Dechartering The Hoot

Executive Senator Kent Dinlenc ’19 brought forward a proposal to decharter The Brandeis Hoot due to a “Bylaws issue and an environmental issue.” In his nine-page proposal, Dinlenc, the Senate’s sustainability committee chair, explained that Brandeis is the only American university of its size to have two newspapers. He predicted that there would be no issues for writers transitioning from one paper to the other because the two are similar. He said he had asked members of The Hoot if they would be willing to create an online publication in place of the paper, and said that they were unwilling to do so. 

Hoot Opinions Editor Sabrina Chow ’21, who attended the meeting, disagreed with Dinlenc’s focus on reducing paper use, saying it would be more environmentally friendly to print a newspaper because of the electricity necessary to use a laptop and an online publication. In order to lay out pages, many newspapers use applications such as Adobe InDesign, a desktop app which can be provided without charge to University-owned computers.

Dinlenc then referenced a survey he had sent to the Brandeis community inquiring about their interest in reading the newspapers on campus, The Hoot and the Justice, going on to say that he has seen “support [for the proposal] from constituents.” Dinlenc said only 51 “valid responses” were submitted, however, and stated that he will seek additional responses before revealing the results of the survey to the Senate. Dinlenc did not include the responses of people who contributed to either newspaper.

Responding to accusations of having a conflict of interest due to his longtime contribution to the Justice’s Arts section, Dinlenc announced that he had voluntarily resigned from the Justice on Friday, adding that he had initiated this proposal for sustainability reasons rather than as a former Justice staff member. 

Off-Campus Senator Jacob Diaz ’20 was unconvinced, pointing out the “huge conflict of interest” stemming from his former association with the Justice. “We’re in a time of attacks on the free press,” Diaz declared, asserting that The Hoot had recently written articles criticizing Dinlenc, thus making him the “wrong person” to introduce the proposal. Class of 2020 Senator Tom Alger questioned why Dinlenc, who is graduating this spring, would care what a newspaper has written about him.

Diaz raised claims of racism within the press, referring back to The Hoot’s founding. He claimed that dechartering The Hoot would be “completely ignoring the issues that caused the split in the first place,” going on to say that “the split was caused by a racist editor of the Justice, and that honestly hasn’t been fixed yet … if we are supposed to pay attention to … minority students at Brandeis, we need to continue funding The Hoot.” In late 2003, the Justice published a racial slur, an incident that resulted in the resignation of five editors, including the editor in chief at the time. In a Dec. 7, 2004 article in the Justice, one of The Hoot’s founders and a former Justice editor, Igor Pedan ’05, said The Hoot would seek “to fill the gap left by the Justice and to force that newspaper to improve while at the same time offering the Brandeis community an accurate, unbiased, and journalistically sound news outlet.” 

Skyline and Rosenthal Quad Senator Josh Hoffman ’21 asked if Diaz was saying the Justice was racist, to which he replied, “I’m saying the editors are,” and said that The Hoot speaks for minority voices. As a Latino American, Diaz said, he does not feel “like an outsider” when he reads The Hoot, adding that if the Senate dechartered The Hoot, a part of Brandeis’ social justice identity would be lost. 

Racial Minority Senator Geraldine Bogard ’20 agreed with Diaz, mentioning that she has heard from constituents that marginalized peoples have felt “more comfortable reaching out to The Hoot.” Massell Quad Senator Kendal Chapman ’22 added that senators must consider systemic racism, as well as “who the Justice doesn’t allow to write.” The Justice permits anyone who abides by its constitution to join the staff, per Article IV, Section 1 of its constitution. However, the Justice does not allow staff members to write for competing publications, according to Article II, Section 4.

Dinlenc asked why senators were “acting like it’s in the constitution for the Justice to be racist” when the editors who were responsible for the 2003 incident have graduated. He added that senators should not declare The Hoot to be “infallible,” citing its recent review of Liquid Latex that garnered controversy. 

Dinlenc also argued that having two similar newspapers violates the “duality of purpose” clause, which stipulates that a club cannot receive accreditation if it has a similar purpose to an existing club. Diaz replied that if the Senate were to enforce duality of purpose, many a capella and dance groups would be dechartered on those grounds. All a capella groups are recognized clubs, not chartered clubs, per the Brandeis club listing. Alger countered that there are significant differences between the a capella groups, so they would not count under duality of purpose. He wondered if there is a way The Hoot and the Justice “could be different so both could exist.” 

Class of 2022 Senator Nancy Zhai asked Dinlenc about ideological differences the papers have, to which he responded that he has asked the editors of both papers and they have stated that they have ideological differences and are “quirky.” Diaz asked why the Justice uses more money than the Hoot if the two papers are so similar, and suggested reducing funding for the Justice to increase sustainability. He also asked why Dinlenc was proposing to abolish The Hoot over the Justice. Dinlenc responded that the only reason was that the Justice “was there first.” Asserting the importance of having two newspapers, Senator-at-Large Noah Nguyen ’21 stressed that The Hoot is there to “keep the Justice in check.”

Hoot News Editor Celia Young ’21, who also attended the meeting, then made a speech in favor of keeping The Hoot, beginning by saying that the paper was not “formally notified” about the motion until 2 p.m. that day. Expounding upon the importance of having two newspapers, she said of the Hoot’s relationship with the Justice, “We push each other to do the best we can, to reach out to the Brandeis community, to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, which is what we should be about.” 

Countering Dinlenc’s argument of duality of purpose, Young asserted that it does not apply to The Hoot because The Hoot covers different events than the Justice. Young emphasized that The Hoot tries to cover stories that matter to the Brandeis community. “We’re doing that because the Brandeis community deserves to hear these stories, and they wouldn’t hear them because we’re the only ones covering it sometimes,” she said, adding that “if The Hoot goes away, the Brandeis community loses a unique view. ... They lose all the coverage we get, and they lose a part of the community.” Responding to arguments about funding and sustainability, Young stressed that The Hoot is open to working with the Justice to reduce printing costs and amounts. 

Hoffman said that initially, he saw getting rid of the Hoot as “look[ing] great on paper,” but after Young’s speech, it “made less sense” to him. He suggested cutting the Justice’s funding “if the pressing issue is money,” and suggested banning color printing to reduce pollution. Nguyen advised that the papers collect data on the number of issues left over per week so they can reduce the number of issues printed. For the past two years, the Justice has kept track of the number of newspapers remaining each week and adjusts circulation accordingly. 

Student Union Vice President Aaron Finkel ’19 ended the discussion, announcing that the Senate would be voting on the proposal next week.

Committee Chair Reports

Ridgewood Quad Senator Leigh Salomon ’19, chair of the Dining Committee, reported that hand sanitizer machines and Dasani seltzer water machines will be installed in dining halls during spring break. Additionally, some constituents with allergies have complained that employees at Louis’ Deli do not know about the presence of certain ingredients in food. He said that Sodexo will be creating recipe books so every employee will know the ingredients. Salomon also announced that he and Zhai have been working on securing consistent prices for fruit in the Hoot Market.

Services and Outreach Committee Chair Chapman urged Senators to attend the Midnight Buffet, referencing past issues with low attendance. This semester, the event will take place partly in the Shapiro Campus Center as well as the Great Lawn.

Campus Operations Committee Chair Taylor Fu ’21 reported that a committee member will be meeting with representatives of the BranVan to discuss van times, and announced she is working on beautifying East Quad.

New Business

Chapman introduced a Senate Money Resolution for Midnight Buffet for color posters and more food. The Senate passed the SMR by a vote of acclamation.

Chapman then introduced another SMR for a flea market for seniors. Finkel announced that the Senate would not vote on this issue this week.

Village Quad Senator Jake Rong ’21 introduced the “Amendment Giving the Senate the Power to Subpoena Club Leaders,” which would allow the Senate to “by majority vote, mandate that a particular Club Officer report before the Senate.” Bogard objected, and the amendment will be voted on next week.

Finkel briefly summarized an amendment to Section XIII of the Bylaws, which would allow clubs to use a non-faculty or full-time staff member to serve as a club consultant with Student Activities’ approval. Finkel stated that the Senate did not have to vote that day, and encouraged discussion about the amendment.

Finkel introduced an amendment to officially “codify” in the Bylaws the rule that class senators be moderators of the MyDeis class Facebook groups, with members of the Department of Communications serving as administrators. Salomon expressed his concern about the amendment, stating that senators have the potential to be untrustworthy, and asked why the groups needed moderators. Former Senator for International Students Linfei Yang ’20 previously created fake Facebook profiles and invited those profiles to become admins of the MyDeis pages. 

Salomon said that he believed the administrators from the Office of Communications were “more than sufficient,” to which Finkel replied that class senators would be better able to understand the problems faced by their constituents. Bogard stated that she believed it to be important that moderators undergo a training process before being able to moderate the Facebook page. Finkel said that he will make changes to the amendment during the next week, and it will be voted on at a future date.

Bogard reintroduced an amendment to require a training session for clubs that put on events about “controversial” topics, which can include subjects including race and sexual violence. Chapman asked how the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can ensure the training will be unbiased, and will not attack people with whom the trainers disagree. Bogard assured Chapman that the training would be neutral, explaining that it would “basically teach people … that if you see something happening on campus … how to intervene … [and] how to approach the situation.”

—Editor’s Note: Jake Rong ’21 is a Justice Copy staff member 

and Nancy Zhai ’22 is a News writer for the Justice.