For the first time in recent memory, Amherst students have been without the significant representation found in a student body president. Yes, we’ve had upheavals within the AAS before: election scandals, constitutional conventions and even dissolutions of the entire governments. These repeated “scandals” only illustrate how, as students, our faith is visibly shaken in our student-led institution to do anything more substantive for the student body than dole out money to clubs.
The presidential elections are happening this week, already three weeks into the school year. Yet, for these three weeks, we have survived as a student body without a president. In fact, some might say we have thrived: we’ve seen another sexual assault expulsion and the opening of the Powerhouse. Following the confusion and frustration of last year’s election drama, the question on the tip of everyone’s tongue seems to be: “Why do we even need a president?” In essence, why should we, as Amherst students, even care who’s running?
Amherst needs a president for precisely that reason: to unite the student body and translate student ideas into actions. The statement “a president should serve as a liaison between the AAS and the student body” is thrown around a lot during elections. But it’s a fundamental right that students have. AAS senators work hard, but due to the nature of any social group (imagine a sports team), they become close, partially insular and seemingly unapproachable. It’s an unfortunate reality of a small liberal arts college.
But the president should ideally bridge this gap and be visible to the entire school. Thus, the president serves the essential role of being the “go-to” recognizable figure for every member of campus. They’re the person you can sit next to at Val and say “I know this idea is crazy but…” Any president worthy of the title will work with you and make your crazy idea a reality.
A president is there to hear your frustrations not only about the AAS but also about Amherst as an institution in general and to wield the collective mandate to create change in a way that no other student can. The presidential platform you vote for should be a culmination of both your largest disappointments and loftiest hopes for Amherst College. Our student community might unite over the hope of a Mountain Day, a Title IX review committee, further sexual assault reform or a “moose-scot.” Then, with the support of the student body behind them, the president could meet with the proper people and wield the authority to make these ideas concrete.
While the idea of a united student body petitioning the administration on our own sounds perfect, it is also impossibly idealistic. It would mean that students would lack a centralized body where we could properly communicate, focus our wants and convey them effectively to faculty and administration, creating new policies and real change. Ultimately, we need a representative of our ideas, our ideals and our passions in order unite around not only the Amherst that we are but the Amherst that we could be.