Union explains delay in racial minority senator election
The Union sent an email to the community to apologize and explain the next steps in the special election process.
Student Union Secretary Taylor Fu ’21 and Class of 2022 Senator Joseph Coles sent an email to the Brandeis community on Nov. 19 apologizing on behalf of the Union for its failure to fill the open racial minority senator seat.
In a Nov. 24 email to the Justice, Fu announced that the election for the seat will be held on Dec. 10. There will be an information session for prospective candidates on Dec. 2.
Former Union Vice President Guillermo Caballero ’20 dismissed Rajan Vohra ’21 from the seat of racial minority senator at the Oct. 6 Senate meeting for missing multiple sessions. The seat has yet to be filled, despite the fact that the Union Constitution mandates that a special election be held within 15 days after a Senate seat is vacated. “This was an all-around failure on our part, and one that we take full responsibility for,” the email said. “This was a miscommunication between branches as well as a constitutionally invalid decision, and one that we are deeply sorry for.”
Fu told the Justice in a Nov. 21 interview that the Senate had an “informal discussion” about the open seat at the Oct. 6 Senate meeting, at which she was not present. She said that at that discussion, the Senate decided not to hold a special election for the seat. Fu provided the meeting minutes to the Justice, which said, “Vice President Caballero officially dismisses Senator Rajan Vohra,” and on the next line, “No special election,” with no further notes. Her Nov. 19 email said, “The decision not to include the racial minority senator in this special election was one reached in an informal discussion in the Senate, and should have occurred in full session.”
In a Nov. 21 email to the Justice, Coles, who was present when the discussion happened, wrote that the Senate “said that we shouldn’t hold a special election for this seat alone, but that it should be included in the next available election.” This would have been the Nov. 14 vice presidential special election.
“It was the Senate’s … decision not to hold an election,” Fu said, adding that she had also “neglect[ed] … to review the Constitution,” referring to the fact that she and many members of the Union were not aware of the 15-day rule.
Fu clarified, “It’s not really in [the Senate’s] jurisdiction, it’s in mine, but I was told from the Senate … and through their minutes that … I didn’t have to hold an election, which now in hindsight, I should have.”
Fu explained that she talked to several Union members, including Union President Simran Tatuskar ’21 and the other Racial Minority Senator Joyce Huang ’22, prior to making her decision. “We decided that it made the most coherent sense to put the Senate seat with the next Senate election because … E-board and Senate elections are structured differently, with E-board having a more intense campaign than senators,” she said. She pointed out that Executive Board elections involve candidate debates, endorsements and more.
“I think that it’s necessary to fill the seat and I intended to fill it in January,” Fu said. “However, I just wanted the focus to be on the vice president … seat.” She added that she had not anticipated that current Union Vice President Kendal Chapman ’22 would be the only candidate in the election.
According to Fu, Coles expressed concerns to her about the racial minority senator seat not being filled. “It wasn’t brought to my attention that [the Senate] wanted this on the ballot until two days after I already structured the election and sent out the email to the school, and then it was brought to my attention four days after … the election by Joseph Coles,” Fu said.
Fu said that she and Coles were unable to come to a resolution on their own, so they met with Chief Justice of the Judiciary Rachel Sterling ’21 for mediation. Sterling informed them both about the 15-day rule in the constitution, Fu said.
Coles told the Justice in a Nov. 19 interview that he thought both Fu and the Union were responsible for the error. “She has jurisdiction over what goes into the elections. She made that decision [to postpone the election] and I disagree with that decision,” Coles said. “I’m not a huge fan of how the Student Union handled this,” he continued.
Coles raised the issue in the Nov. 17 Senate meeting. He brought up a write-in vote from the special election, in which a student wrote, “Why isn’t the racial minority seat part of this election? Excluding it makes no sense, and just makes the Union seem racist. This is very problematic, [Chapman] is running unopposed — nothing is ‘distracting’ from the election.”
Coles read a resolution at the same Senate meeting saying that Fu should hold an election for the racial minority senator seat as soon as possible. The vote passed by roll call.
Coles said he also took his concerns to the E-board at its meeting that Sunday. He wrote the apology on behalf of the Union, which E-Board members edited, that appeared in the Nov. 19 email signed by Fu and Coles.