AAS to Make Treasurership More Efficient
By Brianda Reyes '14, Managing News Editor
After last week’s announcement that Philip Johnson ’11 had become Interim Treasurer of the Amherst Association of Students (AAS), the Elections Committee met to discuss the next election for treasurer. The Treasurer Commission also met to continue to discuss plans for re-imagining the treasurer position, which has recently been faulted for a lack of efficiency and democracy.

Johnson became Interim Treasurer after Katrina Gonzeles ’12 resigned from her position. After his election, Johnson had to relinquish all of his positions on the Senate, including Elections Committee Chair and First-Year Life Committee Chair. Josh Mayer ’13 became the new Elections Committee Chair.

The constitution calls for an election to find a treasurer after the seat is vacated. Mayer convened a meeting of Elections Committee on Monday, Feb. 7 prior to the Senate meeting to decide this election. The committee held a vote and unanimously decided to hold the election for treasurer on Feb. 24. Speech night is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 21. According to the constitution, the speech night will only be held if someone requests it specifically.

“If anyone does want to hear from the candidate or candidates for treasurer, then they can request that and e-mail the elections committee,” Mayer said.

Johnson will continue to hold his senate seat until the election. He plans to run for the position then. Johnson served as Treasurer his junior year and believes that this experience makes him fit for the job.

“I will be running in the next election primarily because I know all the intricacies,” Johnson said. “I am one of the most well-qualified candidates at Amherst and I can do the job efficiently.”

If Johnson wins, he will then have to relinquish his senate seat entirely. A mid-term election for his vacated senate seat would then be held within two weeks, as the constitution mandates.

The last two elections for treasurer have both been uncontested, and Mayer speculates that this one will follow the same trend. “We always encourage students to take part in their own government, but historically the trend has been uncontested elections for treasurer,” Mayer said.

According to Mayer, one of the reasons why the election is usually uncontested is because the treasurer must be highly trained. The role of the treasurer involves dealing with the political responsibilities of the position, as chair of the Budgetary Committee, in addition to handling the more administrative duties of managing clerks, sending out checks and ensuring that everything happens in compliance with AAS regulations as well as federal laws.

“There’s a lot that goes into it, and ultimately very few have both sides of that available and are willing to run for treasurer,” Mayer said.

In the past, a senator has been picked from the Budgetary Committee and is then trained for the position of Treasurer. The hopes are that this senator will later run for the position and be capable of doing everything that the job requires. Senators have questioned the democracy of his process, and Mayer has described it as being “not ideal.”

The senate formed the Treasurer Commission after noting these problems that the treasurership has and continues to face. Jared Crum ’11 heads the commission, and Mayer is one of the other members. The commission met this weekend and discussed the idea of splitting the position of treasurer into two roles: a comptroller and a treasurer. According to Crum, the comptroller would take care of all the technical issues while the treasurer would handle the political side.

“Put simply, the comptroller would make sure the checks are mailed on time, and the treasurer would help decide who is eligible to get checks,” Crum said.

This idea to divide the position stems from problems that previous treasurers faced, finding that their job was too stressful and too time-consuming.

In her resignation statement to the Senate on Mon., Jan. 21, Gonzales said that part of her reason for resigning was because continuing to hold her position was “financially impossible.”

“I’m on work-study, and I can’t not work,” Gonzales said.

Crum explained that the commission consulted with Budgetary Committee members and Johnson, who offered his input from his perspective as past treasurer. They decided to recommend separating the duties of the position.

The Senate would appoint the comptroller due to the training necessary for this position. A semester stipend would be offered to the comptroller, considering that the job can take many hours each week. The treasurer commission also decided that new computers and office space were necessary for the budgetary clerks. The clerks process budgetary requests and mail checks.

“The clerks’ office could benefit from having another computer and more room to allow multiple clerks to work simultaneously,” Crum said.

The commission will put together a final written report listing all of their recommendations and present their it to the Senate in two weeks. Their recommendation, if adopted by the Senate, will apply to next year’s treasurer position and leave this year’s treasurer position as is.

“With the treasurer commission, we’re going to be continuing to look into all of the options and try to find an ideal solution that both promotes the democratic options of students and allows for the more efficient operation of the AAS,” Mayer said.

Crum encourages students to join the discussion for the next Treasurer and e-mail him with any comments or questions at wcrum11@amherst.edu.

“Already students have approached me asking about the committee’s progress. That kind of student involvement and interest is encouraging,” Crum said. “My hope is that our committee does well by the students who elected us, who we work for.”

Issue 14, Submitted 2011-02-09 02:24:42