The widespread lack of awareness or enthusiasm across the student body regarding the Association of Amherst Students executive board election is alarming, but not new to our campus. There is a growing distance between AAS and the student body, with the latter seeing its student government as a failed bureaucracy primarily designed to create committees and to allocate money to different groups on campus. AAS is a flawed institution, inefficient in their governing process and still struggling to be inclusive of all student voices. However, these problems are only intensified when students become uninterested. Disenchantment with the bureaucracy will be merely perpetuated if we do not maintain our voices in the system designed to represent us.
Students view the AAS as a useless organization and often complain about its work, but the truth is that most members of the student body have never stepped foot inside the Red Room and sat through an entire senate meeting. Senators and other members involved in the AAS do spend a lot of hours discussing pertinent issues during their weekly meetings and dedicate even more hours throughout the week to outside projects and committees. The editorial board is not saying that the quantity of hours seamlessly translates into better quality of work, but at the same time, we believe students critical of the AAS cannot validate their opinion of the group without properly acknowledging the current state of affairs.
Much of the dismay associated with the AAS is linked to the fact that students see the institution as a hurdle to accomplishing their goals. If you want funding for your club, you must deal with the inconvenience of attending a budgetary committee meeting. If you want your voice to be heard, you have to make time for a lengthy AAS meeting. Student leaders often blindlessly enter BC meetings without perusing the specific guidelines, only to be turned away and become frustrated towards the committee itself.
So, as the student body prepares to embark on a new year with new leadership in student government, it’s crucial for outside critics and proponents of the system to consider what their role is. Dissatisfaction with government on a larger scale is hard to combat, but at a campus such as Amherst these problems can be feasibly remedied. We keep demanding transparency from the AAS but at a certain point, how much does this matter when the constituents simply refuse to make any effort to learn about the institution and challenge its flaws? It’s crucial for students to engage actively with the AAS in order for any real change to be made.