2010-2011 AAS President Reveals His Goals For Next Year
By Elaine Teng '12, Editor-in-Chief
What does the AAS president do?

You can basically draw an analogy between the structure of the AAS and that of the U.S. government, the big difference being the emphasis is more on the Senate. The President is less involved in the immediate activities of the Senate and more involved with the administration, such as serving on College Council. Other things include bringing small projects to the table and working on some broader efforts over a few years, such as changing the CPR [Committee on Priorities and Resources] in light of the financial crisis.

And what are some of these projects you have in mind?

I feel like the big focus I want for my next year is to work on many of the small things that we’ve been neglecting. I’ve noticed that many of the projects that have the most immediate effects are minor ones, such as giving boxes when people move out, having shuttles to the airport, putting The New York Times in the dining hall — little things that don’t take much effort, [like] blenders in Valentine. The best way to generate these kinds of ideas is to have a very proactive, institutionalized way of reaching out to people. I tried to do something like this with the AAS census where I asked club heads questions, like what matters to you, what do you think is missing. It turns out that Amherst Dance has a hard time getting rooms and the football team has a hard time getting to dinner because they get to dinner at 7:15 p.m. and there’s portion control, so these guys can only get one sandwich when they need three or four to be full. I sent an email to Charlie Thompson, Head of Dining Services, suggesting that we eliminate portion control in the last 20 minutes of Val. Simple things like that.

I also want to raise the professionalism of the Senate. We have many committees that are mainly defunct that I feel would be great to be active. Our space allocation committee would rarely meet in years past, and this year they met once, and next year, I hope they do a full audit and take an inventory of all the spaces on campus. We also have a bunch of liaisons with relationships that are defunct. We have one for ACEMS, The Olio — it’d be great to have those be active. We have a lot of machinery in the Senate that has fallen into disuse and it’d be great to get them back into use. Very often the workload of the Senate falls upon five or six kids sitting on the most powerful committees, and I feel like when I meet people who don’t really talk that much normally, they’re really gung ho. I feel like we should bring in more of our underclassmen senators and help them come up with small projects they can pursue.

My general principle is I want to use the outreach to inform our advocacy on these different committees. If we’re having a discussion on the future of theme housing, it’d be great to have a rotating panel with the kids who serve on College Council and we’d go to one of the theme events for every house and just have a short discussion on what they like and what they don’t like. We could talk to students of different departments and ask if they think their class sizes are too big.

Where are you from?

My background is really boring. I’m from the Midwest. Toledo, Ohio.

What are you majoring in and how did you choose that?

Neuroscience. I originally wanted to be a Classics major. I was dead set on it; I thought it’d be the coolest thing ever. But then the Classics major conflicted with the pre-med classes I had to take. Then I wanted to be Religion, but the Buddhist classes I really wanted to take also conflicted with the pre-med classes. Then I went to Psychology, but then I realized the part of Psych I really enjoy is the bio stuff.

How did you join the AAS?

I showed up as a headstrong freshman. I ran in the mid-term election. I believe I was seated around the early part of spring my first year. Then less than a year later, in the fall of my sophomore year, I decided to run for vice president. I think I was one of the youngest vice presidents of the Senate, I held that position for the remainder of my sophomore year, and I’m the current vice president this year.

How do you think your experiences on the AAS will help you in your role as president?

It showed me a lot of the good and a lot of the bad. I’ve seen an incredible amount of energy from the Senators. These are people who will read through every page of our minutes because they care about accuracy. They’ll ask the obvious but difficult question, and sometimes the not obvious, difficult question, and they’re perfectly okay having the meeting last till 11 p.m. just to get things done.

I feel the bad of it is, as vice president, I’ve seen generations of Senators who will tell me they’re incredibly frustrated, and so [they’re] resigning. I’ve seen very often those things that cause students to resign, and I think these are part of the larger problems that lead to the inefficiencies of the AAS. If you don’t sit on certain committees, there’s nothing you can do. There’s also lack of communication between years; our senior year doesn’t know our first-year students every year. I have a very good appreciation for the human parts of the Senate that leads to many of the inefficiencies.

I’m the longest serving member of the Executive Board, and I’m also one of the longest involved Senators in the Senate. It has given me a large institutional memory. I can call back to some of the suggestions floating back from my first year. I can recall how we dealt with the financial crisis. Whenever we need to rally the students behind a cause, whether it be financial aid or spring concert, I know which tactics are high yield and which aren’t.

What committees have you been on?

I served on the Judiciary Council (JC) and the Trustee Committee on Student Life during my time as vice president. I thought the JC was really fun. In theory what they do is that they deal with issues of constitutionality. Day by day, they approve clubs. During a time of crisis, all sorts of constitutional issues come up. If we’re ever having a referendum on something controversial, you’ll be amazed at how many things go under scrutiny.

We had this one crisis where we already had a deal roughly with a band, but Program Board needed another $30,000. They needed an answer to how much money students would give them in addition to their budget. We had less than seven days left during which time this could happen, and one part of our constitution says you have to wait at least seven days to take action, and another part says that you have to do it in less than seven days, so we were sitting around in a room trying to figure out what the underlying principle was in these two areas, which one we value. Are there free speech issues that are at stake? What would it mean if we didn’t have spring concert? How much should we weigh technicalities? What’s efficient? What’s right? What’s technically correct and how can we come up with a synthesis of this so that we wouldn’t come up with an ad hoc jurisprudence.

Luckily we ended up finding a compromise that made everyone happy-ish. We let the students decide whether or not they were going to have a spring concert instead of us deciding on a technicality whether they were going to have a certain kind of concert.

Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you think I should ask?

Favorite ice cream? Mint chocolate chip.

Issue 24, Submitted 2010-04-28 03:00:15