EDITORIAL: Plan new Student Union initiatives for new semester
The Student Union will hold spring semester elections on Jan. 22, voting in new members of the Allocations Board and Senate. Meanwhile, last semester’s executive senator David Herbstritt ’17 has assumed the vice presidential position after Dennis Hermida-Gonzales ’16 stepped down. As the Union begins a new semester with the promise of a new University president and new policies, as well as minors, being developed as a result of student activism, this board urges Union representatives to carefully weigh what initiatives and focuses they intend to pursue and suggests the following ideas.
First, we propose the Union dedicate significant energy to advocating for the release and distribution of information about how student tuition is spent and applied throughout the University. Students who entered the University during fall 2012 are currently paying $47,702 in tuition alone. The efficiency and necessity of this staggering cost cannot be adequately measured without more complete information. Tuition cost is an issue upon which nearly all of the student body can agree, and students nationwide — and at Brandeis — consider tuition costs to be one of the most important issues in higher education today. If the Union’s duty is to advocate on the behalf of the students to the administration, tuition takes precedent. While it may be unrealistic for any union representative to single-handedly reduce the cost of attending Brandeis, a united front committed to releasing full information on tuition allocation could put significant pressure on the University, encouraging administrators to at least be more transparent with students about how their dollars are being spent. This will open the door for more precise discourse and activism on controlling costs.
This board would also like to see continued efforts on the part of this semester’s representatives to reach out to students and publicize the Union’s initiatives. In order to represent the student body, the Union must, of course, be in communication with its constituents. While this board recognizes that communication does require mutual effort and cannot fully take place unless students themselves remain informed, it is also necessary that the Union encourage and facilitate student-representative interaction. Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16 established a task force to make representatives more accessible to the student body. This board commends Macklin’s actions and urges continued efforts. For example, an email Listserv for each quad senator would allow the senators to send more relevant and personal information to their constituents. Further, increased publicity of the open nature of Senate meetings might encourage more student involvement.
Finally, this board proposes that the Union should develop an official policy on how they plan to respond to student activist movements. We see a discrepancy in the Union Senate’s recent responses — and lack thereof — to both the Ford Hall 2015 movement and the Brandeis Asian American Task Force movement when they occurred at the end of last semester. This policy should include an explanation of the Union’s position on an issue championed by student activists and an outline on what steps they plan to take with regard to the movement.
The development of a policy would allow Union members to separate their role as individuals from their role as student leaders, thus allowing them to advocate for the causes they see fit as individuals without the Union itself appearing biased. An official policy would also provide a framework for the Union to respond to all types of student movements in a timely manner. As such, the student body would not be left in the dark regarding the Union’s response to their movements.
With the opportunities presented by a new semester, this board encourages the Student Union to prioritize a connection with the student body, especially on issues of value to them.