Dear Mr. Borsellino and the Amherst Student Body,
I am the author of the “nasty email” referred to in this last week’s column titled No More Red Tape in the Red Room. Overlooking the fact that my opinion was misrepresented through the excerpt selected for the article, I am writing again with the same, though intensified, concerns regarding the earnestness and methods with which the AAS solicits opinions. Motivated by the fact that the results of the most recent survey regarding the Spring Concert were not published, and having noted the allocation of nearly 10,000 additional dollars to the cause, I wrote frustrated that the AAS seemed to be disregarding an opinion that I believed to be held by a large portion of the student body: namely, that in its current form the Spring Concert is a poor use of a large amount of money. Given that the results of the original survey in the fall indicated that students wished to allocate $65,000 to the event, I was surprised that the AAS would think that a $75,000 concert was one that we could “all get excited about.”
In a private email response, Mr. Borsellino informed me that the unpublished survey was apparently “not representative of the facts and was void” due to a third option that had not been presented therein to the students, that being the option the AAS is now pursuing. He also informed me that any amount under $10,000 is under the discretion of the AAS and not up for referendum. To this, I say the additional, and strategic, $9,950 constitutes in fact a lump sum of $74,950 that we did not approve, as necessary, by referendum, and that should a public question become invalid, it ought to be posed anew rather than discarded.
Though shocked by these decisions, I also wrote because the treatment of these surveys appeared to represent the larger issue of how the AAS solicits the opinions of the student body. I am not accusing the AAS of laziness or a lack of transparency, but rather of seeking student opinions merely superficially and ultimately without truly representing the entire campus. Though a limited number of surveys are distributed, and some issue-specific forums are open to the public, I have seen little active solicitation of and engagement with student opinion, and many decisions made behind translucent doors. Though the issues are technically accessible to students, I don’t believe that the AAS does a good job of educating us about the nature of these issues. Transparency is not the same as engagement.
I am writing here because this issue is clearly manifest in the President’s hypocritical treatment of a student’s criticism. While his column preaches a new brand of openness, it simultaneously seems to attempt to cow critique by publicly calling out my letter and implying its lack of rational foundation. “The AAS always wants to hear from [students] through emails” – except, apparently, when it does not. I could, but will not, accuse the President of dictatorial double-speak and instead hope to represent my original views, unmolested, with the hope that others also do so in the future.
As such, I have decided to include here the full contents of the nasty email, so that the student body at large can talk amongst itself, debate, and judge if I am, as accused, someone who is “going to be upset regardless,” and whether or not the Senate’s appropriation of additional funds in this case is acceptable to us, the students.
I am writing with some concerns that I have, and that I noticed many other students have, regarding the way the spring concert debacle has been handled. I was hoping I could voice one of the major concerns so that such things could be avoided in the future.
I recently read in The Student that the AAS allocated an additional ~$10,000 to Program Board for funding the Spring Concert. I do not remember ever being asked by the AAS, nor by a single one of my class' AAS senators, what I thought about these funds. What I do remember is being surveyed about whether Spring Concert should even happen this year, but as of yet I do not believe those results were ever announced. A great many students I have talked to don't believe the Spring Concert is a good use of our funds, yet somehow it doesn't feel like that view is represented at the AAS. I know there was a town hall, but students are pressed for time. I believe it is the job of my class senators to figure out our opinions on matters as important as another $10,000. I voted no to the Spring Concert, never found out the results of the survey, and then discovered that not only has the concert not been canceled, but also additional funds have been allocated to Program Board, which if my perception is correct is widely believed on campus to have handled the situation poorly.
I know that my personal opinion shouldn't drive the decisions regarding the concert. However, I feel the collective opinions of the student body should be taken into account far more than they have been, and I truly believe that I am not in a small minority in having this view on the Spring Concert in general. Outside of the single issue of Spring Concert, this issue seems to fit into a larger pattern of our class senators not asking for our opinions and representing our class at AAS meetings. While I have been asked to complete online polls, I haven't been asked by my supposed AAS senators for my opinion on almost any topic in my 3.5 years at Amherst. I hope this can change, as it will also likely help change the perception that the AAS doesn't represent and work for the student body as a whole.