Proposed Amendment to AAS Constitution Rejected
Issue   |   Wed, 02/25/2015 - 01:22

The Amherst Association of Students Senate voted on Feb. 16 to reject an amendment proposed by the Amherst College Republicans that would expand the Budgetary Committee’s non-discrimination clause.

The motion was proposed to the AAS as a means of preventing what some described as discriminatory voting by senators in allocating funding for organizations.

“The proposed amendment takes the language directly from the Amherst Honor Code,” said Robert Lucido ’15, president of the Amherst College Republicans, who proposed the amendment.

The proposal stated that because the honor code specifically protects students from discrimination based on criteria such as race, gender, religious belief and political affiliation, the AAS constitution should bar senators from voting on funding and student organizations based on these criteria. Most of the debate among senators focused on the details of the political affiliation and belief clauses. Currently, the only non-discrimination measure in the AAS constitution is the Budgetary Committee’s non-discrimination policy.

While Lucido argued that the honor code protects students from “arbitrary criteria” and should thus be instituted in the wording of the constitution, there is no explicit mention of this term in the honor code. The words “arbitrary criteria” do, however, appear in the Budgetary Committee non-discrimination policy.

“All students and organizations receiving full or partial funding from the AAS may not discriminate in any manner based on arbitrary criteria, including, but not limited to, age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, handicap, economic status, nationality or ethnic origin.”

The motion was intended to expand the policy of non-discrimination from the Budgetary Committee clause to the whole constitution.

“We wanted to make sure that if we were to make a clause, we wanted to make it comprehensive to apply to the whole senate and in all decisions, not just funding,” Lucido said.

At the meeting, senator Blaine Werner ’15 said that the usage of the term “arbitrary criteria” dissatisfied the members of the senate, and he asked for the removal of the term “arbitrary” from the proposed amendment, to which the Amherst College Republicans agreed.

Senator RJ Kermes ’16 questioned citing the Amherst honor code for an amendment to the constitution and said that the AAS constitution never references the student honor code.

Senator Chico Kosber ‘17 spoke on the problems associated with bringing in speakers who may violate the rights of other students such as those who express homophobic or racist viewpoints.

After the end of questions from senators, vice president of the AAS Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes ’16 told the assembly that the motion could be approved with a three-quarters vote from the senate.

AAS President Tomi Williams ’16 said that while the clause prevents explicit discrimination by senators, the senate should still be able to vote against speakers based on “heinous beliefs.”

Senator Sam Keaser ’17E said he agreed that the spirit of the honor code is in favor of upholding community at Amherst and that some speakers violate the trust of the community.

Lucido responded that hate speech would still be forbidden and prevented on the campus and that passing the motion would not allow for discriminatory speakers. He said that some senators have hidden discriminatory motives behind denying funding for certain speakers, previously proposed by the Amherst College Republicans, on the campus.

However, senator Johnathan Appel ’16 said that he feared the approval of the motion would hinder the ability of the community to prevent bringing speakers that create discomfort.

“If we have already voted on the honor code and are already bound by the honor code, if this is only meant to reinforce it, why bother signing the amendment?” Appel said.

The motion failed to pass, but senators Siraj Sindhu ‘17, Chico Kosber ‘17, Fawzi Itani ‘18, Will Jackson ‘18, Phillip Yan ‘18 and Sam Keaser ’17E volunteered to be members of a new committee to work with the Amherst College Republicans for future proposals.

Ryan Cenek '18 contributed reporting.