Senate Does Work: Making Money and Improving Student Life
Issue   |   Tue, 08/30/2011 - 13:53

This Friday, the Student Body will elect a new Senate for the upcoming school year. Monday night’s meeting proved to me that the AAS is truly heading in a direction towards making student life issues a priority, which is something that I, and many others, have long hoped for. I hope to see a new Senate that continues this focus. Here are some things we talked about Monday night:

Current senator and future Judiciary Council Chair George Tepe ’14 unveiled a Senate project that he has been working on for the past few weeks: purchasing GPS’s for student use. Tepe thought it fitting that if we lend cars out to students, we should lend GPS’s as well. His idea was initially to have the GPS’s distributed to a student when they pick up the keys for a campus van from the police station. Unfortunately for Tepe, Campus Police seemed to be working on things that they found more important than distributing GPS’s to students. Fair enough. So he went to the good folks at Frost who said that they would be happy to check the systems out to students. While his idea started out as one that would only lend them to those renting campus vans, it has evolved into a something where any student can rent a GPS, which will be particularly helpful to seniors who need to drive to job interviews in other cities … student life initiatives for the win!

As you all probably know, Merrill Science Center and Davis Dormitory will both be torn down in the coming years to make way for a new science building. AAS President Saumitra Thakur ’11 came up with a great idea to both preserve our history and make a few bones while we’re at it: sell bricks from Merrill to alumni, particularly science students who likely spent the majority of their Saturday nights/time at Amherst in the building. The Senate loved the idea. Not as well received, however, was my idea to also sell alumni the bathroom tiles from Davis Dormitory … this would ensure a souvenir for many of the students who have never set foot in the science center!

Senator Alex Stein ’13 announced that the new Amherst website “Scrutiny,” which allows students to evaluate their professors online, should be ready by May 13. On a related note, a number of students have been meeting with the administration to advocate for stronger teacher evaluations (which would be done through the College, as opposed to Scrutiny, which would be optional and run by students) to be implemented in the coming years. Many feel that there is a strong need for stricter faculty evaluations, seeing as how we are the only college, compared to at least nine of our peer institutions, that does not require evaluations for tenured faculty. On an unrelated note, Stein, along with Senator Sara Gehrdes ’11, stressed the need for more social events that will engage a large cross-section of the campus. Their proposal? A foam party. The two hope to use AAS funds to throw a rager in a tent outside that would basically be filled with bubbles. Their goal is to get funding from the Budgetary Committee and do this within the next couple of weeks.

One of the more unresolved discussions we had at Monday night’s meeting, led by senator Sam Bell ’11, pertained to an abundance of student security and campus police at Amherst parties, the latter of which, Bell thinks, is too much. The main point he made is that with the increasing campus police presence at parties, we have been shifting away from a culture that advocates drinking as something that should be “sustainable, safe and social,” to a greater crackdown in general. This is a tough issue because while underage drinking is, of course, against the law, the College has often seemed to take a relaxed approach to punishment as long as students do it safely. So this begs the question: are campus police actually stricter than they used to be? And if so, is there reason to be (in other words, has the culture of drinking here at Amherst changed)? Personally, I have not seen many signs that would point in any particular direction for either question, but these are the sorts of conversations that students should be engaging in. This is the type of thing that affects all (well, many) of us.

Finally, the student body will be voting on a new Constitution this Friday. I strongly urge you to vote NO on it. Here’s why:

1) Under the new Constitution, the student body will no longer get to elect any officers other than the AAS President. Instead, the President will get to appoint the rest of the Executive Board such as a Treasurer, Secretary and Judiciary Chair. I personally think this is undemocratic and puts too much power in the hands of one student.

2) This Constitution was written by a single student. I feel that a new Constitution should be created from the opinions of a broad spectrum of students consisting of both senators and non-senators of all classes.

3) This new Constitution is really just an outline of what a Constitution could be, and would not work unless we pass tons of by-laws in addition. I ran for AAS President on a platform of implementing student life initiatives and I, along with other senators, have a number of great ideas we want to work on. But if this new Constitution passes, we will devote the majority of next year’s meetings to formulating and debating by-laws for the Constitution and have little time to actually talk about student life issues. The AAS needs to be about student life.

While there are a number of flaws with our current Constitution, this new one is not an adequate solution. Vote NO!

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