Amendments change bylaws, committee names during contentious Senate meeting
The Senate renamed the Campus Operations Working Group and the Bylaws committees in addition to approving an amendment to the Bylaws concerning the impeachment or recall of a Senator.
Union Vice President Aaron Finkel ’20 began by announcing that Class of 2021 Senator George Li had resigned to focus on academics. Treasurer Adrian Ashley ’20 reported that the Union had spent as much money as expected last semester. Finkel also reminded the Senate of the mandatory post-election Union Retreat happening after elections.
Finkel shared that Union Diversity and Inclusion Officer Zoë Fort ’21 gave an update on Tuesday’s Accessibility Forum at the Executive Board’s meeting. Fort said she received complaints about the forum including its timing and President Liebowitz’s five minute speech.
International Senator Linfei Yang ’20 defended Liebowitz, saying the president wanted to “be like a sponge to soak up complaints” rather than take time away from participants with a long speech.
Hoffman added that a lawsuit could ensue, possibly leading to the University losing its Americans with Disabilities Act funding. Finkel concluded the Senate’s discussion about the forum by stating that a follow-up forum could be in the works to address issues not covered by the first.
Finkel announced that the Senate would undertake a new weekly initiative called “Senate Awards,” which would publicly acknowledge at least one student or club that has done something “exceptional or amazing.”
Moving to committee chair reports, Sustainability Committee Chair and Executive Senator Kent Dinlenc ’19 reported that he would be meeting with the Department of Community Living about getting trash and recycling bins in all rooms in Ziv and Ridgewood Quads, as well as in the Charles River Apartments. Though he acknowledged he did not know the cost, he joked that it would be “probably cheaper than pianos.”
The Senate brought forth last week’s resolution to submit a public comment to the Department of Education opposing proposed changes to Title IX, which the Senate voted by acclamation to approve.
Next, the Senate debated the language of a proposed amendment regarding the rules for impeached and recalled senators. Class of 2022 Senator Alex Chang was concerned about compatibility with Judiciary policies and making sure “we’re not using Bylaws amendments to get constitutional amendments.” Finkel countered Chang’s comment by stating, “It is completely within our power to do this.”
Yang then voiced his concern about the clause which would forbid an impeached or recalled senator from running for office again for the next year. “Hypothetically,” he said, he would “understand if people didn’t want the Class of 2022 senator on the Senate anymore,” but wondered if the ban on running again would apply to every Union position. Ridgewood Senator Leigh Salomon ’19 replied that no one would want an impeached or recalled senator to represent them in any other way, and that running for another Union position would be “an abuse of the system.”
The resolution is timely, as international students will vote on Wednesday whether to recall Yang. The vote comes after a widely-circulated petition argued that Yang “exhibited a carelessness and lack of respect for the rules of conduct and decorum of the Student Union, the Brandeis administration, and the university community as a whole,” and mentioned his role in the piano controversy and admin seizure of the Class of 2019 and 2020 Facebook groups. After the petition garnered signatures of 15 percent of international students, Dinlenc gave Yang the option of resigning rather than being recalled by his constituents, according to an email provided to the Justice.
Bylaws Committee Chair Jake Rong ’21 said it was acceptable under the Bylaws to pass this amendment.
As it became Chang’s turn to vote, he began a charged speech, stating, “If the students decide that they want someone to represent them, then in a democratic system they have the right to that.” Finkel tried to intervene, insisting that Chang not give a speech and instead only say “yes or no,” while Chang repeatedly yelled, “Excuse me!” resulting in a back and forth between the two. The resolution passed.
Having decided to split the original amendment into two votes after dissent from Senators, the Senate addressed the amendments to rename COW-G to “Campus Operations Committee” and the Bylaws Committee to the “Rules Committee.” COW-G Chair Richard Kisack ’19 defended the tradition of the original name. Other senators disagreed, saying a name change would help the committee’s branding.
The vote was held twice, as many senators changed their votes and others made speeches in between. Though Finkel insisted he had informed Kisack of the proposed amendment in advance, Kisack maintained that he was unaware before it was proposed at a previous E-Board meeting. Renaming the committee passed.
Next, the Senate discussed renaming the Bylaws Committee to the Rules Committee. Finkel supported the measure. Dinlenc agreed with Finkel, joking, “‘Bylaws’ isn’t sexy, ‘rules’ is sexy.” The amendment to rename the committee passed.
The Senate then moved to new business, discussing the proposed Student Union Code of Conduct. Finkel stated that he reviewed the document with E-Board and other senators, and also looked at other universities’ codes of conduct. He said it “clearly lays out” a code that “everyone … will be held to.” Salomon added that the Student Union is “long overdue for a system of accountability.” The Senate postponed voting on the code until next week’s meeting.
Services and Outreach Chair Chapman reported that Shapiro Hall did not have hot water for a week, and residents were not informed by DCL about the problem until the end of that week. In her report, Senator-at-Large Noah Nguyen ’21 chastised Finkel for his alleged handling of the COW-G amendment, declaring that his role in Kisack’s lack of advance knowledge about the proposal was “unprofessional and rude.”
After Finkel apologized, Racial Minority Senator Geraldine Bogard ’20 said that Finkel’s apology “did not feel sincere,” and that she would have voted “no” on the amendment based on Finkel’s “respect toward the issue.” Finkel insisted once again that he thought he had given Kisack enough notice, but acknowledged that in his effort to get things done, he “moved a little too fast.”