AAS Van Usage Policy Scrutinized After Confusion
Issue   |   Wed, 02/04/2015 - 00:25

The Association of Amherst Students debated van use policy last week, as the senate discussed whether students should be allowed to use AAS vans for profit.

The subject arose because some senators originally believed that a student had used the college’s pool vehicles to run a private shuttle service over interterm. The student, Alex Southmayd ’15, had advertised on Facebook that he would provide rides to campus from Bradley Airport in Hartford at a competitive price of $40.

“I am happy to provide a service that benefits Amherst students and students of nearby colleges,” Southmayd said in an email interview. However, he clarified that he never used AAS vans to provide this service.

“At one of my passenger’s suggestions, I looked into reserving an AAS van to increase passenger capacity,” he said, and he reserved the van on two different days. But after examining the rules on van use, Southmayd decided to use his own car instead.

“I personally decided not to use [the AAS vehicles] based on the ambiguity of the rules,” Southmayd said.

The issue of using AAS vans for profit came up at the senate meeting on Jan. 26, because some senators initially thought that Southmayd had used the vans for profit. At the meeting, AAS Secretary Christina Won ’15 informed senators that Southmayd had reserved vans with the intention of shuttling students from the airport.

“There are three vehicles that the AAS has, and they are strictly for student use,” Won said. “Student organizations can use them for transportation to their activities, and students use them for personal use as well, things like picking up their friends at the airport or running errands at Stop and Shop.”

Using this definition, Won said that shuttling students from the airport would fall under the category of “personal use.”
At the most recent AAS meeting on Monday, Feb. 2, Won clarified that Southmayd never used the AAS vans.

Although Southmayd did not end up using the vans, this discussion led to a further debate on what the AAS vehicle policy actually states. The AAS vehicle policy, which can be found on the college’s website, does not explicitly state that a student cannot use the organization’s vehicles for profit. However, it says that the use of these vehicles must be in line with the Amherst College vehicle policy, which is enforced by the campus police. The school’s general pool vehicle policy states that “pool vehicles may not be used for personal business or pleasure.”

AAS senator Ali Rohde ’16 was among those who believed that vans should not be used for profit.

“[Making profits] is definitely not the intention behind the vans,” Rohde said. “The school wants to equalize access to transportation … It’s not for personal business.”

AAS President Tomi Williams ’16 and Won, among several members of the AAS, said that this incident has shed light on the contradictions between the two policies and offered an opportunity to revisit them. However, while the AAS policy may be changed by the secretary at any time, any changes to the overall college pool vehicle policy must be made by the campus police, which prevents expedient revision.

“It’s good to have a discussion with the school and make sure our two policies are aligned and that they make sense with each other,” Williams said. He acknowledged that even though the “no personal business or pleasure” clause is ambiguous, the final decision should defer to the judgment of secretary Won.

Some AAS senators interviewed said that the for-profit service has revealed a widespread need for cheaper, more convenient access to and from Bradley Airport for students. In the past, there has been a shuttle service offered to the student body for Thanksgiving and spring breaks. However, the service is not offered at the end of winter break, prompting many students to use Valley Transporter, which offers a one-way ride to or from the Bradley Airport at a rate of $53 per person.

“I think the most productive thing that came out of it is that we’re saying ‘Okay, what if that’s a need that the AAS can step in and start to do?’ What if we can do something for free for [students]?” Williams said.