Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16 addressed the student body at the biannual State of the Union address in the Shapiro Campus Center last night. Other members of the Student Union were also present and spoke during the event.

The event was hosted by Student Union Director of Programming Adriana Gleaton ’16, who opened the event by introducing Macklin. Macklin began her address by briefly touching on the path she took to end up as Student Union President. She noted that she came to the University as a transfer student during her sophomore year and wished “to dive into the Student Union as early as possible” to help her fellow students have a voice.

She went on to reflect on the past few months, noting, “This has been one of the most insane semesters since I’ve embarked on Brandeis. I wouldn’t wish the presidency upon anyone. If you’re not ready to fight for the rights of your fellow students … if you’re not ready to work tirelessly to mend the relationships between your constituents only to watch it come crashing down every day ... and if you don’t love this job, then maybe the Student Union isn’t for you. But it is for every single one of us who’s here. We all love this work and we will put in endless hours to make sure this work comes to fruition.”

Macklin then outlined her interpretation of the major roles of the Union, stating that “the Union has three main tenets: we advocate for the needs of our constituents, we allocate funds throughout the many student-run organizations in a way that has maximized the impact of each organization … and we foster a sense of community.” 

She went on to thank each division of the Student Union and highlight their accomplishments, which included the Senate’s coordination of the upcoming Midnight Buffet on Wednesday, the Judiciary’s review of the Union constitution and bylaws, the Allocations Board’s adapting to a new constitutional amendment, the Treasury’s accessibility to club leaders and the Executive Board’s organization and initiative. Macklin also urged all students to read the Student Union constitution, noting that not reading the Student Union constitution is akin to not “not knowing the Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook. You don’t know your rights.”

“One of my other constituencies is my own people. These people with melanin in their skin just like my own. I know many of you have been wondering why would I, the Student Union President, get involved in Ford Hall 2015, a protest on campus that only caters to one demographic? I say I was involved because I should not choose between being a black woman and being the president of the Student Union. Many faculty, administrators and fellow students have reminded me that I sit at a very particular intersection. I know. Can I fight for the rights of my people all while fighting for the rights of the general population? Black students are a part of that population, are they not? When I was elected, I made a promise to fight for the voices that had been silenced in our nation and on this campus. … I do not take back my involvement in the protest. I will never.”

As she concluded, Macklin stated, “Going forward, we must hold our University to its mission [of diversity and equality]. The Student Union might not be on the front line, like I was, but we will provide support to our students and we will advocate and communicate with you.”

In an interview with the Justice after the event, Macklin said she did not attend her regularly scheduled office hours due to her participation in the Ford Hall 2015 movement. When asked whether she would be as involved with the recent Brandeis Asian American Task Force petition for an Asian American Studies program at the University, Macklin responded: “I’m still navigating that. Right now I have to step down from my activism role and focus on the Union.”

After Macklin’s address, Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees Grady Ward ’16 took the stage to update the assembled students on his interactions with the Board. He explained the role he and Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees Emily Conrad ’17 play both in the Student Union and with the Board of Trustees. He also touched on the Student Union’s role in supporting reform and unity on campus, citing the Ford Hall 2015 movement as a good example of disconnect in communication between the administration and the study body.

Executive Senator David Herbstritt ’17 then spoke, acknowledging that the Student Union Senate has functioned well this semester as an effective “cohesive unit.” He said that while there have been setbacks in having to train new members and get them comfortable in their positions, the Senate has accomplished a great deal on campus in the last few months. 

Herbstritt cited the Senate’s ongoing efforts to implement bystander training for all clubs as an example of one of its more innovative initiatives on campus. He ended his speech by encouraging students to come to him and other senators with their concerns. “It makes it a lot easier to do our job when we hear from the community we serve,” he said.

Senator at Large Lucy Wen ’18, the Social Justice and Diversity Committee Chair, spoke next, focusing on her committee’s ongoing preferred name and pronoun survey, which she administered to the community via email earlier this month. In advocating for the importance of the survey to transgender and gender non-binary students, as well as students with less common names, she argued, “Using the wrong names is a violent act.”

Union Treasurer Nicole Lenchner '16 was last to address the audience. She invited club leaders to approach her with any questions or concerns they may have.