EDITORIAL: 'Diversity' hijacked; Senate makes spurious allocation to SASA board
If one lesson can be drawn from the events of last semester, it is that the valuable ideal of diversity cannot be tossed about lightly. On Nov. 16, the executive board of the South Asian Students Association (SASA) came before the Union Senate to ask for $3,000 to travel to Houston for a national convention. The Senate allocated $1,800, 13 percent of their $17,000 budget. The Senate's budget is usually only $10,000, but it received a $7,000 rollover from last semester. Though SASA's request was denied by the Allocations Board six days earlier, and though a similar request had been refused by a previous E-board, some senators, afraid of appearing insensitive to the issue of diversity, voted against their best instincts.
It was unfortunate that the SASA E-Board later neglected to inform club members of its plans, prompting a backlash that resulted in the resignation of all E-board members.
Speaking about turning down the request, A-Board Chairman Mark Schlangel '05 correctly pointed out that the opportunity to attend the Houston convention should be extended to as many students as possible, but his suggestion was disregarded by the SASA leaders. Instead, they pleaded to the Senate for money.
It is somewhat irrelevant whether a miscommunication or negligence resulted in SASA's leaders not sharing their plans with club members. In the end, that their now-shattered organization was unable to represent Brandeis in what seemed like a meaningful convention is the only injustice.
But we place the onus on the Senate for aborting rational thought once the all-too-familiar specter of hypersensitivity appeared in a shroud called diversity. While some senators wisely questioned the SASA board about the great costs of traveling to the convention, others-especially former Class of 2007 Senator Mark Samburg-turned the issue into one of supporting diversity when it was one of fairness.
Referring to a Senate resolution in support of diversity that was born out of last semester's Dusty Baker incident in the Justice, Samburg emphatically challenged his fellow senators, saying that the resolution "says we intend to promote diversity and education-why don't we stand by our resolution?"
At the Nov. 16 meeting, senators were made to feel if they didn't vote in favor of sending SASA leaders to Houston, then they didn't support diversity. North Quad Senator Aaron Gaynor '07 said that some of the still-green senators at the meeting were intimidated by their louder colleagues.
"We had a lot of scared senators. We had a lot of strong senators that said if you don't vote for this you're a racist."
An atmosphere where thinking means sinking in a flood of ill-advised criticism is a retrograde one that harkens back to McCarthyism. Instead of examining why the A-board denied this request, a few loud voices strong-armed the Senate, capitalizing on the current climate at Brandeis.
This manipulation was made possible by the many resignations and high turnover in the Senate, which resulted in many new senators.
Political grandstanding that erects a facade of legitimacy over an ostentatious money request erodes the integrity of a Senate that is faced with the lofty tasks of both furthering diversity on campus and treating each and every money request fairly.
We hope in future votes, senators will examine the validity of every allocation without fear of absurd reprisals from within and to focus on really matters.