Speaking About Senators, While the Senate Speaks About Speakers

I write about what we do in the hopes of getting a conversation going, whether or not you agree with me. And to be honest, I have been thrilled to hear about people finally talking about us. Last week, the AAS was mentioned in four separate opinion columns in The Student. While I, along with others, did my best to explain the decision we made last week, one senator wrote a lengthy email about how I lied to the student body last week for saying that the by-law would have given sole power to the BC. I promise you, whether or not I added one of the loopholes hidden in the long and boring text of the by-law, I gave an accurate summary of what it did. The fact that we are unable to talk about this issue in language that the student body will understand (not just official Senate jargon) speaks volumes to our inefficiency. Now, fortunately, there were a number of important student issues up for discussion on Monday night that I will discuss.

We are finally making serious progress towards fixing the divide between the AAS and the student body. Monday night, the Town Hall Initiative was unveiled. For too long, we have been guilty of not connecting to student issues, but now the implementation of town hall meetings will change that. Starting the week after Spring Break, there will be open forums held once or twice a month for students to gather with Senators and have an open discussion about issues that concern us all. The meetings will be held in a different dorm each time and will generally each be focused on a different topic. Do you have an opinion, for example, on the petition to increase upper-class substance free housing? Imagine coming to a discussion on Tuesday night where you literally sit down with your fellow students and Senators and share your opinions. Additionally, we could have a guest like Dean Moore of Residential Life come and give his input and answer questions. And you didn’t hear this from me, but there will be free pizza. These new meetings exemplify what the AAS is capable of by creating a way for students to share their opinions, for us to listen and, finally, let the administration know how we feel. I am very excited about these meetings.

Another awesome item on the agenda is the founding of a Speaker Board. While, currently, a fixed amount of funding goes to Program Board and Social Council to bring musicians, comedians, hypnotists and magicians, there is no centralized group to bring big-name speakers to campus. Sure, every so often a different club or academic department will bring somebody in, but what if we pooled our resources to really get some big names. The idea first came about when the Dean of Students from Claremont McKenna was on campus and mentioned the big-name speakers that they get every month like Anderson Cooper, Bono, Janet Reno, Antonin Scalia and Reggie Jackson, to name a few. Unless Bono and Scalia came here to speak while I was abroad last semester, I can’t help but wonder by we don’t pull in speakers like these. The reason, I believe, is because we have not done a good enough job of combining our resources, as opposed to each club or department doing something independently. Our hope is that this new board (which will not be using my proposed name Amherst Speaker Series, due to the unfortunate acronym), would pool money from AAS, the Dean of Students, Faculty and President’s office. Granted, this will start slowly with only a couple of big speakers a year, but eventually be a big thing. This looks promising but is still tentative.

One last report: As I mentioned in previous weeks, the AAS is discussing a proposal to divide the role of the Treasurer into two positions, one of which is paid. I can’t stress how necessary this is, seeing as how we can’t afford to take any chances with our student funds. The problem is, when we took a straw poll last night to see how the Senate would vote on the issue, it looked like it was going to fail. In the spirit of AAS connecting with the students, I urge everyone to talk to senators about this issue. We spend enough time arguing with one another; we might as well argue with you guys from time to time.