The second round of Student Union elections took place on April 18, with 18 positions filled by a number of Union veterans and fresh faces. The Justice reached out to the newly-elected representatives to get their first takes on their new jobs and how they plan to serve the student body. 


Ten senators were elected to the Union. The winners tended to foreground two issues on their platforms: accessibility and accountability. Multiple candidates mentioned the controversies surrounding the Union this year, including the proposal to decharter The Brandeis Hoot and the Cclub Consultant amendment. Other candidates mentioned the need for greater accessibility on campus. 


Scott Halper

Halper is a newcomer to the Union. He decided to run after seeing “continued issues in the Union,” per a May 6 email to the Justice. He pointed to the piano Senate Money Resolution, the recall of former International Student Senator Linfei Yang ’20, the Club Consultant amendment and the attempted de-chartering of The Hoot as specific examples. 

Speaking about the Union, Halper said its problems were “pervasive. There is no reason why any deliberative body should have so much conflict. … Too often in political situations, ego overpowers good policy work.” He said the repeated controversies, particularly over media organizations, showed “that many students do not feel heard.”

Halper wants to see increased cooperation in the Union. He also wants to make his office hours as public as possible, and expressed an interest in working with the Concerned Students 2015 movement on campus. 

Halper received 30.77 percent of the vote (80 votes) and came in first in the four-way race with a wide margin over the other candidates. 

Dane Leoniak

Leoniak ran for 2020 Senator because he believes the Union “has not been listening to many people and groups on campus,” according to his candidate biography. In the bio, Leoniak said that he wants “to be a voice for students and clubs who are otherwise ignored or cut for time by the Student Union.” 

Leoniak also expressed that he wanted to pull the Union into greater lockstep with the student body. “I want the Union to do something worthwhile and not push pet projects that no one on campus actually wants to happen,” he said. Leoniak did not respond to requests for comment.

Leoniak won the second 2020 seat by a razor-thin margin — just one vote. His total vote share was 21.9 percent (57 votes), defeating the next-closest candidate, incumbent Jacob Diaz (21.5 percent, 56 votes), for the spot. Trevor Filseth, another Union veteran, came in last with 13 percent of the vote (34 votes). 260 votes were cast in total. 


Sissel Tan

In her candidate biography, Tan said she was looking to “make our community more active and energetic” and that she wants to participate in “campus regulating, problem solving and improving.”

Tan won 30.8 percent of the vote (74 votes), finishing second in the two-way race. She did not respond to requests for comment. Many students chose to vote ‘abstain’ in the race, as that option gathered 23.3 percent of the votes (56 votes). 

Jake Rong ’21

Rong wrote in a May 10 email to the Justice that he wishes to continue holding the Senate and Union Executive Board accountable. “I’ll work closely with the president and vice president to ensure all Executive Board members are holding office hours and regularly sending written updates to the Senate and student body,” he wrote in the email. In his candidate bio, Rong said that he wants to make the University as “accountable, effective, and inclusive as it can be.”

Rong is a longtime Union veteran, having served since his first year. He served as Village Quad and 567 senator, and Rules Committee chair this past semester.

Rong received 34.6 percent of the vote (83 votes) in the two-way race, coming in first place. 240 total votes were cast. 


Topaz Fragoso

Fragoso wants to “continue representing [her] peers’ needs, concerns, and wants” in the coming year, according to her candidate biography. She did not respond to requests for comment. This is the second time Fragoso will serve as senator for the Class of 2022. 

Fragoso won 44.3 percent (143 votes) of the vote in the two-way race and came in first.

Joseph Coles IV

Coles said in a May 6 email to the Justice he ran for the Senate to “play a part in improving the student experience and [to do his] part to improve the perception of the Union.” In the email, Coles wrote that he wants the Union to play a more positive role in student life. He listed getting air conditioning for the dorm common areas and having more off-campus food options available for students on campus as two of his priorities.

Coles won 38.27 percent (124 votes) of the votes in his election and placed second overall. 


Nancy Zhai ’22

In a May 6 email to the Justice, Zhai said she would “like to continue instituting improvements in our community’s best interests by shifting [her] focus to what affects our community as a whole.” She had previously served as Class of 2022 Senator.

Zhai wants to make strides in three areas. As Dining Committee chair, she wants to make the meal plan process more accommodating and look after the quality of the food on campus. Zhai also said she wants to be “more open to suggestions, feedback and constructive criticism by gathering constituents’ feedback/thoughts” before moving forward with any new enterprises. Finally, Zhai wants to improve campus diversity and inclusion by ensuring that “everyone’s concerns are seriously considered, properly addressed and genuinely validated.” She cited the termination of basketball coach Brian Meehan as one example of the kind of conduct she wants to improve. 

Zhai stressed outreach and communication both within the Union and with the student body as priorities. “As the legislative branch [of the] Union and representative of [the] Brandeis Community, it’s crucial for us to have effective communication and maintain professional self-conduct,” she wrote. 

Zhai won 42.8 percent of the vote share in the two-way election. Her 374 votes were the most for any candidate in this election cycle. 

Josh Hoffman ’21

Hoffman won the second senator-at-large seat. In his candidate biography, he touted his experience in the Facilities and Housing and Health and Safety committees as his qualification for running. 

Hoffman noted two projects on his record that he wanted to continue: one to stock the bathrooms with menstrual products and another to stock the first-year dorms with condoms. “Vote for me and let me keep stocking the bathrooms with random crap,” he wrote in his biography. Hoffman did not respond to requests for comment.

Hoffman won 31.7 percent of the vote (277 votes). He came in second in the two-seat race. The race had 873 votes total. 


Shuorui Wang ’22

Wang said in his candidate biography that he wants to focus on improving food for international students.  Wang also said he wishes to “improve the international students’ accessibility to activity information and news on campus.” He did not respond to requests for comment.

Wang won the one-seat election with 42.5 percent of the election (40 votes). Leah Fernandez ’22 was the runner-up with 37.2 percent of the votes (35 votes). There were 94 votes total. 


Rajan Vohra ’21

In his candidate biography, Vohra credited his Hindu beliefs and his Indian roots as part of his qualifications to serve as Racial Minority senator. In addition, he wrote that wants to bring his “fellow peers together through more inclusive social events and show them how to celebrate a wide variety of cultures.” Vohra did not respond to requests for comment. 

Vohra garnered 54 percent of the votes (154 votes) in the uncontested election. The race had 247 votes total. 


The nine-way race for associate justice on the Union Judiciary was the largest race in this election cycle. The nine candidates competed for five open seats, and 1,684 votes were cast — each eligible voter could choose up to five options.

Maya Walborsky ’22

Walborsky said that she wants to have a “voice” in the smooth operation of the Union by overseeing meetings. She did not reply to requests for comment.

Walborsky received the most votes from the race at 216, or 12.8 percent vote share.

Rachel Sterling ’21

Sterling came in second place with 12.3 percent of the vote share, or 208 votes. In her candidate biography, she described a desire to “foster an environment that is built upon a foundation of trust and honesty within our community.” Sterling did not reply to requests for comment.

Ruth Itzkowitz ’22

Itzkowitz said in a May 6 email to the Justice that she wants to “make sure the Student Union runs efficiently and fairly” this year. She also said that she “hopes to make sure the Judiciary Board really acts to make sure all is fair and just” within the Union. 

Itzkowitz pulled 12.1 percent of the vote, with 204 votes. 

Shania Thomas ’21

Thomas wants to uphold current legal precedents and set new ones that comply with the Union Constitution, per her candidate biography.  “I would service this campus as an advisor and adjudicator in bringing forth legislation that expands the fruitfulness of our time at Brandeis,” she wrote in her bio.

Thomas received 11.76 percent of the vote, or 198 votes. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Jack Ranucci ’22

Ranucci said in his candidate biography that his knowledge of the University’s “governing documents” are what will make him an effective member of the Judiciary. He did not respond to requests for comment. 

He received 10.57 percent of the vote, or 178 votes. The closest runner up was Junhan Lee ’20 with 138 votes. 


This two-seat race garnered 856 votes in total. Mike Bender ’22 came in first with 27.22 percent of the vote, or 233 votes. Notably, the option to abstain was the second-ranked choice, with 204 votes cast, and Jiale Hao ’22 came in third with 23.8 percent of the vote. Because there are two seats and abstentions do not count as a vote against the candidates, Hao will fill the second seat. 

Mike Bender

Bender comes to the position after a year as a representative to the Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund Board. In his candidate biography, he touted his accomplishments in helping to renovate the Berlin Chapel, as well as helping to produce the Branda App. He did not respond to requests for comment. 

Jiale Hao

Hao wants to be part of CEEF to “make sure more projects are implemented that benefit our student [body’s] experiences on campus,” according to his candidate biography. “I believe my skills and experiences and devotion to our community would help me a lot in working as your representative in the CEEF board,” he wrote in the bio. Hao did not respond to requests for comment.


Lyle James ’21

Lyle James ’21 won this one-seat race with 39.7 percent of the vote, or 241 votes. The runner up was Steven Luo ’21 with 26 percent of the vote. There were 606 votes cast in total.

James said that he was “excited to convey feedback from students regarding topics such as requirements for majors and minors, the creation of new programs of study and various academic rules and regulations,” per his candidate biography.  James added in his bio that he would “love” to help fit the curriculum to the needs of the student body. He did not respond to requests for comment.

—Editor’s Note: Jake Rong, Trevor Filseth and Nancy Zhai are staff members of the Justice.