AAS Creates Task Force on Committee Membership
Issue   |   Wed, 03/23/2016 - 00:06

The Association of Amherst Students created a Task Force on Committee Membership to review student membership on faculty committees. The task force held its first meeting, which was open to all students, and plans to make a recommendation to the Senate by the end of this semester.

“The task force was created to explore how seats on committees can best be utilized,” AAS communication director Bonnie Drake ’17 said. “It will address questions such as the appropriate balance of senators and at-large members, the appointment process for students to be on committees and ways to increase the accountability of those on committees to ensure that the general student body knows what’s happening in meetings and knows who is representing them.”

The idea to create a task force on Committee Membership arose last semester after the AAS sent a poll to the student body regarding the split between senator and at-large student membership on College Council. This poll was prompted by the Committee of Six, which had moved to increase the number of at-large student representatives on the College Council and wanted to solicit the opinion of the student body. The charge of each committee, as written in the faculty handbook, dictates among other things the composition and number of student membership on faculty committees. The Committee of Six has authority over the text of the handbook.

There are six faculty committees that have student members, which have varying student representation in the number of seats available and the composition of those seats. These faculty committees consist of the College Council, the Committee on Priorities and Resources, the Committee on Education Policy, the Committee on Discipline, the Faculty Committee on Admission and Financial Aid, the Faculty Computing Committee and the Faculty Orientation Committee. Currently, the only committees with at-large-members of the student body are the Committee on Educational Policy, the Committee on Discipline and the Faculty Committee on Admission and Financial Aid.

Heru Craig ’17E, who spearheaded the effort to bring attention to student membership on faculty committees, cited the power that committees have and said that the student body’s general lack of knowledge about the committees is problematic. Craig promotes greater at-large student involvement.

“Everyone who is capable of being on a committee should know what they are,” Craig said.

AAS President Tomi Williams ’16, who was instrumental in creating the task force, said that he finds the current selection process for at-large members of faculty committees transparent and effective.

“I think that it is important that all students who are interested have a say and are able to craft a substantive recommendation,” Williams said in an email interview. “It is one thing to share grievances, but this is an opportunity for these same students to work with senators and AAS members to help come up with actually policy that reflects their suggestions.”

The first task force meeting only had two students in attendance.

“Moving forward, I hope to work with more of the students who were most adamant about making broad changes to the makeup and selection process of student members,” Williams said.

More task force meetings will take place this semester before the recommendation will be presented to the senate at the end of the semester.