Senate discusses end of contract with Sodexo, graduate student visa denials
The Senate convened for its weekly meeting on Sunday, during which members discussed the Board of Trustees and listened to IfNotNow’s presentation for probationary status.
Executive Officer Reports
Zosia Busé ’20, the senior representative to the Board of Trustees, gave the Senate an overview of her role and responsibilities as a student representative to the Board of Trustees and announced several new developments discussed by the Board.
Her role is to “gain information from community members and filter it” to the Board of Trustees and report the Board’s meetings to the student population, she said. Meetings with the Board can often spark conversations about campus life, such as when Busé told Chair of the Board of Trustees Meyer Koplow that the Department of Community Living was charging high fees for damages to residence halls. As a result of this conversation, Koplow contacted the head of Campus Operations to address the issue.
Busé also announced that the University has ended its contract early with Sodexo, which will be finalized at the end of this fiscal year. Sodexo will still be invited to participate in the upcoming Request for Proposals to negotiate a new contract with the University. Student concerns about both the quality and cost of the food, as well as allergy mislabeling were a significant influence on this decision. The University and Sodexo had irreconcilable differences during negotiations, Busé said, and could not agree on a compromise. Busé was asked if the Sodexo employees would be able to keep their jobs after the contract between Brandeis and Sodexo is broken off. While Busé added that the situation was complicated, she said she would push for Sodexo employees to retain their jobs and encouraged the Senators in the room to do the same.
The Board of Trustees also discussed breaking down the wall separating Upper Usdan and Lower Usdan, Busé said.
The Board of Trustees is also focusing on the issue of international students being denied their visas needed to study at the University. Fifteen applicants to the Heller School of Social Policy were denied their visas for this year. The applicants came from countries that she did not specify.
IfNotNow presented to the Senate to try to get probationary club status. IfNotNow is a “Jewish-led activist group looking to end Jewish American support for the occupation of Palestine,” IfNotNow chapter founder, Miranda Sullivan ’22 explained to the Senate. This semester, the group plans to host Shabbat dinners and do teach-in events to educate the Brandeis community about the group’s purpose. The group wants funding to hold film screenings and wants to have the ability to book rooms for events and meetings.
Foster Mods Senator Trevor Filseth ’20 and Class of 2020 Senator Scott Halper asked Sullivan about the differences between IfNotNow and Students for Justice in Palestine and JStreetU. SJP’s work is more broad, whereas IfNotNow focuses more on how Jewish institutions talk about Israel, Sullivan replied. IfNotNow differs from JStreet in that the latter takes stances on governmental policies, while the former does grassroots organizing and has only one stance — being against the “Occupation.” As a result of only having one official stance, Jews with varying perspectives can find a home in IfNotNow, Sullivan said.
Sullivan addressed the group’s relationship with Hillel, calling it “complicated.” She alleged that Hillel enforces a “one-sided narrative” on Israel. Hillel members come from across the Jewish spectrum and hold diverse views on Israel, according to the group’s Israel Guidelines.
Last year, IfNotNow taped a sign to a Hillel-sponsored Israel cube that read “Stop Lying to Young Jews.” Halper expressed concern about the group’s relationship with Hillel and IfNotNow’s conduct during the vandalism, which he said could be interpreted as one group undermining the other’s work. Rosenthal Quad and Skyline Senator Leah Fernandez ’22 responded that Halper’s thinking promoted homogeneity on campus.
The motion narrowly passed the two-thirds requirement for probationary status, with 13 out of the 19 senators present voting in favor.
Committee Chair Reports
Executive Senator Jake Rong ’21 announced the new Senate committee chairs. Filseth will chair the Facilities and Housing Committee; Halper will chair the Rules Committee; Leibowitz will lead the Services and Outreach Committee; Charles River Senator Oliver Price ’20 will chair the Sustainability Committee; Senator-at-Large Nancy Zhai ’22 will chair the Dining Committee; Racial Minority Senator Joyce Huang ’22 will chair the Social Justice and Diversity Committee; Class of 2022 Senator Joseph Coles will chair the Club Support Committee; and Senator-at-Large Josh Hoffman ’21 will chair the Health and Safety Committee.
Zhai’s Dining Committee met with Sodexo to discuss the availability of gluten-free and lactose-free options in dining halls. The committee has also worked with Einstein Bros. Bagels to list prices of every item, and with the Hoot Market to label the items eligible for the meal exchange. A new microwave will be installed in Farber Library so community members will not have to walk to Upper Usdan to heat up their food. Zhai said the committee also spoke to administrators about inconsistencies between the list price of an item in the Hoot Market and the actual price charged.
The Health and Safety Commitee will address alleged racism within departments, issues within the Brandeis Health Center and the Brandeis Counseling Center and a first-year sex education course “that is not just [Student Sexuality Information Services] talking about bondage,” Hoffman said. He announced that he worked with the Title IX office to cut the time spent on cases by two-thirds.
Rong, the Senate representative to the Allocations Board, reported that A-Board discussed the transition to Slate, which will be rolled out by the end of the fiscal year.
The Senate voted by acclamation to confirm Liat Fischer ’20 as Co-Student Union Treasurer.
North Quad Senator Krupa Sourirajan ’23 reported that her constituents want change “immediately,” including shower shelves and dry erase boards in lounge areas.
Halper and East Quad Senator Priyata Bhatta ’22 reported that they have been planning beautification projects for the Foster Mods and East Quad respectively.
Class of 2022 Senator Topaz Fragoso discussed adding an Asian restaurant to a Brandeis dining hall.
In its Executive Session, the Senate voted Sourirajan as the Senate Representative to the Community Emergency Enhancement Fund.
In a second, unprecedented Executive Session earlier in the meeting, the Senate voted to postpone its planned Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training due to “lack of attendance,” according to the Senate minutes, the set agenda for each Senate meeting. “Remember, we need to be informed,” the minutes said.
—Editor’s Note: This article was amended to say that Sodexo will be invited to negotiate a new contract with the University through the Request for Proposals.
—Editor’s Note: Justice Editor Gilda Geist and Editorial Assistant Sarah Katz are members of IfNotNow. They did not edit or contribute to this article.
—Editor’s Note: Senator-at-Large Nancy Zhai is a News Staff Writer. Foster Mods Senator Trevor Filseth is a Forum Staff Writer.
This article did not accurately reflect the employment status of Sodexo employees after Sodexo is no longer Brandeis’ dining vendor. Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees Zosia Buse said that while the Sodexo employee’s contract is through Sodexo, it is under the University’s purview. While the jobs of the employees are not guaranteed after Sodexo and Brandeis are no longer in a contract, she is pushing for the workers to keep their jobs.