State of His Union
Jacob Edelman ’18 reflects on his first semester as Student Union president
Last March, Jacob Edelman ’18 won the race for Student Union president. In the debates leading up to the vote, Edelman campaigned on a promise to make the Brandeis Student Union a more transparent and inclusive government body. It was this message of transparency that ultimately helped lead him to win by a wide margin (54 percent of the total vote). A semester has passed since then with Edelman at the head of the Student Union, and looking back on his first term, he reflected on where he may have achieved his campaign’s promises and where he may have failed.
Managing a University is like a juggling act. Matters ranging from the curriculum, to tuition costs, to student housing all have to be managed. Even though much of this is handled by University officials, students are not without a voice. The Brandeis University Student Union ensures that student interests are represented in University policy making and performs a variety of other functions that allow Brandeis to operate smoothly. Running the Student Union is certainly a collaborative effort, but Edelman’s position is perhaps the most important.
Each day, Edelman assumes numerous responsibilities. As the top member of the Union’s Executive Board, he plays a large role in overseeing the other branches of the Student Union and helping them whenever a struggle arises. Every Sunday, he holds a two-hour meeting in which updates regarding the Student Union are provided and people can ask any questions they have. “I will voice my opinion on the issues when I feel educated enough to do so,” Edelman stated in an interview with the Justice. “Or I’ll try to facilitate a discussion among other Union members to try to resolve problems or questions or make decisions.” Outside of these meetings, he works diligently to make himself a resource to other Union members. He is also responsible for appointing individuals to University committees.
On a broader level, Edelman dedicates himself to being aware of the studen body’s needs. Conveying these needs to the Brandeis University administration in order to push through policy changes on a higher level, is a job he takes very seriously. He said, “I feel as if there’s a degree of importance to the job of Union President to do my best to present well to the administration, to be professional in that, to accurately talk about what students are feeling.” All in all, he devotes 24 hours per week to his responsibilities as Student Union president.
Edelman is no stranger to hearing and representing student interests. Before becoming Student Union president, he held various other roles in the Union, including Curriculum Committee representative and Communications director. He joined the Union as a way to give back to the Brandeis student body and finds the work to be extremely fulfilling. “I got to see through a lot of interesting projects, made some of my best friends, and got a sense of accomplishment in doing that,” Edelman said. He eventually came up with some ideas about how to improve the Union and believed that he could be a leader dedicated to the students. Realizing that he had something good to offer, and with the encouragement of other Union members, he decided to run for Union president.
Edelman approaches his work with a singular premise in mind: “Students want a better social experience; what can I do to speak to that?” While Edelman’s powers in making his vision a reality are limited, he seemed optimistic about the progress made so far. “I don’t know how much of this can be credited to me, but from what I’ve heard, students feel like the Student Union is more responsive this year than in the past, and that it is closer to students on a day- to-day basis. Members of the Senate and Allocations Board have told me that more students are coming up to them with questions and concerns. That’s the way it should be,” he said.
As part of his effort toward transparency, Edelman tries to make himself as accessible and approachable as possible: “People should know who their Union representatives are and feel comfortable reaching out to them, and trust that they [Union representatives] aren’t just in it for a resume item, but that they are in it because they really want to make a difference.”
While Edelman believes the Student Union is heading in the right direction, he acknowledges that there have been missteps along the way. “In hindsight, I would have been more communicative with the University at large. ... At the beginning of the year I told myself that I would send out more emails to the student body, more messages talking about how things are going. But I got so caught up in just the day-to-day operations and problem-solving on a smaller basis that stopping to share what we have been doing sort of got lost,” he said.
Edelman is aware that he is fighting an uphill battle. There simply isn’t enough time for him to accomplish everything. “Sometimes I see complaints about the Union on Facebook and I want to solve them if it’s appropriate. Solving problems like those are incredibly rewarding, but it also takes time away from my other duties,” he said. Last semester, Edelman was taking five classes, and he found that his new role at the Student Union “took a toll” on his social life, as well as his health and sleep. Now that Edelman is only enrolled in one class and has fufilled his major academic requirements, he hopes that he will be able to dedicate more time toward the Student Union.
“This job isn’t the biggest job in the world, it isn’t the biggest job on campus, but representing anyone gives you a new perspective if you put your heart into it,” he said. Edelman added, “If you listen to someone and hear them out, and you are able to respond fully and factually, that’s the easiest way to get things done.”