Letter From The AAS
Issue   |   Thu, 09/03/2015 - 16:59

Tomi Williams is the president of the Association of Amherst Students.

Welcome to (or back to) Amherst, folks! On behalf of the Association of Amherst Students, otherwise known as the AAS, I would like to express our excitement about kicking off the 2015-2016 academic year. My name is Tomi Williams, and I have the pleasure of serving as the president of the student body.

For those of you just beginning your time here at Amherst, you have made an excellent decision. Beyond its obvious advantages, Amherst is a community dedicated to serving its members. Each year we work tirelessly to bolster our strengths and genuinely address our shortcomings, all for the betterment of our students, staff, faculty and alumni.

To those returning, I am so looking forward to seeing you all. I know you are each bracing yourself to have the same “How was your summer?” conversation 1,800 times. When you begin to get a bit tired of the inevitable redundancy of welcome back exchanges, remember how fortunate you are to be a part of community that cares enough to ask and to actually listen.

Allow me a brief introduction of the Association of Amherst Students. In brief, the AAS is the college’s student government. We function primarily as a liaison between the administration and the wider student body. This often takes the form of advocacy on behalf of students and student groups and the issues about which they care most.

We also serve as a funding source for students and student groups who plan and execute activities and events on campus. In the beginning of the semester you will receive an email from our treasurer, Paul Gramieri, who will provide you with more details about our funding policies, process and guidelines.

Over the summer, we worked on a number of exciting initiatives and projects that we hope to see come to fruition this year. First and foremost, we hired a communications director for the AAS: Bonnie Drake. Effectively implementing this position has been one of our priorities since instituting the role last winter. As representatives of the student body, we recognize that it is our responsibility not only to work on your behalf, but also keep you regularly and thoroughly informed. As I am sure many of you have noticed via Facebook, Bonnie is already off to great start.

One of our most important projects for the year is a proposal we plan to put before the college’s board of trustees for a vote. This proposal would designate two seats on the board of trustees as reserved for recent Amherst alumni — alumni who have graduated no longer than five years prior to their appointments. You will be hearing a lot more about this in the upcoming weeks and months. It is our position that because 25 percent of current alumni graduated in the last decade, it is imperative that our board composition be more generationally representative. As it stands, there is only one board member who graduated within the past two decades, and he is from the class of 1996.

As the year progresses, we plan to take on a number of important conversations ranging from the administration’s recent residential life proposals, the mascot, the rapid growth of club sports on campus and race and community relations on campus. It is our intention to engage the student body in a productive and continuous dialogue about these and more issues confronting our school.

Beginning next Monday our senate will meet once a week at 8:30 p.m. in the Red Room in Converse Hall. These meetings are led by our vice president, Will Jackson, and are a forum for our 32 AAS senators discuss what they are working on, conduct official AAS business and appoint students to faculty and administration committees. Senate meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend.

Now, as an increasingly nostalgic senior, allow me to offer a few pieces of customarily cliché advice.
1. Treat those around you with warmth, particularly staff. Our campus is home to some of the most intriguing and sincere people you will have the pleasure of meeting. Whether it be the folks at Val, the custodial staff in your dorm or even your fellow classmates, take the time to get to know them. Also, remember your pleases and thank yous: they go a long way, are not too difficult and are just the right thing to do.
2. Learn for the sake of learning. You are intelligent and you are here. This is not a competition, and your experience at Amherst is worth significantly more than a three-digit number on your transcript. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gain knowledge (both useful and useless), create fruitful relationships, engage in heated and enlightening discussions and discover your passions. Do not waste it looking over your shoulder and perpetually measuring yourself against others.
3. Make mistakes and learn from them. It is less useful to project a persona of perfection than it is to be yourself, screw up sometimes and improve. Look at me — I have made plenty of mistakes and my mother tells me I turned out great (I’m just kidding, she’s never said that).

In short, make the most of your remaining time here at Amherst, whether it be one semester or four years. I am looking forward to a fantastic year with you. Let’s get it started!