications.

Bhala also read a statement from her constituent, Indicator Editor-in-Chief Andrea Gyorody ’07, who expressed concerns about the potential for the AAS to withhold funds to other publications in the future. Gyorody wrote that it was not the AAS’s position to critique the contents of The Hamster, but rather to fund it like any other student-run publication.

Robins echoed these sentiments by saying that many things are published in campus publications that could be found offensive, but that we should be able to “foster opinions we don’t necessarily agree with.” One of the editors of The Hamster, who was present at the meeting agreed with Gyorody’s points. “A satire magazine is supposed to push the limits,” said Andrew Gehring ’06.

Reiss, however, continued to insist that The Hamster should not receive funding. “Noble aspirations don’t equate to success,” he said. “We’re not censoring them.”

Senator Rob Cobbs ’06 disagreed. “It’s tantamount to censorship,” he said. “The object of the publication is to push the boundaries.” Cobbs said that the allegedly offensive article addressed race, and that had the article addressed a different subject, the reaction would not have been as strong. “The article about ugly people didn’t spur debate,” he said.

Cobbs also worried what message not funding The Hamster would give other publications. “We’ll send a message to the publication community that as soon as you open a discussion about race, we’ll not fund you,” he said. The senate ultimately voted in favor of fully funding The Hamster.

Senator Gabriel Mattera ’05 proposed the creation of a document that would be called Senate Orders. According to the proposal, this document will “hold informal recommendations on Senate practice.”

Robins was in favor of creating this informal document, stating that is was completely non-binding and has the potential to be very useful.

Cobbs, however, had reservations about the document. “At the face of it, this seems unnecessary,” he said. He was concerned that the majority vote needed to form a new recommendation in the Senate Orders would be “too subjective to the whim of the senate.” Mattera, however, stated that the spirit of this proposal was to “create a memo pad for the senate.” The senate voted to establish Senate Orders.

The senate also elected Havemann and Senator Jonathan Godsall ’06 to a newly-created committee responsible for discussing the future of the bird sanctuary.