Treasurer-Grooming Practice Flawed
By Jacob Ong '14
About two weeks ago, a constitutional change was proposed in the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) Senate meeting to stop the announced upcoming election for AAS treasurer and to appoint the treasurer instead. The proposal also includes paying the next AAS treasurer for his or her responsibilities, which primarily include balancing the AAS budget accounts, presiding over budgetary committee meetings, managing budgetary clerks, who cut checks and reconcile accounts, and doing other somewhat time-consuming administrative work, such as answering emails.

Fortunately, the proposed constitutional change was quickly rejected after most senators recognized the fallacy of the proposal. Approving the proposal only means legitimizing the covert mispractice of treasurer-grooming — whereby the incumbent treasurer surreptitiously chooses and prepares someone to take over the position of treasurer next year, well before the elections — which has been ongoing for a few years at Amherst. This bad practice explains why our treasurer elections have gone uncontested in the recent years, and the move to legitimize this practice was a futile bid to institutionalize possible cronyism and nepotism.

Although our peer institutions, such as Williams, Harvard and Yale, have student government treasurers of varying responsibilities — some deal exclusively with funding policies and are not involved with the accounting duties that our treasurer is — most of these colleges have more democratic treasurer elections, and do not pay their treasurer.

Approving the proposed appointment and salary of treasurer may be one of the worst decisions a student government can ever make. Thankfully, the AAS is still a sound student government. Although there might be advantages to grooming the treasurer, such as a smoother transition of power and its ensuing benefits, this practice to a greater extent breeds complacency and possibly corruption, which has afflicted some generations of student governments. With the perpetuation of this poor practice, future treasurers will be inevitably inclined to choose their best friend over the best candidate in the budgetary committee to groom. Also, if grooming and appointing the treasurer are overall advantageous, then for the benefit of the study body, shouldn’t other AAS executive positions be groomed and appointed too?

Given that the AAS treasurer manages nearly a million dollars in an academic year, and the duties needed for the office of AAS treasurer are conceivably learnable by a reasonably capable and committed person within a few weeks, the treasurer-elect alone should be trained, not the good friend, girlfriend or boyfriend of the incumbent treasurer.

There are no flowery paths to abolishing this undemocratic practice. Therefore, I have undertaken the challenge of adding constructive competition to the upcoming treasurer election and ensuring that the treasurer election will be democratic again for students who wish to contribute. To help yourself, your friends and future Amherst students, all you need to do is simple — vote tomorrow.

Issue 21, Submitted 2011-04-06 02:44:41