For the third consecutive year, the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) has shored up budgets for programs that were previously stewarded by the administration. Following the 15 percent budget cuts imposed by the administration in the midst of the financial crisis in 2008, the AAS established a fund to help defray some departments’ budgetary shortfalls. The Take Your Professor Out (TYPO) and Faculty Tea programs were among a bevy of programs that requested AAS aid when the fund was established, in addition to the Health Education branch of the Health Services Center.
“We did this when the economic disaster was in its prime, which was also before the school received two anonymous gifts from alumni totaling $125 million,” explained AAS President Romen Borsellino ’12. “So while this was unprecedented, we decided that a desperate time called for a desperate measure.”
The AAS made a $100,000 donation to the College that year — roughly one-tenth of the AAS budget — $30,000 of which was earmarked specifically for the programs and departments that had applied for funding. But even though the College’s endowment has recovered to pre-recession levels, the line where the administration’s governance of student life ends and the AAS’ begins has continued to shift.
The Health Education branch of the Health Services Center will spend roughly $1,000 on contraceptives this year, according to Denise McGoldrick, the Director of Health Education. Most of that money will be spent on condoms, which are bought in bulk at a cost of six cents apiece — a miniscule fraction of their retail cost. Resident Counselors (RC’s) can then fill out an order form for their dormitories, specifying the amount and type of contraceptives they would like to distribute to their residents. The contraceptives purchased by Health Education are also available in the Rainbow Room, the Health Services Center and the Women’s Center, in addition to being used as part of educational demonstrations.
Health Education considered moving to a different model three years ago in light of the budget cuts. “Other places either provide them for free, or sell them to residence halls, so that the RC’s can purchase them out of their residence budgets,” said McGoldrick.
“I am not sure whether or not as many students as currently rely upon the convenience of free condoms would be proactive about making sure they have access to protection when they needed it,” explained RC Nick Berns ’13 about the importance of freely-available contraceptives. “I suspect that the greatest impact would be an increase in the number awkward requests made on a Saturday night.”
But according to McGoldrick, when it comes to contraceptives, the College would rather be safe than sorry. “It’s incredibly cost-effective,” she said. “A lot of research indicates that if you have them widely available students are much more likely to use them. And our statistics on condom use back that up.”
Borsellino, who is a Student Health Educator (SHE), reiterated in an email that “While many Senators felt that this is something that the Dean of Students’ Office or another branch of the administration should pick up the tab on, we faced the reality that if they were simply not willing or able to, then the students would be the ones paying the price.”
The issue will probably come to a head in the coming weeks, as a $5,250 request for upperclassmen TYPO funds has many senators wondering if the administration has left the AAS stranded with the check.