EDITORIAL: Reevaluate Student Union involvement in protests
Over the last several weeks, student groups such as Ford Hall 2015 and the Brandeis Asian American Task Force have sent direct letters to the University’s top administrators which included lists of specific demands and a short deadline by which they must be met.
This board has often condemned a sense of student apathy toward administrative dealings and is pleased to see these protest movements as evidence to the contrary. However, that each of these student movements has been driven to protests and demands is indicative of a larger problem within the University.
The first line of the Student Union constitution states that it exists “to provide for meaningful address of student concerns through the principle of democratic representation; to exercise our indisputable right to be represented in the affairs of the University.” As the home page of the new Student Union website states: “We are your link to change.”
If the Union derives its power from being both student-elected and having personal connections to the administration, then something is clearly wrong if students feel that the only avenue for change is through protests.
Similarly, the Student Union President exists to “represent the Brandeis University Student Body in the larger community,” according to the Union Constitution. When events like Ford Hall 2015 are plagued by poor communication between administrators and students, it is the president’s role to mediate as an impartial body.
While Student Union President Nyah Macklin’s ’16 leadership as a member of the Ford Hall 2015 movement was strong, this board questions whether personally serving as a protester is the President’s job; even as Macklin led her constituents who participated in the sit-in, students who either opposed or questioned the movement’s aims were left without a method of having their voices heard by those in power.
Macklin confirmed to the Justice at last night’s State of the Union address that she suspended all of her Union activities during the protest, including holding office hours. While Macklin is of course welcome to a private opinion on these issues, when the campus is thrown into a crisis, her duty is to at least hear and consider every side of the argument.
Macklin argued at her State of the Union address that she should not have to choose between her identity as a black woman and her role as Student Union President. This board argues that the best way for Macklin to advocate for black students is to use the power she holds as Union president, making her uniquely qualified to impartially communicate between student advocates and administrators.
Macklin also confirmed last night that she is not planning on being as involved with the BAATF demands and subsequent action. If Macklin has now carved out direct involvement in student advocacy as a role of the Student Union President, this board holds that she must fully commit herself to this movement as well.
If Macklin is the most powerful student voice on campus, it does other groups on campus with equally valid demands a disservice by failing to give them her full and undivided support. As a negotiator and leader in one movement, she was able to attract the attention afforded to her role — those connections and power that must be made available to BAATF as well.
This board hopes that, in the coming weeks, Senators will advocate for student concerns before a sit-in becomes necessary, and the President will be be available to all students.