Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a large number of heated debates sparking around campus — most of them starting with, or popularized through articles that appeared on The Student website. These articles have not just received a large number of views and comments but have people talking everywhere from Facebook to Val.
We need such conversations to keep smoldering across campus. The student body brims with concerts, complaints and questions, but it often displays apathy in actually addressing these concerns. We view these articles, debates and arguments — both online and offline — as a step towards fixing this problem and igniting a sense of initiative.
Why is this important? Well, for one, both the AAS and College administration function better with increased student participation. Administrators and student representatives desire feedback and guidance, and constantly solicit it — but email surveys and polls only have so much of an effect. Not to mention the fact that often issues that are brought up in discussion forums and heatedly argued in the past have been addressed with lightning fast speed.
The student body must set the precedent of ensuring that their representatives represent them. Perceived apathy from the student body inevitably facilitates the mindset that actors on our behalf need not solicit our advice. Of course, this does not need to happen solely through writing articles, or participating in Facebook comment wars. Amherst College also hosts a variety of avenues for students to communicate views and express grievances. Go to AAS meetings and town halls. Write to administrators and committee members. Apply for at-large seats in trustee and faculty committees. Attend events specifically created to solicit student feedback.
When debates take place in public, and all stakeholders reveal their cards, students need not talk amongst themselves and rely on their peers for information. When students utilize publications to voice their opinions, standards of respect and content take effect. With this in mind, we believe that increased debate on campus issues in the public eye fosters a fair, fact-based, constructive, solutions-oriented dialogue. And while it is important that the discussion remain truthful, students should not fear placing their name alongside their grievances and opinions. Amherst students rarely resort to violence; they are generally interested in the concerns of their peers.
Student opinions provide important insight to others about campus issues, while helping to bring campus together around issues that may have been common only to a small group of students, like those of minorities or living in particular dorms. Let’s work together to talk through our issues more, and make Amherst a better community for us all.