AAS Sets Date for New Elections
Issue   |   Wed, 09/10/2014 - 05:34

The Association of Amherst Students announced this week that a new round of presidential elections will take place on Thursday, Sept. 25.

Following a series of complaints and controversies last spring in which the Judiciary Council voided the results of the AAS presidential election, the AAS was left temporarily without a president. The controversy began when two students filed a complaint asking the Judiciary Council to determine whether any of the candidates had exceeded the $45 spending limit in their campaigns. Amani Ahmed ’15, the winning candidate, spent $39.40 on campaign posters that she used, as well as $20.35 on posters she did not use. As a result, the Judiciary Council ultimately ruled that she had exceeded the spending limit.

Vice President Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes ’16 has been acting as the interim AAS president since last May. The upcoming presidential election will be to fill the role of the AAS president for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Polls for the Sept. 25 election will be open for 24 hours. If no candidate wins by more than 50 percent of the votes, then a run-off election will occur between the two candidates who receive the highest votes.

Representatives of the Elections Committee said that any student from the class of 2015, 2016 or 2017 is eligible to run, including all former candidates.

“The same exact constituency that voted last year in the student government elections will be voting again this fall,” said former JC chair Abigail Xu ’15. This means that that the class of 2018 will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

In the aftermath of the controversy, the student body approved a referendum that clarified the constitution’s definition of campaign expenditures. Campaign expenditures are now defined as “any and all expenses including but not limited to any purchase, payment, distribution, loan, advance, deposit, gift of money, or anything of monetary value made by the candidate, on behalf of the candidate, or given to the candidate for the purposes of influencing any election from the campaign’s inception.”

“The referendum demonstrated how strongly the student body feels about making sure no one is barred from the AAS because of their socioeconomic background,” said Elections Committee chair Olivia Pinney ’17.

“These elections are a clean slate for any and all candidates,” Delgado Montes said. “The changes adopted from the referendum codify when campaign expenditures begin and what they are to reduce the risk of both honest mistakes and unfair competition in elections.”

Ahmed has not yet commented on whether she will be running in the new presidential elections.

“I can say with great sincerity that I think I was treated very unfairly last semester by my peers,” Ahmed said. “I will continue to be involved and continue to love and give back to Amherst. I am ready for a great senior year and I’m excited to meet and get to know more students this year.”

Peter Crane ’15, Ahmed’s opponent in the runoff last spring, said that he has not yet decided whether to run for president again.

“I just decided to take on a thesis this past week,” Crane said. “I would only run if I could give a proper amount of dedication to the job.”

After losing the presidential election, Crane was re-elected to the AAS as a senator. Recently, Crane has been working alongside his fellow senators on a project to improve the AAS constitution. He has also been involved in an upcoming White House directed sexual assault awareness program, as well as project to help improve transparency within the AAS.
“I have tried to be constructive about what happened and stay involved and focused on making the school a better place,” Crane said. “Although the election was important, the real issues of sexual assault policy reform, changes to the counseling center, orientation planning and diversity went undiscussed.”

According to Pinney, an AAS committee will be soon be proposing a series of revisions to the constitution. These revisions include creating positions on the Elections Committee for non-senators, live-streaming AAS speech nights and introducing voting stations in Keefe Campus Center. The committee also hopes to restrict the Elections Committee chair’s access to elections results, so that the chair cannot view election results until the polls close. The committee will put these revisions to a vote of the student body this fall.

Over the summer, Delgado Montes assumed many of the responsibilities that would ordinarily fall to the AAS president. In the past few months, he has organized staff meetings to improve student feedback on the Strategic Planning proposals and worked with IT on developing a Amherst College mobile app, set to release this September.

“The biggest part of the summer was making sure students were present and active in all of the numerous changes happening in the Office of Student Affairs,” Delgado Montes said. Delgado Montes appointed students to sit in the search committees for various positions in the Office of Student Affairs.

"This was to make sure we have the right people with vision to lead and redesign student life with students as equal partners,” Delgado Montes said.

Delgado Montes described the recent election controversy as a learning experience for both students and senators.

“I think the AAS and student body have learned, that as an institution the AAS is imperfect and there is room for much improvement,” Delgado Montes said.