Live-blogging Tonight’s AAS Meeting

Hey guys, tonight we’re going to be trying an AC Voice first: live-blogging an emergency meeting of my favorite student government in the world: the Association of Amherst Students. Tonight, they will be discussing two items: a motion regarding the recent AAS presidential election and the Trustees’ decision on fraternities. I will be updating the post as the meeting progresses.

1:38am: Sorry for the break in my coverage. Things ended about five minutes after my last update. The straw poll found that most people present at the meeting (senators and non-senators) seemed to be in favor of holding elections in the fall. However, no final decision was made about when the elections will be held, as the Senate voted to adjourn immediately afterwords. In total, the Senate spent more than three and a half hours debating the JC’s decision, only to conclude that they did not want to overturn the decision (even though most of them disagreed with the decision). As a result, we no longer have a student-body president, and new elections will have to be held to choose a new one. I, however, have an alternate proposal: save us all a bunch of time and stress and abolish the AAS. I’m done, good night!

12:57am: JC member Edelman is about to leave, so I have to give him back his laptop. I don’t think much more will happen, but if anything does, I’ll update everyone once I get back in front of a computer.

12:55am: Secretary Christina Won has called a straw poll about whether or not to hold the elections next week or in the fall. The only difference this would make is how much time candidates would have to prepare, and who would give the president’s speech to first-years in the fall.

12:54am: Now what? Unless the Senate wants to change its mind again, there’s not much to do. They will have to schedule the election to choose a president at some point, but it doesn’t have to be tonight.

12:53am: The motion fails, 10-9. For the moment, the JC decision to invalidate Amani’s election stands.

12:48am: The Senate is now voting on whether or not to overturn the JC’s decision (again!). This would put us back where we were an hour and a half ago.

12:46am: JC members Edelman and Mercovich argue that the referendum suggests that the student body has a different interpretation of the Constitution than its original framers. Apparently we’re now trying to resolve issues of legal hermeneutics that divide even the Supreme fucking Court of the United States.

12:44am: Former Senator Liya Rechtman has been talking to the framers of the AAS Constitution, who apparently think that the original JC decision (the one made last month, saying that Amani had not violated election rules) was the correct decision. If that’s the case, this has been the biggest waste of time since that one lecture during First-Year Orientation.

12:43am: Vice President Delgado Montes begs the Senate to “think about what we’re doing” and “do what’s best for the student body, not based on your personal biases.” Word.

12:42am: The Senate has now called to end debate on the motion at least a dozen times now; there’s been an objection to ending debate each time…and thus we slog on.

12:41am: Senator David Zhang wonders why we don’t just have another election in the fall after everyone calms down. If that means I can go to bed, I’m in favor.

12:38am: Amani says there are no new arguments for why she should be removed from office. She voted for the referendum without realizing that it would lead to her being removed from office, and she still thinks it would be misleading to remove her from office on that basis.

12:37am: The Senate’s official note-taker just spoke up to say that it doesn’t really matter who is elected; all of the candidates would have done a great job. We should all just move on.

12:36am: I really need to pee. I don’t know what to do.

12:34am: JC member Savannah West is missing her friend’s 21st birthday right now to be here, because she thinks it’s important. She thinks it’s crucially important to have a president who is not tainted by a possible election rules violation.

12:30am: Senator Blaine Werner: “When people get a surgery, they learn a lot about their anatomy.” Although this process is torturous, he thinks it is crucially important for defining the meaning of the AAS Constitution. He recognizes that from the outside, it all looks like bullshit.

12:29am: Senator Appel is reading texts sent to him by students expressing their discontent with the Senate’s actions.

12:26am: Okay, so to be clear, the Senate is now exactly where it was three hours ago. The JC decision has been reinstated, and Amani is no longer president. Of course, that all may change before the night is over.

12:25am: The Senate has now voted 12-7 to pass the motion to reconsider the motion to overrule the JC decision to invalidate the election of Amani Ahmed as president. I’m still not 100 percent sure what this means.

12:23am: Pierre Joseph (one of the original filers of the complaint) wonders why the Senate overturned the JC decision, since it gave them an easy out. It allowed President Ahmed to run again, without keeping in office a president whose election was under question.

12:20am: Senator Virginia Hassell argues that the Senate knew what it was doing when it overturned the JC decision, she doesn’t understand why the Senate would now reconsider the motion. President Ahmed, unsurprisingly, agrees. She says she has been sworn into office, so any motion to remove her from office would effectively be an impeachment.

12:19am: A member of the audience has spoken up to urge the Senate to make a decision based on what’s best for the student body, not based on the letter of the Constitution.

12:17am: My analysis of the Senate debate, courtesy of William Shakespeare: “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

12:12am: So if this motion passes, the Senate will be back to square one.

12:11am: The motion fails unanimously! President Ahmed will not be impeached. Now, the Senate will vote on Senator Cruz’s motion to reconsider the JC decision that it just overturned.

12:09am: The Senate is now voting on the motion to impeach President Ahmed. If the motion fails, the Senate will vote on Senator Cruz’s motion to reconsider the decision that the Senate just overruled.

12:06am: Senator Katarina Cruz, who originally seconded the motion to impeach President Ahmed, now says she thinks the motion is inappropriate. She seconded the motion because she disagreed with the motion to overturn the JC decision; she does not believe President Ahmed did anything wrong. For my part, I would like to submit a motion to abolish the AAS.

12:02am: Senators Kosber and Werner both think that this is important to determine for the sake of Constitutional practice. Josh Ferrer just weighed in, saying that impeaching President Ahmed would be inappropriate. The language on impeachment says that impeachment can occur “on grounds of accusations of gross negligence, malfeasance, fraud, and/or serious violation of Constitutional duties as laid out in the bylaws.” Ferrer argues that President Ahmed has done none of this, she merely violated election rules, so today’s JC decision should be reinstated.

12:01am: JC member Edelman says that it wouldn’t make a difference, substantively. To him, it seems just like wrangling between the JC and the Senate over powers.

12:00am: There is now debate about whether or not to impeach President Ahmed. Senator Sindhu wants to know what the difference would be between impeaching President Ahmed and not overturning the JC decision.

11:59pm: Senator Chico Kosber has just motioned to impeach President Ahmed! I believe he voted against overturning the motion.

11:57pm: Vice President Delgado Montes says that the Senate can be here all night, and that it’s now up to them to make a decision. This is absurd.

11:55pm: New AC Voice Editor-in-Chief James Hildebrand speaks up to read a comment that one of y’all posted on this live-blog. Journalism can make a difference!

11:53pm: JC member Edelman says that if a candidate has violated a rule during the election, they cannot be elected under the Constitution. In his view, the JC’s decision was moderate, because it gave President Ahmed a chance to run again. He thinks the Senate’s reasoning is completely contradictory.

11:51pm: Senator Blaine Werner said that the only unconstitutional part of the JC decision in his opinion was removing President Ahmed from office. But the whole decision is overruled, so he thinks that the other parts should be reinstated. Senator Park asks him what he thinks should be done. Senator Werner proposes that the JC make a new decision, keeping all of the old decision, except for the part removing President Ahmed from office. Instead, they should submit a petition requesting that Amani resign.

11:49pm: JC Chair Xu says that even though the JC decision was overturned, its reasoning was valid, and President Ahmed’s election is still questionable. As such, Chair Xu believes that President Ahmed should resign.

11:47pm: Clearly no one in the AAS has ever read Carl Schmitt.

11:46pm: To clarify, the JC decision invalidating Amani’s election has been overturned. Amani is back to being president. However, the complaint about whether or not she violated campaign spending limits is now open again. The Constitution is unclear about whether the JC is now responsible for making a new decision, or if the Senate has to make a decision.

11:45pm: JC member Edelman says that precedent requires that the decision go back to the JC; any other decision could be seen as unconstitutional.

11:44pm: The motion passes! 16-5. If anyone had voted differently, it would have failed. The JC ruling has been overturned, but now the complaint has been reopened.

11:42pm: The Senate is now voting on the motion to overturn the JC decision. Three quarters of senators must vote in favor to overturn the JC decision. Out of the senators present, 16 must vote in favor.

11:41pm: Honestly though, if we get rid of our president now, no one will take us seriously ever. That’s not a comment on whether or not the JC made the right decision, jurisprudentially, but like seriously y’all?

11:40pm: JC member Mercovich says that the JC made its decision because there is uncertainty about the validity of the election, and that’s why the JC had to make a decision. The point of the decision was to reflect this uncertainty by holding a new election.

11:38pm: A student adds that ousting Amani from office just a few days before the meeting with the Trustees would make the student body look incompetent and divided.

11:37pm: Senator Sheron Torho says that this debate makes the Senate look incompetent. She thinks the Senate needs to show the student body that it can be functional.

11:35pm: Amani points out that she has been acting as president for the past few weeks. If the Senate continues to cause turmoil in the student government, it can’t do its job to serve the student body. For the sake of the students at least, Amani says we need consistency.

11:34pm: This needs to end soon. I can’t live-blog for much longer without dying of exhaustion. This is so draining. But I love it.

11:32pm: Senator Keaser apologizes if he came across as being disrespectful. He thinks the question of who will make the decision if the JC decision is overturned is irrelevant to the substance of his concern, since he thinks the decision to invalidate Amani’s election (or in his terms, to remove Amani from office) was unconstitutional.

11:31pm: JC member Aleks Mercovich says that if the JC decision is overturned, it would have to go back to the JC to make a new decision.

11:27pm: Senator Siraj Sindhu disputes Senator Kermes’ judgment. The Constitution does not say what happens after the Senate overturns a JC decision. So that has to be figured out now too.

11:26pm: Senator RJ Kermes weighs in. He says that even if the JC decision is overturned, Joshua Ferrer and Pierre Joseph’s complaint would have to be addressed. He thinks the Senate should address that question tonight.

11:25pm: JC member Savannah West responds, saying that the JC had no choice in making its decision. If it contradicts the spirit of the referendum, that’s the fault of those who wrote the language of the referendum.

11:23pm: Senator Appel gives his sympathies to the JC, saying that he understands the stress they’re under. His main concern is public perception; he thinks the spirit of the referendum must be respected.

11:22pm: Amani is back. She just said that the referendum was not intended to affect the election’s results.

11:21pm: Senator Appel suggests that instead the minutes of the meeting are put up on the projector so that senators can refer to them while making a decision. He thinks this is too important to wait for input from the entire student body.

11:19pm: Pierre Joseph suggests that the Senate table the motion until the JC decision is released to the student body, so that the student body can weigh in.

11:18pm: Senator Keaser reiterates his belief that Amani was legitimately sworn in as president, which means that the meaning of the Constitution is crucial to this debate. The Senate has to consider the question in order to make a decision on the motion to overturn the JC’s decision on the complaint.

11:15pm: Senator Tobi Oni-Orisan says that it is not the Senate’s responsibility to interpret the Constitution. A member of the audience says that the Senate should not rule on the decision until the senators can read the JC decision, which still has not been released to the student body.

11:14pm: Amani just left the meeting. I’m not sure if she’s coming back.

11:12pm: There’s a basic disagreement about whether Amani was ever actually president. Some senators think that she was, in which case the JC could not remove her from office. The JC, however, maintains that Amani was never president. I’m not sure how you can resolve this disagreement.

11:10pm: Senator Rama Hagos asks what senators think should happen if the decision is overturned. The complaint will be left unresolved if the decision is voided. Senator Keaser says that either the Senate will rule as a body or it will be sent back to the JC, with the original four members recusing themselves.

11:07pm: Chair Xu thinks it’s really sad that people want to just move on, because the Constitution is important. She says that the JC is an independent body, not beholden to the whims of the Senate, and that in order to do their job and uphold the Constitution, they had to make this decision.

11:05pm: Senator Keaser asks “can we please move on?” He says that this decision is so obviously unconstitutional that it should just be voted on to allow Amani to resume her duties as president.

11:04pm: A member of the audience speaks up to say that this incident has caused her to lose faith in the AAS, questioning the ability of the AAS to move forward on this issue: “You guys are hung up on whether or not this is impeachment or not. There are bigger issues to address. […] I’m really concerned, and you guys need to get your shit together. I’m leaving.” (Snaps from the audience)

11:01pm: Senator Blaine Werner says that he believes the JC decision was unconstitutional, since the constitution says that only the Senate may remove an AAS member from office. The text of the constitution is as follows: “Only the Senate may remove an AAS member from office.” Seems pretty clear.

11:00pm: Amani points out that during the Monday meeting, the Senate had asked the AAS to rule on the constitutionality of a motion under debate by the Senate to invalidate the election. The decision made today goes beyond that mandate. Amani says that this is inappropriate, because it was not a decision made in response to a new complaint.

10:59pm: Joshua Ferrer (one of the original complainants) called an informal straw poll of senators about their feelings on overturning the amendment. Three-quarters of the senate must vote to overturn the decision in order for it to pass. Most senators seemed to be in favor.

10:57pm: JC member Andrew Edelman says that the decision was made by the JC because it was “jurisprudentially correct.” It has nothing to do with anything against Amani or the personal views of the members. The JC deliberated for five hours today.

10:56pm: Senator Johnathan Appel argues that the language in the referendum implied that the election results would not be affected by the referendum results. He says Amani herself voted to void the decision, and that students did not expect this as a consequence of their vote. He said there would be significant backlash if Amani is removed from office.

10:54pm: The meeting is about to reconvene. I probably missed many details, so if people want to clarify or asks for clarification in the comments, I’ll try to make things more clear. It’s all still pretty murky for me too.

10:46pm: I’m back!! Real American Hero and JC member Andrew Edelman has lent me his laptop. So much has happened in the last hour, I’m not sure where to begin. Right now the Senate is on recess to consider the implications of a motion to overturn the JC’s most recent decision, which had invalidated the election and declared that Amani Ahmed is no longer president. As of now, Amani has been relieved of her powers and the Executive Board is collectively acting as AAS President. Senator Sam Keaser has introduced a motion that would overturn this new decision. It is unclear whether overturning the decision would require the JC to make a new decision on the original complaint (which alleged that Amani exceeded campaign spending limits) or if the Senate would decide what the implications would. So there are several possible outcomes:

a) The JC decision stands, and Amani is removed from office. A new presidential election open to all candidates will take place in the fall, with only the Classes of 2017, 2016, and 2015 voting

b) The JC decision is overturned, and the JC will have to make a new decision. Theoretically, they could reach the same exact decision and we would have the same results as in the scenario above.

c) The JC decision is overturned, and the Senate will vote on a new decision. This would likely mean Amani is reinstated as president.

9:54pm: Senator Rama Hagos makes clear that the complaint was filed before the run-off, so the entire election is voided.

9:52pm: Chair Xu makes clear that only the presidential election is affected by the new decision.

9:51pm: Pierre Joseph, who filed the original complaint, takes the opportunity to make clear that he is not “Concerned Student ’15,” an anonymous student who emailed members of the AAS urging them to impeach President Ahmed last week.

9:50pm: There is some ambiguity about which definition of campaign limits (the one voted on in the referendum or the original one) was used in the decision.

9:49pm: I mispelled a senator’s name. My apologies to Siraj Sindhu!

9:46pm: I’m running really low on battery. This is the end guys! I will try to keep blogging from my phone. Also, in the new election, anybody will be allowed to run. It’s not restricted to the candidates of the run-off, according to Chair Xu. There seems to be some uncertainty about this–depending on when the JC’s decision is applied either the run-off or the main election would be invalidated.

9:45pm: Senators and interested students are now asking Chair Xu and other members of the JC for clarification. Is there even an AAS president now? Who has the power? Will anarchy descend upon our fair campus?

9:44pm: No one (myself included) really seems to understand exactly what happened. This is really complex, and it sounds like it was a difficult decision to make.

9:41pm: Based on the findings of the previous JC, the new JC has voted 3-0 to reverse the original decision and find candidate Amani Ahmed responsible for violating the spending limits in the original election. This means that President Ahmed was inaugurated unconstitutionally, and a new election must be held. A minor uproar ensues.

9:37pm: Actual new JC Chair Abigail Xu begins debate by clarifying the constitutional issues surrounding the motion to redo the election. She says that the AAS Constitution makes all student referendums binding, so the Senate must act on the referendum. Because the referendum overturned the JC’s 4/15 ruling on the original presidential election, the newly elected Judiciary Council had to reconsider the 4/15 decision. In making their decision, they considered language in the referendum that specified that the referendum would not overturn the election or disqualify any candidates.

9:34pm: So the fraternity discussion has ended. The final result is a referendum to be sent to the student body with two questions, one asking if students believe that the board should have included student input in making its decision, and one asking students to add their comments on the trustees’ decision. Student will receive this referendum at midnight, and voting will be open for 24 hours. Debate will now begin on the motion to re-do the presidential election in the fall.

9:33pm: The Senate is now voting on the motion. It passes 20-0. Apparently one of our senators has left the building.

9:32pm: Debate has become bogged down over the logistics of the amendment. Vice President Delgado Montes warns that we are approaching the time limit for debate.

9:30pm: The motion is being amended to limit the length of student comments to 250 words. Senator Park allows the amendment to be added to the motion.

9:26pm: Senator Blaine Werner points out that if the box is added, everyone will be able to see everything, so it may have unintended consequences. A student in the audience suggests editing the comments before sending them to the trustees.

9:25pm: Senator Siraj Sindhu has introduced a motion to “add a comment box, including a disclaimer that notifies students that the content will be available anonymously to the public.” Senators Blaine Werner and Richard Park help out with the phrasing.

9:24pm: I made a mistake. Johnathan Appel is not JC chair. He is only a senator. Sorry Johnathan! Live-blogging is hard, guys…

9:23pm: People are debating the utility of adding a comments box to the referendum. Its main proponent, a non-senator, says that it is crucial to include student voices, but others wonder who will actually read the comments.

9:21pm: If anyone has thoughts or questions they want to ask, please comment. I can relay those to the Senate!

9:19pm: A student in the audience suggests that another question be added to the referendum to solicit student opinions about what the board of trustees should do instead. A motion has been introduced to amend the motion just passed to allow this question to be added to the referendum. The motion passes.

9:17pm: The Senate has just voted on the motion. It has passed, 21-0-0. Three senators were not present at the meeting. On midnight May 8, the referendum with the language I quoted below will be sent out to the student body.

9:15pm: There will now be a vote on the motion.

9:14pm: President Ahmed gives an encouraging speech to students: “Even if things haven’t worked in the past, I don’t care.” She thinks it’s the AAS’s responsibility to represent students’ voices on issues affecting student life, no matter how long the odds may seem.

9:12pm: One student has asked how other colleges with similar frat bans (e.g. Williams) have enforced the ban. Another student says that they don’t. I’m not really sure that’s true. My mom went to Williams (cue the “your mom goes to Williams” jokes now) 25 years ago, and said that there was no fraternity presence on campus during her time there.

9:10pm: I adjusted the brightness on my laptop screen. I now have another twenty minutes of battery life. Hooray!

9:07pm: Senator Blaine Werner says that the Senate should move on from the motion and focus on strategizing for Monday’s meeting. He cites language in the honor code that suggests that the trustees’ resolution is in violation of the current Honor Code’s language:

It is collectively shaped and upheld by students, faculty and staff. At least every fourth academic year, the College Council will review the current Honor Code and, if appropriate, will propose changes to the Honor Code to the campus community. The revised Honor Code will be voted on by the students and, if it passes, by faculty. If it is not favored by the majorities of both, then the current Honor Code will stay in effect while the College Council reviews it again the following year, and it will remain in effect until an alternative version is passed by the majorities of both the students and faculty.

This suggests that the student body has an opportunity to prevent the amendment to the Honor Code’s language from passing. This is a really big find.

9:06pm: A motion has been introduced to amend the language of the motion on the amendment to have the correct date (May 8) on which the referendum will be sent. There is considerable debate on the correct placement of a comma in the date (May, 8 2014 or May 8, 2014). The motion passes.

9:05pm: One student asks about the board’s reasoning behind the decision. A student who attended the earlier meeting today responded that the board’s main concern was the gray area created by the ambiguous status of fraternities.

9:02pm: Some students wonder whether or not students will be bound to the new language in the Honor Code, since it was not included in the Honor Code when they signed it as first-year students.

9:01pm: Senator Chico Kosber offers a defense of the board’s decision, saying that we have to think about what other options the board may have had. He cited the 2012 t-shirt incident with the frat formerly known as TD as an example of fraternities causing problems for the College.

9:00pm: Senator Blaine Werner suggests that students write down their questions now so that they will be prepared for the meeting with the trustees on Monday. He argued that students should be focusing on strategizing for Monday’s meeting. New JC Chair Johnathan Appel said that he was hearkened by the display of student activism around this issue.

8:59pm: My laptop has a little over an hour of battery life left, and I don’t have a charger. Shit. Hope things are done by then.

8:56pm: Senator Ali Rohde suggests adding language to the resolution to ask for clarification from the board about the meaning of the ban on fraternity membership. A student who was at the earlier meeting added that it seems like the administration is unclear about the meaning of the ban as well. People snapped in approval after he spoke.

8:54pm: Students are talking about the ambiguity of the trustees’ resolution’s language. They wonder what behaviors would constitute violations of the new anti-fraternity provision in the Honor Code.

8:52pm: One non-senator wonders what history there is of the board of trustees listening to student input. Another student said that in 1984, the board reconsidered its decision on fraternities after students staged sit-ins and protests. Senator R.J. Kermes said that in more recent times, the board has been receptive to student input on issues like the coal divestment campaign, although many students involved with the campaign have become frustrated by the board’s refusal to act on coal divestment.

8:51pm: A motion was just proposed and passed by the Senate to limit the amount of time spent on a Q&A to 45 minutes. The Q&A period will end 9:45pm.

8:49pm: A non-senator wonders how the board of trustees is allowed to control her actions off-campus. She also says that the board is unlikely to listen to the student body and that based on what she heard at the meeting with President Martin earlier today, she thinks the decision is likely final.

8:47pm: Senator Blaine Werner wonders how this data will be used. President Ahmed says that the data will be presented to the Board of Trustees and used to demonstrate the student body’s dissatisfaction with the lack of student input in the board’s decision.

8:46pm: A non-senator is wondering how much student input was incorporated into the trustees’ decision. President Amani Amhed (who helped author the resolution) has responded by clarifying that student input was only involved during one trustees’ meeting last fall, when 12 students met with the board to discuss the College’s response to sexual assault. Since then, student input has only been sought informally by the board.

8:44pm: The language of the referendum is as follows:

Do you believe the Board of Trustees should have solicited student input in making their decision “to reaffirm the 1984 Trustees’ Resolution on Fraternities and, effective July 1, 2014, to prohibit student participation in fraternities and sororities and fraternity-like and sorority-like organizations, either on or off-campus.

8:43pm: As a side-note, there are about 150 people here, by my very rough estimate.

8:41pm: They’re trying to find the language in the constitution about the required timeline for referenda. People are wondering what the shortest possible timeline is for the referendum.

8:40pm: A motion has been introduced to call a referendum of the student body on the Trustees’ decision to ban fraternity membership.

8:38pm: The straw poll decided that the fraternity issue will be discussed first. Delgado Montes is reminding those in attendance of the rules of parliamentary procedure.

8:36pm: The meeting has just begun, and newly elected vice president Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes has called a straw poll of students in attendance to determine which item on the agenda will be discussed first–the motion on the election or the resolution on fraternities.