Student Union Senate debates letter condemning Brandeis Leftist Union
On March 19, the Student Union Senate struck down Senate Resolution 6, which would have condemned an unrecognized student group, the Brandeis Leftist Union. The resolution, which Senators Tako Mikhelashvili ’26 and Tyler Johnson ’26 proposed, targeted the BLU both for alleged acts of harassment against students and for content that the group has posted on their social media accounts, among other issues. A resolution is a statement which all of its signatories agree to. It does not change any policies or necessarily result in any further action.
Mikhelashvili said that the BLU’s support of the Soviet Union, Chinese leader Mao Zedong, and its actions at recent protests were grounds for condemnation. Mikhelashvili, who is from the country of Georgia, said that the BLU’s use of Soviet imagery was insensitive. “Russia occupies more than 20% of my country,” Mikhelashvili said. “[Russia has] committed countless atrocities against my people and others.” Johnson said that the resolution was “not about politics or censoring opinions,” and that it was not targeting specific students.
Sen. Erica Hwang ’25 repeatedly asked Mikhelashvili to define what she hoped would result from the condemnation, which Mikhelashvili responded to by saying that she would take it to the Office of Equal Opportunity and let them decide what action to take.
Chief Justice Noah Risley ’24 said that the judiciary reviewed the resolution and recommended the authors remove references to specific students, which would have been a violation of the Union Code of Conduct.
Risley also said that although they find some of the BLU’s actions “deplorable,” passing the resolution would mean setting a “problematic precedent” regarding the Union’s response to student speech. Vice President Nicholas Kanan ’23 added that approving the resolution would give the Union a “published, official opinion” on the BLU and its actions.
Kanan also showed the Senate a letter of opposition to the resolution which Director of Accessibility Hana Klempnauer Miller ’25, Director of Academic Affairs Bonnie Chen ’23, Director of Sexual Assault Awareness Monica Aponte ’23, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Rani Balakrishna ’25, and Director of Sustainability Ana Delfina Mejía Cerdas ’24 wrote. The letter’s writers expressed disagreement with what they saw as the resolution going beyond the University’s and the Union’s previous response to the BLU’s activities. Specifically, the letter opposed Section II of the resolution, which condemns the BLU for displaying Soviet flags and making a post on Instagram in honor of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s birthday.
Many senators that spoke during the meeting expressed similar sentiments. The senators said that though they may personally disagree with the BLU, condemning a small group of students based on their beliefs was not the Union’s responsibility. “It doesn’t feel appropriate for [us] to be speaking against fellow students even if we disagree,” Sen. Zev Carlyle ’23 said.
Sen. Sherry Tao ’25 recommended that the senators who proposed the resolution remove the section about Mao Zedong given the potential negative impact it could have on Chinese international students.
Johnson said that he understood but disagreed with the concerns that the senators expressed. “When you know something is wrong, the right thing to do is call it out,” Johnson said. Speaking to his personal experiences with the BLU, who Johnson said were “taunting” him at his dorm building, Johnson said, “What are you supposed to do when someone goes to your building and yells at you through the window?” Kanan also said that recently, many students have come up to him asking “what the Student Union is going to do about the BLU.”
Senators who supported the resolution also emphasized what they believed was their responsibility as Union members to take action. “We are the Student Union, we were elected to represent students,” said Sen. Tyler Hupart ’26, who was in support of the resolution.
Hwang disagreed and said that a resolution alone would not help students who have been hurt by the BLU’s actions. She said that it is “more important to focus on how to make students feel safe rather than focusing on condemning.”
After a short executive session, the Senate voted by secret ballot on the resolution. Five senators voted in favor, eight voted against, and three abstained. The resolution was not adopted.
Samantha Atlas ’25 and Diana Atlas ’25 requested that the Senate charter the Pilates Club, which they said aims to “improve mental and physical health of Brandeis students and faculty.” The Senate chartered the club by acclamation.
Lyric Siragusa ’24 requested that the Senate charter the Disabled Students’ Network. Siragusa said that the club “provides a space for disabled students to cultivate disability pride and culture and to learn and practice advocacy.” The Senate chartered DSN by acclamation.
Jacob Gehtman ’24 and Annetta Venford ’25 requested that the Senate give probationary status to their group, Prometheus, which they said will be an undergraduate and graduate research journal. Gehtman said that the journal will collect submissions from researchers of all disciplines and edit them so that they are accessible to people who are unfamiliar with the field of study. The Senate voted by acclamation in favor of giving probationary status to Prometheus.
Editor’s note: Justice Production Assistant Noah Risley ’24 is the chief justice of the Student Union and did not contribute to the reporting or editing of this article.