Rebuking Romen Borsellino
By Phil Johnson '11
As the Treasurer of the AAS, I would like to apologize to my fellow students for the scathing and inaccurate opinion piece written by Romen Borsellino in last week’s issue of The Amherst Student.

While I applaud Romen for his attempt at informing and involving the student body at-large with the Senate happenings, I also feel that the student body deserves opinion pieces that do not leave out important details or focus on the least compelling arguments from the other side. Clearly, Romen is very sure of his opinion; however, he does not seem confident enough to tackle, or even mention the very well-reasoned arguments against this proposal set forth by his colleagues. I’ll take this opportunity to outline those arguments.

Romen asserts that this new by-law “would leave budgetary decisions out of Monday night meetings.” This is incorrect. The by-law clearly outlines two vehicles by which Budgetary Committee (BC) decisions can be appealed to the entire Senate and heard on Monday night. These appeal mechanisms create no guarantee of saved time talking about BC recommendations that can be used to instead talk about larger student life issues (i.e. Valentine, course scheduling, etc).

Alex Stein ’13 proposed this by-law because he was frustrated by the amount of time the Senate took scrutinizing Budgetary Committee recommendations in lieu of talking about larger issues. His frustrations are very legitimate and are shared by many of his fellow senators. The proposal would create a 48-hour appeal period, after the BC recommendations were posted, within which senators and students affected by the decisions could appeal a recommendation to the full Senate on Monday. There were two good reasons given for why this proposal was unnecessary.

Firstly, most of the wasted time on Monday nights stemmed from two issues: BC documents that senators need to review before Monday were often emailed out Sunday evening; second, some senators did not read the minutes from the BC meeting and subsequently asked questions that had already been answered. The Senate has already found a solution to this problem. Now, we e-mail our recommendations and minutes as soon as they are available (typically Wednesday night or early Thursday) and strongly encourage those with questions to voice them via e-mail or directly to me. This new system has led to incredibly fast BC discussions for the past two Mondays. Romen’s example of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who just happened to win five games by chance, is a clear misrepresentation of what is happening; it implies that nothing has been done to address this problem when clear and significant alterations have brought about these changes, not mere chance.

Second, legislatively mandating arbitrary time limits and rules in an effort to potentially (assuming no appeals happen) save time on Mondays is inherently counterproductive. Firstly, the longest discussions in Senate are the ones that would be appealed under Stein’s by-law. This means that the Senate would be gaining little or no time to discuss larger student issues while simultaneously seriously limiting the rights of students and senators to scrutinize BC decisions. Second, if we had already established that senators needed more time to look over BC recommendations and minutes, how does limiting this time period to 48 hours help make these reviews more thorough and informed?

At the end of the day, if senators and students are frustrated with the amount of time spent discussing BC recommendations on Monday nights, there are two things they should note. First, trusting nine individuals with allocating almost $1 million per year with minimal oversight is an inherently bad idea. I would rather take 20 minutes each Monday to give an additional 24 people the chance to look over the decisions carefully, than risk the problems that could arise from such a concentration of power. Second, and more importantly, senators need to be more efficient in how they structure their discussions. The past two weeks have shown a tremendous movement in the right direction, and that ought to continue.

The Senate did not fail the student body last Monday. In fact, it made the decision that best balances the needs of student body. Students do need the Senate to act as a forum for student life issues, but they also have a right to fairly- and prudently- administered student activities fees. This proposal would have seriously undermined the latter, with little or no benefit to the former.

Issue 18, Submitted 2011-03-09 02:45:52