Kaplan’s case ends in mediation with Union
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 04:10
As of about 10 p.m. last night, Dean Kaplan’s ’15 quest for the restitution of his Student Union Senate seat is over. He will not, as was the original goal of his claim against the Student Union, resume his position as off-campus senator, but instead will spearhead the creation of a University Committee that will focus on issues concerning Brandeis students living off-campus. Sunny Aidasani ’14 will continue to serve as off-campus senator.
Kaplan and Student Union President Todd Kirkland ’13, who represented the Union, reached this compromise during an approximately hour-long private mediation held in the Student Union office last night. The mediation, the initial step in the process of resolving formally filed Union disputes, was conducted by the Student Judiciary.
According to Article IV of the Union constitution, mediations are intended to encourage “an informal, non-adversarial approach to an outcome that will be agreed upon, final and binding.” As the attempts for resolution were successful, Kaplan’s case will not go to a public trial.
Instead, at the suggestion of Kirkland, Kaplan will begin the process of forming a University Committee, or a Union-affiliated group designed to “[provide] student input and [share] the student perspective with University departments,” according to the Student Union website. These Committees are created with the approval of the Union president’s chief of staff (in this case Jesse Manning ’13) and are usually advised by a faculty or staff member. Student membership is limited to one year per Committee, according to the Union website.
Examples of such groups can be found on the website and include the Alcohol and Other Drug Coalition, the Academic Services Advisory Committee, the Dean of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee and the Festival of the Arts Planning Committee.
Membership in many committees is capped at anywhere from one to eight students.
According to Kaplan, his committee will focus on the needs and concerns of students living off-campus; more specifically, the committee will focus on the issues that would normally fall under the Department of Community Living’s jurisdiction if the students lived on campus.
“I’m not expecting the University to pay for repairs, fix things, or beautify people’s back yards, but some kind of … organization with the students themselves for improving their day-to-day lives, whether it be better access to food [and] to books” and the like, is needed, said Kaplan, noting that “the off-campus constituency is a potentially very powerful force for change.”
Manning agreed to help Kaplan in his application process to create the off-campus University Committee, according to both Kirkland’s and Kaplan’s accounts of the mediation.
A staff member, such as an administrator from DCL, will most likely facilitate Kaplan’s committee, said Kirkland.
“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” said Kaplan. “I feel like the Union very specifically addressed my concerns.”
As Chief of the Student Judiciary Seth Brody ’15 said in an interview with the Justice, “Dean wanted to be a senator. The Union couldn’t offer him that position, so they compromised and found a way that Dean would be able to achieve his goals.”
As for the long—and at times arduous—road that led to the mediation, Kaplan conceded that he wasn’t entirely happy with the process itself and the trouble it had caused some of the people involved. “I realize that I offended Carlton [Shakes ’14]. I feel really bad about that. Me and Carlton have been really good friends for the past year.”
The Student Judiciary agreed to hear the third of Kaplan's appeals last week, which claimed that he was wrongfully removed from office after being sworn in. Kaplan's initial election and subsequent removal resulted from a misinterpretation of the election results by Shakes, the Student Union secretary and chief of elections.
“I just have had a bad experience with University Committees in the past,” Kaplan continued, addressing his reasons for pursuing this result through the Judiciary.
Last year, during his service as Massell Quad Senator, Kaplan was placed with the Office of Student Rights Advocacy as a representative for students who have had disciplinary action taken against them by the University. OSRA, which is run through the Student Union, is described on the Union website as “a student run club and service that works to inform the student body of their rights. In essence; we ADVISE, ADVOCATE, and INFORM.” By Kaplan’s own account, the appointment was “very ironic,” as he himself was on the opposite side of disciplinary situations multiple times last year.
However, this may be an opportunity for a fresh start for Kaplan. “Yeah, I caused a mess,” said Kaplan, referring to the amount of work that his accusations caused for the Judiciary and Student Union officers as a whole. “We’re here to be students primarily, and I feel bad for, you know, taking away time in some cases from students,” said Kaplan.
“I’m glad that we were able to make a good decision,” Senator-at-Large Charlotte Franco ’15 said in an interview with the Justice. Franco noted that the Union was glad to have increased visibility and involvement with its off-campus constituency, especially as it continues to grow due to a lack of housing space on campus.
“I think that [Kaplan] is a good person to chair this [Committee],” said Franco, “because he has such passion for this as an off-campus student and as a previous senator, knowing what it takes to put things in action.”