Monday’s meeting opened with a special guest: Green Dean Jessica Mestre ’10 as a representative of our very own administration. As the Student Life Program Coordinator, she came to discuss two different propositions in which the administration was looking to coordinate with the student body via the Senate.
The first proposal was about a campus-wide “Community Hour.” The impetus behind this idea was that the campus rarely has events where faculty and students across class and dorm can get together.
This idea got a pretty warm reception in the Senate, where similar ideas had been brewing for some time. Many senators thought the recent snowstorm set a precedent for this kind of activity, in that over 100 students and faculty got together to help clean up. In doing this, Amherst not only saved the time and resources of the College’s maintenance crews but also bonded as a community.
A few possibilities were brought up regarding what our Community Hours would look like. Some ideas revolved around speakers, entertaining or academic, that the whole community would come and see. I myself saw something of a problem with this: we don’t have a big gathering area. Johnson Chapel can hold little more than a single class; Pratt Field is off the main campus.
Furthermore, I wanted to see Community Hour as something potentially more fun. Not to say speakers aren’t fun, but listening to a lecture doesn’t get you mingling and really meeting new people. Now, my dorm (Stearns) had a dorm-wide game of Humans vs Zombies. Everyone had fun, and we met people we hadn’t before. The Community Hour doesn’t have to be this particular game, but I simply argued that a fun activity would bring more people and be better for “mingling.” We all agreed that Community Hour should take place Friday early afternoon, after most peoples’ classes are over for the week.
This is where you guys come in: do you have any ideas for Community Hour?
The second topic Dean Mestre came to was much more contentious. The issue lies with the fact that many students here over break have to buy food for the entire week from out of their own pocket because Valentine Hall isn’t open.
Basically, the administration asked the Senate to pay for a nice Thanksgiving meal for students that stay on campus. They estimated the cost to be about $18 per student, totaling $1500.
Many Senators opposed this immediately. Funding for food is an essential college service, they argued. This is the administration’s job, not the AAS’s. Students pay room and board; food should already be covered. Many saw this as the latest in a line of “AAS picking up administration slack,” wherein we fund projects the administration drops; examples range from TYPO to condoms. Senators worried that this would not be a one-time thing, draining us of $1500 a year in perpetuity before future governments could decide what to do with it.
Some supported funding and noted that this is a special meal, just like special events that are funded by the Senate during the normal school year. Thus it wasn’t an essential item being pushed on to us; it was a new initiative that the AAS could partner in.
The funding measure ultimately passed with 14 yeas, 8 nays, and a couple abstentions. I myself cast a measured but convinced no. While I completely take the administration at its word (I don’t think they are “slacking”), I see this dinner in a grander sense of student life at Amherst. The College isn’t just here to feed you; it’s here to be your home. Its mission goes beyond mundane allocations of money, whether those allocations are the most financially sensible or not. If there’s anybody who should say to the student body, you’re home here, it’s Amherst College itself.
Finally, I want to mention an opportunity to speak to your senators. We’re launching something called “AAS Listens” in order to be even more accessible. It’s simple: we’ll have a table in Val, and you can come to us this Friday at dinner and ask questions in a casual setting. I really hope to see people there. It may be one meal where I don’t eat by myself.