North Wind And Sun

AAS Meeting Turns Divisive Over Funding

Starting with a request for funding, Monday evening’s Association of Amherst Students Senate meeting rapidly developed into something much more intense, igniting the passions of senators and alluding to issues much larger than the matters at hand.

Michael Britt ’10, a second-year senator, began with a request for the AAS to fund the men’s ultimate frisbee team in their efforts to attend their annual tournament in Savannah, Ga.

His request was met with a great deal of skepticism, especially from veteran senators who feared what would result from funding the ultimate team’s expedition. Prior to Monday evening, the AAS rarely funded events that occurred over spring break, but Senator Britt made his case and the AAS responded in his favor, passing the funding proposal 17-7.

“Despite them earning spots on tournaments, what we have is a system where we must tell [members of club sports] that those who can afford to go can go, and those that can’t, cannot,” Britt said.

Senators questioned Britt’s proposal on the basis that it would open up a number of uneasy possibilities, creating a “slippery slope” of funding that veteran Senators were not comfortable with.

Joshua Stein ’08, a fourth-year Senator, led the opposition to Britt’s proposal. “I think that there were some real fundamental issues that were being brought to the forefront last night,” Stein said in an interview. “There was a concerted group of older senators who realized that once you go down a certain path, we might be in a place that we don’t want to be in.”

Funding is often a contentious topic and many students percieve the AAS Budgetary Committee to be overly conservative. The senate meeting moved from one funding proposal to another, as various senators stressed that the AAS must be aware of its limited resources.

Monday evening’s discussions also led themselves to a larger issue, one that relates to Amherst’s recent efforts at increasing socioeconomic diversity.

“At this institution we are trying to create an experience for all students,” Britt said. “We cannot claim or report that we are giving students the same experience, or even the Amherst experience. For some students, this comes at a social cost.”

Senator Stein said, “Monday night was a good example of positive student government on this campus. It was the Senate reevaluating where it stood and making sure it didn’t make a decision on something that appeared innocuous [but] could have had lasting ramifications on the student body.

Second year senator and member of the Budgetary Committee Peter Tang ’10 sees these matters, all of which concern the student body as a whole, as warranting the input of all students. Tang said, “Hopefully students will realize that senators are engaged in ongoing conversations on spending and overall campus attitudes towards activities, and more importantly, that they are critical components of our discussions.”

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