AAS Discusses Its Role in the Strategic Planning Process
Issue   |   Wed, 03/25/2015 - 00:47

The Association of Amherst Students held an open meeting on Wednesday, March 11, in order to clarify AAS’s role in the strategic planning process. AAS President Tomi Williams ‘16 directed the meeting, which was the first of a series of discussions that are planned to reflect upon the effectiveness of AAS’s initiatives on campus.

The strategic planning committee, headed by Provost Peter Uvin, uploaded a draft of their strategic plan on the college’s website following the meeting on March 12. The committee is asking for feedback from members of the Amherst College community before the publication of final plan on April 6.

During the March 11 meeting, students expressed their concerns about how the general student body perceives AAS on campus.

“I think as of now, AAS is often viewed as a budget allocation body,” Williams said. “To take on a larger role, we should take stance on issues in campus and also outside of campus that directly impact students who are on campus so that school administration and the board of trustees can look to us to understand student views.”

Senators also suggested that AAS is not diverse enough to accurately reflect the interests of the student body it represents or to generate rigorous debate on relevant issues.

“I think AAS lacks diversity in terms of demographic and diversification in terms of thought. Especially when the members of AAS start to get close, we reach an agreement too easily,” Williams said.

The senators also expressed difficulty in representing students’ opinions when they conflict with the position of the college administration.

“The question is how do we make it so that our resolutions have force. How do we make sure that when we pass a resolution our suggestions can make an actual change,” said AAS Senator Sam Keaser ‘17E.

Senators also suggested various ideas about how the AAS can accommodate a wider range of student opinions and increase its visibility. Keaser suggested assigning AAS senators to residence halls and clubs and opening an AAS lunch table, where students could freely talk about the student government’s work.

Near the end of the meeting, attendees brainstormed ideas to strengthen AAS’s role in the strategic planning process.
“I think the big part of it is to get as many students involved as possible…and raise awareness on what AAS is doing ... the next step is asking them how do you think we can do our job better,” Williams said.

The AAS is set to continue its efforts toward community building, in order to create a stronger sense of belonging within Amherst. This is one of the seven priorities that the strategic planning committee agreed to adopt.

The first event to take place this semester is Amherst Spirit Scavenger Hunt, which encourages students to attend three events from each of several categories of events including club meetings, student performances and sports games, and post their photos on a Facebook page. All participants receive free college apparel and are entered into a raffle for an iPad mini.
AAS plans to host the second conversation on the budgetary process on Tuesday, March 24 at the college’s Queer Resource Center, which will be open to all students, faculty and staff.