“Michael Elliott can’t fix what he doesn’t know.”
This was the phrase shouted at many a student entering Val for dinner this past Monday, when The Student sat in the foyer collecting advice and guidance for the new president.
Elliott’s presidency so far, as he mentioned in an interview last week with The Student, has been dedicated to learning about the student body and its diverse perspectives. Reflecting a smattering of these perspectives, the responses received from students (via a Google form) included specific policy-change requests, commentary on important campus issues, and general guidance on how best to lead the college.
One of the topics most frequently mentioned by students was the importance of two-way communication between the administration and the student body. They hoped that Elliott would both actively listen to student input and effectively convey the administrative response.
On this note, Leandro Arcos Roman ’24 advised Elliott “[t]o be as present on campus as possible. To find ways to constantly receive feedback (and act upon it) from the student body.”
Mase Peterson ’23E echoed this sentiment, especially with regard to students of color, urging Elliott to “actually go through with their ideas.”
“Listen to and act on the concerns of students, continuously communicating to ensure that they are getting what they demand,” Annika Bajaj ’25 added.
Other students wished for Elliott to shift priorities regarding the resources on campus. Overwhelmingly, they said that they would appreciate an administration that demonstrated specific and authentic attention to the thoughts and desires of students.
“You have real power, don’t use it just to better the ‘financial portfolio…’ invest in this community instead of the donors,” said Kathleen Harris ’24E. “Care for the actual lives of the people here.”
Relatedly, many hoped that students would have greater say in college decision-making under Elliott’s administration.
“I would like him to make the institution more democratic,” Langston Prince ’25 said. “Release the data on the endowment, [and] weaken the Board of Trustees.”
Responses also expressed a desire for Elliott to take an active role in creating change that responds to student concerns, rather than merely idly listening.
Tim Carroll ’25 expressed his hope for Elliott to “to try to make substantive change and be more than just a glorified mascot… I don’t want the president to feel like a puppet who’s being controlled by the Board of Trustees… [he should] listen to students and implement changes that students want, not just twiddle [his] thumbs and talk about how great of a place Amherst is.”
“I have hope that Micha[e]l Elliott will listen to the students,” said Cameron Mueller-Harder ’22. “I know he needs to have the institution’s best interests at heart, but I hope he realizes that the best way to do that is to be on the side of the student body.”
Students also pointed out many specific campus issues that they hoped would be addressed. For instance, several students called for Elliott to take action on improving the college’s sustainability and climate policies.
“It is essential that Michael Elliott prioritize environmental action at the College,” said Nora Lowe ’26. “I implore the President to make climate-conscious action one of the defining characteristics of his term. For example, Amherst has already agreed to stop making new investments in the fossil fuel industry. That is great. But what about the assets currently invested?”
Bajaj echoed these sentiments, while Tylar Matsuo ’24 suggested the installation of more electric vehicle charging stations.
Multiple students also raised concerns about the conditions faced by Val employees and staff members more generally. Peterson said that Elliott should work to ensure “better working conditions and pay for all staff but especially Val workers.” Bajaj also emphasized the hope that Elliott prioritize “workers’ rights for students AND Amherst employees.”
Several responses also noted that the new president could better support students by making improvements to accessibility at the college.
“Streamlining the accommodations process and modifying the college’s response to mental health crises to be less focused on institutionalizing vulnerable students,” said Bajaj.
Peterson provided the specific recommendation that Elliott “implement a no-penalty policy for accumulated absences for all classes on campus,” meaning that professors would no longer be able to penalize students’ grades for missing any number of classes.
“This will ensure better access to neurodiv./disabled students who aren’t able to be present at all times and eliminate unnecessary worries for students and their capacity to engage,” they said.
Other responses pertained to recurring issues that have been the subject of much activism over the years, as well as ways the college could become more equitable and inclusive in its practices.
“Amherst has been a hotbed of sexual misconduct for far too long,” said Matsuo, expressing their hope that the Elliott administration prioritize the issue.
Faith Omosefe ’26 noted their hope that the college “ensure that all international students receive the same [financial aid] packages as domestic students upon acceptance.”
Laith Bahlouli ’25 said that it would be great to end pork- and alcohol-only entrees on the nights of Ramadan.
Amid the straightforward guidance, at least one piece of student advice defied immediate interpretation. Dylan Byrne ’24 warned Elliott, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”