Chang shares reasons behind surprise resignation
At the Feb. 3 Senate meeting, Class of 2022 Senator Alex Chang resigned. This is the unabridged text of Chang’s remarks, which he has since sent out to members of the MyDeis2022 Facebook page. Justice editors fact-checked the speech and added clarifications and context in italics and brackets throughout.
The following is in regards to my position as Senator to the Class of 2022.
Fellow senators, I would like to take a moment to express some concerns regarding recent events.
Linfei Yang, the International Student Senator, was recently removed from office through a recall vote. I take issue with several aspects of this recent vote, which I would like to bring to light now, so that my fellow senators, the university press, and, most importantly, the Brandeis student body, may be made aware of some very concerning facts.
First, according to the constitution, a recall petition must be presented to the current Secretary for certification. The recent recall petition concerning Linfei never went through this process, and was instead delivered directly the president of the Student Union, in blatant disregard for the Constitution.
[At the Senate meeting, Vice President Aaron Finkel ’20 clarified after Chang’s remarks that the recall petition concerning International Senator Linfei Yang ’20 was presented to the Secretary who serves as the “Chief of Elections in all Union Elections,” per the Student Union constitution. The secretary at the time of the petition’s submission, Qingtian Mei ’21, recused himself from that role due to a conflict of interest, as he himself is an international student. In the event that the Chief of Elections recuses herself, the petition is to be reviewed by the Deputy Chief of Elections, a role entrusted to the President of the Student Union. With Mei’s recusal, the petition was presented to Deputy Chief of Elections Hannah Brown ’19.]
Secondly, the constitution maintains that in order for a recall vote to be successful, it must receive a vote of approval from two thirds of the the official in question’s constituency. The actual vote received a grand total of forty-two votes in favor of recall. This is nowhere near the required threshold for a successful recall vote, and the insistence of the current administration on removing Linfei in spite of this shows yet more disrespect for the Constitution.
[The Student Union Judiciary initially ruled that this clause of the constitution should be interpreted to mean two-thirds of the senator’s entire constituency, not two-thirds of those who voted in the election. After Brown protested and Class of 2019 Senator Kent Dinlenc sent an email to the Judiciary urging them to reconsider their ruling, the Judiciary ruled that the “constituency” in question refers to the members of the constituency who represented themselves by voting, not all members of the constituency.]
Furthermore, there have been a number of instances in which individuals had their names added to the recall petition without their knowledge. The fact that this was ignored by the creators of the petition forces me to question their true intentions, especially considering the fact that they themselves are not even international students.
[Chang did not provide any proof that fraudulent signatures were added to the petition. He and Yang have both claimed that Secretary Mei had his signature added to the petition without Mei’s knowledge. Mei refuted this, and said a friend signed the petition on his behalf with his consent.]
Finally, when he first heard of the recall petition. Linfei took several substantive steps to remedy the situation. For example, he gave up his position as administrator of both the MyDeis2019 and MyDeis2020 facebook pages, and ended his Vice Presidential campaign, which he was running at the time. However, the petition, as well as the recall vote, was nevertheless forced through, without regard for the processes set out in our constitution.
[In an interview with the Justice, Yang said he removed himself from the administrator position of those pages because of the criticism he was receiving as admin, not in response to the petition. Similarly, in a Dec. 9 Facebook post, Yang announced that his decision to end his vice presidential campaign was due to “the unwelcome atmosphere that has been created this election season” which “has made it not worth it to participate in.”]
While we can all agree that Linfei could have at times acted with less hostility toward others, he by no means deserves to be the recipient of this blatant miscarriage of justice.
These extremely disturbing facts, coupled with the undemocratic and arguably unconstitutional bylaws amendment which was passed last just week (which itself was sponsored by the same individuals who brought about Linfei’s recall), forces me to the following conclusion:
[Dinlenc and Ziv and Ridgewood Quad senator Leigh Salomon ’19 drafted an amendment to the Bylaws two weeks ago that would prevent recalled or impeached enators for running for a position in the Student Union for one year. The amendment passed at last week’s Senate meeting, with strong opposition from Chang and Yang.]
The removal of Linfei Yang from office was a clandestinely coordinated, carefully calculated, political hitjob, which was manufactured, orchestrated, and spearheaded by the opponents of the piano project.
[This statement echoes sentiments Yang expressed to The Brandeis Hoot in a Feb. 1 article: “I think that the real reason that this petition exists is the result of a personal vendetta against me by Kent and Leigh.”
Both Dinlenc and Salomon told the Justice they did not initially oppose the Senate Money Resolution Chang and Yang proposed to put two electric pianos in the main lounges of North Quad and Massell Quad (the “piano project”). Salomon said he reached out to Chang on Facebook, offering to help move the piano. After Dinlenc and Salomon observed what they perceived to be obstructionism from Chang and Yang in the Senate, they became fierce critics of the proposal.]
Allow me to make myself clear here.
When I joined this legislative body, just one semester ago, eager and hoping to bring about some actual, substantive, change for the student body, Linfei was the only senator who actually reached out to me, and offered to help me with my goals.
Throughout the long and complex saga of our piano project, Linfei helped me every step of the way, providing me with invaluable advice, assistance, and support. As a freshman who had just joined this organization, and as someone with little experience in navigating the very complicated and oftentimes confusing environment of this Student Union, I found in Linfei not just an ally, not just a mentor, but a friend.
And when I saw this friend of mine have his reputation dragged through the mud and subsequently forced out of office, in what can only be described as a gross display of petty political vengeance, I was not only disgusted, but disappointed.
The students of this University trust us to represent them. They trust us to act reasonably and to be capable of respectfully disagreeing with each other, while, at the same time, acting in their best interest, not our own.
Perhaps most importantly, they trust us to act with integrity and honor, upholding the very values which this entire institution was founded upon.
The fact of the matter is clear as day: the Student Union has broken this trust. At this time I would like to take a moment to apologize directly to the students of this University, who expected far more from us.
Now, I would like to address the Vice President himself. Mr. Vice President, when this semester began, I had high hopes for us and for you. I expected that our differences would be put behind us. I believed you when you said that we would be focusing on more important projects and initiatives this semester. I trusted you to take your new position seriously, and to respect our Student Union.
Perhaps I was too idealistic. Perhaps I expected too much of you. Perhaps I made the mistake of hoping that this year would go any better than the last.
Nevertheless, while I believe that you had only the best of intentions, it was with great dismay that I watched while you stood by idly while Linfei was being treated so terribly.
Furthermore, when, at the last meeting, I observed the disrespectful way in which you acted toward Richard and his committee, I was taken aback.
[At the Jan. 29 Senate meeting, Finkel apologized to Richard Kisack ’19 for only giving him a few hours’ notice of a proposal to change the name of the Campus Operations Working Group committee that Kisack chairs.]
Since the beginning of this year, my greatest fear was that this semester would be a repeat of the last one. Unfortunately, given the current trajectory of the Student Union, it appears that this fear may be coming true.
It was with this in mind that I made the difficult and painful decision to resign from my current position as Senator of the Class of 2022. I simply cannot continue to serve effectively within an organization where I feel not only uncomfortable and unwelcome, but in which I worry that my concerns are not taken seriously, and furthermore am often interrupted or talked-over when I attempt to bring them up.
To you, Mr. Vice President, I am sorry that I felt it necessary to bring these feelings forth in this manner. However, I know that I am not the only one who feels this way, and I encourage others to have their voices be heard as well.
To my fellow senators, I am sorry that it has come to this. Hopefully, in the future, you will have better luck than myself with achieving your goals on this Student Union.
To my constituents, who elected me to represent you, I am sorry that I could not complete my full term representing you. I hope that each of you understand the stress, hardship, and disappointment which I have endured since arriving on this Student Union, and will remember my tenure as your senator fondly.
To the student body, I am sorry that you are not represented more fairly here on the Student Union. Furthermore, I am sorry for the controversy which was created by last semester’s piano project.
In closing, I want to thank all of you for listening to me, and I sincerely wish each of you only the best of luck with your future endeavors, both on and off this Student Union.
Finally, while it’s deeply unfortunate that we must part ways in this manner, I truly believe it to be for the best.
—Annotated by Sam Stockbridge