The Jew Crew, Student-Teacher Scandals and Semantics
By Romen Borsellino '12, columnist
Is Judaism a culture or a religion? Believe it or not, we debated that for about 15 minutes at Monday night’s Senate meeting. This was in regard to whether or not we should fund the new student group the Jew Crew. The debate came in response to the question of what distinguishes this group from Hillel, the pre-existing Jewish student group on campus. Some argued that this new group, which requested funding for their bagel and lox brunch, is essentially the same thing as Hillel, while others proposed that this new group is more cultural while Hillel is strictly religious. Things got heated when one Senator tried to say that students are put off by Hillel’s religious orthodoxy, but mistakenly used the phrase “religious conservatism.” Another senator interpreted the remark to be a reference to the current tense relationship between Israel and the United States. I have always known the Senate to argue to no end, but debating Zionism? Really guys? I kid you not when I say that the culmination of this debate was one senator accusing another of anti-Semitism (he was joking but nobody realized that. Awkward!). My opinion on the matter is that there are probably tons of identical groups on campus that we fund all the time. This just caught peoples’ eye because of the religious nature. Who cares if there are two Jewish groups? The more student involvement there is on campus, the better. With the exception of one or two dissenting votes, as well as a few abstentions, the Senate finally funded the event … although it’s still not completely clear what the difference is between the Jew Crew and Hillel.

This is exciting: members of our College Council reported that the administration has started looking into teacher-student relationships, and I’m not talking about TYPO. Apparently our school’s administration has brought up, on four separate occasions, a fear that the language of our Faculty Handbook does an inadequate job of renouncing sex between Amherst students and professors. This issue, the administration feels, has potential to get even worse given the number of young faculty as of late, which includes green-deans and other employees who may be only a year or two older than current students. The administration feels that the Handbook’s language is especially weak in comparison to the policies of similar colleges. I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here is Yale’s policy:

No teacher shall have a sexual or amorous relationship with any undergraduate student, regardless of whether the teacher currently exercises or expects to have any pedagogical or supervisory responsibilities over that student.

Here is Amherst’s policy:

The College does not condone, and in fact strongly discourages consensual sexual relationships between faculty members and students.

Use of the word ‘pedagogical’ aside, I don’t think I need to stress the difference between forbidding something and discouraging it (and is it really necessary for the College to mention that it ‘does not condone’ it? Duh.). I think it’s great that the administration is doing this, but I am also curious what took so long. While I will put no truth into mere rumors around campus of faculty and student relationships, the actual resolution in the Faculty Handbook was written in 1993 as a response to previous occurrences.

Do Amherst students really need to be doing it with professors? I mean, are there not enough hook-up options from here or the other four colleges surrounding us? Which brings me to another fun piece of information from Monday night’s meeting: the President of the freshman class at Smith College contacted one of our freshman senators to propose organizing a mixer for Five-College freshman. That would be adorable! We could dress the freshman up in little tuxedos and take pictures on the Chuck Pratt stairwell. Then we could have the dance in the gym and the boys could stand on one side and talk to each other and the girls could stand on the other side. Alright, I’ll just go ahead and admit it, I’m jealous that I wasn’t invited.

That was the fun stuff. Sadly, Senate meetings are not all about dances and hooking up (although we did talk about having a Senate party next week, so you know where all the cool kids are going to be).

We were about to end our meeting after an hour and fifteen minutes, which would be record time, but right before the meeting would have been adjourned we decided to spend thirty minutes debating, essentially, how many bullet points we should put in a resolution regarding funding based on Value Judgments. I was suddenly reminded what I hate about Senate. This resolution sought to put into words the fact that we should be able to decide to fund something based on whether or not we like the cause. The problem is, that’s what we already do. This resolution would change absolutely nothing. We literally bickered over silly semantics from 9:45 until 10:15 until the creator of the resolution withdrew it so that nothing was resolved — now I can look forward to having the same debate again next week when the same resolution comes back with the last two sentences combined into one and maybe a substitution of the word ‘value’ for the word ‘amount.’ The Senate means well, but all too often, we take ourselves way too seriously. At the end of the day (or “end of the night,” which is when our three-hour meetings end), why bother squabbling over a simple matter of semantics? On the other hand: talking about students and faculty getting it on, now THAT’S why I joined Senate!

Issue 15, Submitted 2011-02-16 00:46:34