AAS Seeks Student Input on College Council Seats
Issue   |   Wed, 12/02/2015 - 01:42

The student body voted in favor of reserving two student seats on College Council for Association of Amherst Students senators in a poll conducted Nov. 11. The poll results have the potential to inform the Committee of Six’s revisions to the faculty handbook, which are set to take place in the spring.

Currently, the AAS president and four senators sit on College Council, which also includes faculty and administrators. However, while reviewing the faculty handbook last year, the Committee of Six found that there was no clause specifying that seats should be reserved for senators. According to AAS President Tomi Williams ’16, the council has been reserving seats for senators since at least 2009.

Professor of Art History Nicola Courtright, a former Committee of Six member who now chairs College Council, said students had recently expressed concerns to the faculty about whether they had an official body that could represent their interests in the administration. She said their concerns may have exacerbated by the resignation of Mariana Cruz as chief diversity officer.

“Last year, on the Committee of Six, where I served, we were concerned about too many AAS students, because the feeling was that even though they might be of diverse backgrounds, they don’t always represent the entire population,” Courtright said. “It may be the case that someone who runs for AAS may not be adequately representative of the student body. Or rather, that’s the sense that students have given me.”

The senate officially took a stance in favor of reserving two seats for senators and two for non-senators. Williams encouraged students to vote to reserve council seats by reaching out to each class on Facebook. He wrote, “senators are required — as their first priority — to represent the entire student body on any and all committees they serve in a way that at-large members are not.” He also said senators on faculty committees can bring information about the committees’ work back to the AAS, and direct AAS resources toward or against committee projects.

The poll offered students the choice to either maintain two reserved seats for senators or to open up every seat on the council to the student body. With a turnout of 509 students, the results showed 63 percent in favor of reserving two seats and 37 percent opposed.

In an email interview, Courtright said the description of students seats in the faculty handbook is somewhat unclear.

“Of the five students, three are members-at-large from the freshman, sophomore and junior class elected each spring to serve throughout the following academic year,” the handbook says. “The president of the Student Government serves ex officio without vote during the academic year.”

Courtright said she had discussed the issue with Associate Dean of the Faculty Austin Sarat in an attempt to figure out whether this meant there should be a total of five student members (including the AAS president) or six. According to Courtright, they decided that the council should ideally have a total of six student members.

“The charge is written terribly, so we’ll have a conversation about membership and rewrite,” she said. Courtright suggested that the council could have one at-large member from each class in addition to one senator and the president.

College Council is the only committee of the faculty that also includes members from both administrators and the student body. It is also the faculty committee with the most student members. College Council discusses a wide variety of issues relating to student life and makes policy recommendations. Recently, the council has influenced policy related to gender inclusive bathrooms, renewing cable in the dorms and solidifying the academic calendar, among other issues.

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