Accountability, Introversion, and the AAS

Up until about age five when I entered kindergarten, I had a habit of roaring at people when I first met them. Roaring—yes, like a lion—was my preferred form of communication over actual speech, which I found to be too terrifying to attempt with near-strangers (including my grandmother’s elderly friends). I was a shy kid, and while I obviously learned to master and appreciate meaningful communication and relationships, I still know that I’m an introvert at heart. An introvert who would have never believed you if two years ago you had told her that she would someday campaign for the opportunity to speak and debate with some of the most articulate and intelligent people at Amherst College.

I am still getting used to the idea of being a senator. For the newly elected first-years, their impressions and experiences of the college will be shaped by their position in the AAS. Their Amherst identities will grow around their roles as senators; it’s all they will know. But I have had two years already to cultivate my own identity, to chisel out a little niche complete with comforting labels to tell me who I am: an English major, a captain of the Mock Trial team, a rower, a writer who began with a pseudonym and has gradually had to take more and more ownership of my work.

My position as a senator is not antithetical to any of these aspects of my identity, but it does add a new dimension to all of them. It is in my role as a writer for ACVoice that I feel this the strongest. Like many shy kids, my first public writing was done anonymously on the Internet. This was back when the site was called and we all used witty pen names. Soon, however, the site began to evolve, and along with the proposed changes of a new name and layout, we decided to abandon our pseudonyms in favor of a more professional look. Although I saw the reasoning behind the shift from anonymity, I was initially terrified of attaching my name to my writing. With a name comes personification, ownership, responsibility. (John Procter knew what was up.)

This may be simply a side effect of the novelty of being on Senate, but I do feel a significant amount of responsibility—to the rest of the AAS, to my class, to the student body as a whole. It is no longer an option to not have an opinion, to sit in the back of class and never raise my hand (metaphorically, at least). Although I’d been to several Senate meetings before the election, sitting in the Red Room last Monday night created a new sense of intimidation knowing that now I had not just a voice (non-senators have the same speaking privileges as senators during meetings) but a vote that carries weight.

It bears reminding that the AAS stands for the “Association of Amherst Students,” a name I have always loved for its sense of universality, which unfortunately is not always present in connotations of the Senate. While it is certainly not the old boys’ club it used to be, I hope that with the influx of diversity will come an increased atmosphere of reliability. More than hoping, I want to help facilitate this goal in my roles as a senator, a journalist of sorts, and a student.

I welcome the responsibility and the sacrifice of my Monday nights, and honestly, I am so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to give them up. Many sincere thanks to everyone who helped get me here—and even if you didn’t, or don’t even know who I am, I’m here for you too. So please, any time, don’t be afraid to say hello—I promise I won’t roar.