Tom Gray called the meeting to order at 9:05
Absent: Luke Blocher, Steve Vladeck, David Jaquette, David Sullivan, Benjamin Ledsham, Javier Festa, Ben Armour, Ned B. Friend, Bian Yu, Amy Friedman, Michael DeMichele, Eric Budish, Chapin Fay, Ashley Ebersole
For the first item of business Tom Gray introduced Marlin, president of the BSU, who the E-board invited as part of the attempt to create a greater link between groups on campus and the SGO. Marlin presented three topics for discussion: 1) The Diallo case and the lack of response by the Amherst community and the SGO 2) The quality of life in terms of financial aid and work study (1600$ limit on earnings) 3) Alternatives to TAP. Marlin presented these ideas to see what if anything the SGO could do and also to hear what the SGO’s opinion was about them.
In terms of the Diallo case, Marlin explained that other campuses had organized trips to Washington and New York to take part in protests. Senators questioned whether the SGO at the other five college campuses had organized these protests or whether it was affinity groups. Marlin stated that he believed it was affinity groups but he was unsure. Tom Gray added that he had been approached a lot about an Amherst or SGO reaction about the Diallo case. But the role of the SGO isn’t really to get involved with specific political issues but rather to help facilitate discussions regarding such issues in terms of the broader issues that they symbolize. He further suggested that the issue of race brought about by the Diallo case could provide a good topic for discussion in the SGO’s forum with president Gerety this semester. It could provide a good opportunity to discuss the whole issue of race at Amherst.
The discussion continued and some senators questioned where the line was being drawn regarding political versus non-political questions. A few wondered where the issue of the pride flag destruction fit in to all of this. It was suggested that a big difference existed between on-campus and off campus issues however other senators worried that making a statement about one issue and not others could result in a very slippery slope. The discussion shifted slightly to discuss the broader role of the SGO in responding to issues that arise on campus or off campus. Some senators suggested that it isn’t always the SGO’s role to come down on one side of the issue. Eldar suggested that this was a big issue and that we perhaps should come back to it after addressing the other concerns Marlin raised.
Senators spent some time next discussing the issue of financial aid. The discussion went back and forth trying to determine whether the 1600$ limit was a school policy or a federal tax policy. Most believed that the restrictions occurred at the federal level and that Amherst wasn’t completely the culprit. A member of FCAFA discussed how her committee had not yet addressed the issue of financial aid but that it hoped to do so soon. The general consensus was that the SGO did not have enough information about the federal laws and what in fact Amherst could do, if anything to tweak with the regulations. This discussion will be continued at a later meeting once more information is provided by FCAFA. As for the issue of alternatives to TAP, Eldar and others explained to Marlin that the SGO had discussed this issue at great length and explained some of the problems with dictating what Social Council does. Alternatives to TAP are still a work in progress and the SGO welcomed any suggestions that the BSU might come up with.
The discussion next returned to discussing the SGO’s role regarding issues and events, political and otherwise that occur on or off campus. The discussion moved back and forth with regards to this topic. Some senators suggested that the SGO could take action when issues were clear-cut while others felt this lacked feasibility because who is to decided what is and isn’t clear-cut. Others suggested that we should talk less and do more by setting up forums and perhaps free funds for workshops or other activities to deal with these issues. Still others felt that part of the SGO is showing support and forums are not enough. The SGO should be more reactive when issues occur yet others responded that even though senators are elected they don’t necessarily speak for the entire campus when they respond to a political issue and the issue really becomes personal. The discussion continued going back and forth with some senators saying we need to be more active and others saying the SGO needs to be careful. The senate decided to have the E-board and other interested SGO members discuss this issue in a smaller setting and attempt to come up with some sort of resolution regarding this issue to be voted on by the entire body.
Daniel Cooper next presented the proposed guidelines for the SGO distinguished teaching awards. Senators generally approved of the format and the procedure. One common suggestion was that the award should be open to the entire faculty and not limited to non-visiting professors. Senators also expressed the need as proposed in the guidelines for written explanations as to why the professors deserve the award otherwise it could become a popularity contest. Finally the suggestion was made that in addition to giving a bowl or trophy to the winners there should be a permanent bowl or trophy on display in converse listing all the recipients of the award.
Tom next updated the senate on the issue of the IT network at Amherst, which the administration is still looking into with the hopes of improving it sometime soon. Tom also reported that the “Fun Police” had their first organizational meeting and the idea seemed well received by the campus. Josh Machao also presented a close to finalized version of the Dorm resolution. Senators generally liked the numbers and the proposal but still felt like the valentine issue had not been resolved. Seeing that people in Valentine use Moore, the consensus was that Moore should have enough washers and dryers to accommodate both dorms based on the formula Josh was using.
Tom also updated the senate about the movement to change the name of the town of Amherst as well as the college’s mascot. The discussion proceeded to go back and forth about the merits of using the Lord Jeff mascot and the issues posed by its reference to Lord Jeffery Amherst. Some senators felt that if given the choice why not change while others felt that we could get into a pattern of changing mascots too frequently as the college’s mascot has only been Lord Jeff for the past thirty or so years. Before that we were the Sabrinas even though it was an all-male institution. Most senators felt that this issue should be posed to the entire Student Body in the SGO/ Trustee survey.
Tom concluded the meeting by asking for ways of improving Schwems as Charlie Thompson had approached him about the matter. He also remarked how it is looking very likely that everyone will be given 25$ a year to be used at Schwems on their cards. In addition, Tom reminded everyone that committee reports would take place at the beginning of the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15pm.