Dean of Students Allen Hart has approached the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) to propose that the effort to address campus social life issues be a collaborative venture between students and the administration. His proposal came after the recent setbacks on social life frontiers: basements in Crossett, Davis and Stone were rendered unusable for The Amherst Parties (TAP’s) due to fire regulations and the cancellation of funding for Senior Bar Night.
The fire safety regulations came into effect before the semester began, but the administration’s decision to stop funding Senior Bar Night was more recent. The administration came to this decision after analyzing the event and realizing the liabilities surrounding it.
What kind of liabilities the event entailed remain unclear. Romen Borsellino ’12, the AAS President, said the administration fears that students will face injury or other harm while off-campus at a College-sponsored event. In light of this administrative decision, the Senate discussed funding Senior Bar Night using AAS money and sent out a survey to the senior class to ask whether students wanted the AAS to do so.
“We didn’t want to take up this issue unless we were 100 percent sure that this was what the student body wanted,” said Borsellino.
Over 80 percent of participants expressed that they wanted the AAS to start funding the event. However, according to Borsellino, the administration warned that they would not allow the AAS to fund Senior Bar Night, invoking a veto power that is “unheard of.”
“It’s not a common thing for the administration to get involved in our funding decisions,” Borsellino said. “Many senators still aren’t sure that they have that power.”
Proceeding with their plan of to fund Senior Bar Night would have increased the tension between students, the AAS and the administration. In the hopes of avoiding such problems, Dean Hart reached out to the Senate with his own proposal for addressing campus social life.
“What I would like to do is offer myself and others from the Dean of Students Office to be part of this social life task force,” Dean Hart said when he spoke before the Senate at their weekly meeting this past Monday. “I don’t think there’s any way that you guys can solve the problem on your own, [nor is there] a way that we can solve it on our own.”
The Dean of Students Office showed eagerness to figure out ways to salvage threatened student traditions and to think of new ways to improve the campus social scene. After a lively debate, the AAS voted for the creation of a social life task force and elected Senators Matt Aizpuru ’12 and Jasjaap Sidhu ’14 to represent the Senate in this newly-created venture.
“The task force is not just meant to replace everything that was lost but to come up with innovative ideas and create a fun atmosphere,” said Aizpuru.
According to Sidhu, some of the ideas that have been floating around before the task force was created include buying a tent for TAPs rather than renting one each time and establishing Senior Bar Night on campus. The administration, according to Borsellino, has said that they would be willing to incorporate alcohol into its plans of the new social scene, “if handled correctly.”
“The administration said no [to funding Senior Bar Night as it exists], but it’s not for a moral or ethical reason,” Sidhu said. “It’s either over laws that will be broken or liabilities that will be violated.”
Aizpuru was in agreement with Sidhu and said that the administration doesn’t want the student body to think that they are “against partying.” Dean Hart expressed interest in having a conversation with students instead of trying to come up with solutions separately and invariably shooting down ideas that had not been properly hashed out.
“I don’t want to prejudge or presume what the outcome should be,” Dean Hart said. “I’d rather figure that out together.”
Sidhu was already involved in a Senate effort to set up a committee on social life, which would have addressed the same issues without the administration’s involvement. He believes that now, however, with the administration on their side, the effort will be more efficient and ultimately gain traction.
“There’s a lot of optimism for this committee,” Sidhu said.
The social life task force is set to include Borsellino, Sidhu, Aizpuru, Dean Hart, Assistant Dean of Students Hannah Fatemi, Environmental Health and Safety Director Rick Mears, as well as a handful of other students. These will include two executive members of the Social Council in addition to one student from each class. These members will represent Resident Counselors, sub-free students, musicians and athletes. The members will be appointed by Borsellino and approved by the AAS.
“We have a lot of work to do, now the responsibility falls on the students to come up with ideas, and the administration to remain receptive to those ideas,” Borsellino said. “We’ll see where it goes.”