President Tom Gray called the meeting to order at 9:05 pm and introduced Tom Parker, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
Dean Parker gave a brief, informal overview of the FCAFA (Faculty committee on admissions and financial aid) report as well as the current state of admission at Amherst. Dean Parker explained that he believed the report to be very good and that the faculty would be voting on various motions pertaining to the report at the faculty meeting the following evening. The faculty motions were all premised on more faculty supervision in the admission process. They included procedural issues such as the composition of the admissions oversight committee as well as timelines for faculty review of whether the admissions office follows the new admissions goals. According to Dean Parker, the faculty’s main concern is that a lurch occurred five or six years ago following four years of catastrophic football seasons whereby both directly and indirectly the number of admitted athletes increased dramatically. The faculty wants to focus on how it as a body can help prevent a place like Amherst from upsetting the delicate balance of admissions and athletics. Thus the faculty set specific goals for admissions process. Dean Parker said he agreed with the goals of the faculty and hoped that soon Amherst will be done with the “Athletics” issue and can move on and focus more on what kind of an overall community we want Amherst to be.
A question and answer session followed Dean Parker’s remarks. The initial discussion focused on a number of student senators trying to understand what exactly the faculty would be voting on the following evening. Dean Parker reiterated how the faculty motions dealt mainly with procedural issues. The goal of the faculty as he viewed it was to make provisions for reviewing classes both during the admissions process, before they actually enter Amherst and also after they have matriculated so that future lurches hopefully do not occur. The questions continued with other senators expressing concern over de-emphasizing athletics too much and the affect such changes could potentially have on the atmosphere of Amherst. In addition senators felt that Amherst needs to maintain its athletic competitiveness with other schools such as Williams. Dean Parker stressed that he viewed the faculty not as dictating a specific number of athletes to admit to Amherst but rather relying on his and others’ judgments about how many athletes it takes to maintain a competitive program. The numbers of athletes may decline from what we are used to the past couple of years. However there will be increased emphasis to admit two sport athletes (an advantage that Amherst has over the ivy league schools) as well as admitting athletes of color and athletes who are the best academically as well. Again he emphasized that he and the faculty want to get beyond this “Athletics” thing and focus more on determining how the overall Amherst community should look like. He noted as well that we will see a dramatic increase in the number of students of color admitted in the incoming class of 2004 especially in the early decision pool.
The discussion with Dean Parker concluded with some questions about increasing class size as well as the ongoing issues of Affirmative Action on college campuses and how issues such as those occurring at the university of Michigan might affect Amherst. The University of Michigan case will probably reach the Supreme Court and if the Court declares affirmative action to be illegal Amherst is in just as difficult a position as everyone else.
The Senate Meeting next progressed to a discussion of “Individual Reform Projects.” Tom Gray presented a system utilized by the student government of Duke University whereby every member fills out a form stating what project they plan to take on for the given year. Such records of projects provide a way to look back at both what individual student government members have done over the course of the year as well as what the SGO has done as a whole. Tom suggested starting this system next fall but get the format in place this spring.
Next, Tom presented his idea for school improvement donations. Tom explained how he wants to write a letter to the entire Amherst Alumni Community and ask for money to help improve some of the smaller, more neglected problem areas at Amherst. Tom stated that his goal was in no way to compete with the capital campaign however some senators worried that the campaign has already hit everyone up for money and people would be unlikely to want to give more. On the other hand this was seen as an opportunity for alums to feel that they are serving the students and not just the administration. This would be an effort for the students by the students. A suggestion was made that if the Senate came up with a “wish list,” alums could pledge money for specific items, which might be even more appealing. Tom will have further discussions about this with the Alumni office.
Josh Machao next presented data regarding the number of washers and dryers present in each dorm. Concerns had been raised previously that some dorms did not have adequate washers and dryers. The data, despite not being entirely accurate supported this concern. However, senators wondered how much could be done in some dorms to alleviate the washer dryer situation without physical renovations. A senator also pointed out the amount of laundry that can be done at one time is limited not by the number of washers but by the number of dryers because their cycle is twice as long. A consensus was reached to get more accurate data as well as invite Stan Adams or another member of physical plant to a future meeting to get a more informed opinion about what potentially can and cannot be done.
Eldar next presented a one-line statement of condemnation of the destruction of the pride flags. Senators quickly pointed out that the response was both inadequate and too late. Because of the timing of the event and the schedule of Student Senate meetings over a month and a half had passed since the occurrence. Some senators stated that it was better late then never while others felt that such a statement was a good idea when it was presented at the previous meeting however we dropped the ball. We had talked about getting it done between the meetings and voting on a statement via email however this never occurred. Other senators felt that we should still say something that a statement would still be productive and the campus would understand the constraints of the SGO’s meeting schedule. Many felt that a late response would be better then none at all and having people say that we didn’t care. It was further suggested that we could turn this into a larger statement that the Student Senate condemns the acts that have happened and more importantly the Senate wants to be an advocate both for and against events that occur on campus as the situations warrant. Many agreed that bigger issues are involved with this incident. As one senator said homophobia does not just disappear nor does the victimization of women or other problems within the Amherst community.
A motion was made a seconded that it would be productive for the student senate to move forward with some form of statement with regard to the pride flag incident. Vote: 23 in favor, 2 opposed, no abstentions. Eldar was asked to redraft the statement and submit it to the senate via email for comment in the near future before too much more time elapsed.
The meeting concluded with an update on the ongoing discussion between Eldar and social council. Eldar presented a draft of a proposal that he believe encompassed the suggestions made at the senate during its discussion at the previous meeting. He explained that the problem is that social council doesn’t have the resources to handle an additional party every week as an alternative to TAP. Thus he reemphasized the idea of having a different theme house or affinity group be responsible for throwing an “alternative” party each week. While the theme and type of party may differ from week to week it would be called the same thing so people know something else is definitely going on each weekend. A few senators expressed concern that by doing this we would allow SoCo to keep doing TAP and not reform what type of events they offer. Others responded by saying that TAP does provide a service to a decent portion of the campus. The issue however seemed to be that while 400 people attend TAP there are 1200 or so who don’t yet there is a problem of hitting a critical mass with any event and TAP does have a significant plurality. The discussion concluded with a comment that the biggest part of the proposal “SAP” (the alternative dance party) sounds a lot like TAP and if we want real alternative we need something other then another dance party. A consensus seemed to exist that these events need to attract a different crowd.