Registrar ethnicity options create Student Union elections concern

April 27, 2007

Following the candidacy of an allegedly white student for Senator for Racial Minority Students, questions have surfaced regarding the issue of changing ones race with the registrar for the purposes of Student Union elections.

According to the Registrar, any student wishing to change his or her racial category must meet with Associate Registrar Gabrielle Harder and sign a statement expressing his or her wish to be listed as a particular race. Harder said that approximately seven students every year change their ethnicities. Students whose ethnicity is listed as other are able to vote in the election for Senator for Racial Minority Students.

Voting eligibility for positions representing racial minority students is determined by information from the Registrar.

Election Commissioner Mike Goldman 08 explained, The only way we can judge is by the registrar. Were not allowed to watch them [upload information]. They send the information to [Library and Technology Services] and they upload it.

Election Commissioner Albert Cahn 07 said via email, we have always relied on the demographic information provided by the registrar's office in determining eligibility for this election.

When asked if students ability to change their ethnicities constitutes a loophole in the election system, Goldman did not elaborate. He did explain that there exists a problem in that many international students from non-Western countries are not listed in the registrar as racial minorities.

He added, there have been issues long before Jon Kane ran [for Senator for Racial Minority Students].”

He continued, “its because of the way the system is done. I cant say this person is a racial minority and this person isnt. How do you tell somebody no I dont agree? Self-definition is the way weve gone about it. Its flawed but everything is flawed.

Cahn commented in an email, It never has been, and never should be, the role of the student union to determine to race of students.

North Quad Senator Jon Kane 10, who ran in the primary for Senator for Racial Minority Students, said no loophole exists.

The current system, he said, allows those who choose to be represented [as racial minorities] to be represented. He added, as a University of social justice, we dont want to discriminate against anyone based on skin color. The system gives the opportunity to anyone represent themselves as they choose.

As it relates to the recently purchased elections software, Cahn explained in his email, this issue is not at all related to the new elections system, it is a question about the registrar's and student union's policies on how individuals define themselves. Goldman agreed, this was a problem under the old system. The new software has not changed this in any way. There are still flaws in who is counted and who isnt.

When asked if the legitimacy of Senator for Racial Minority Students is called into question by any students ability to change his or her ethnicity with the registrar, Kane said, not at all. The position is there to represent a specific body of studentsthe position still has all the validity it needs.

Kane added that restricting the voting still makes sense. In regards to his candidacy he said, I found some of the campaign posters to be targeted against the color of my skin as opposed to the job I do and my abilities to represent the people.

As far as the future of the voting is concerned, Goldman said, this is the system weve used in the past. Whether it may be imperfect, at least for this election, were not looking for changes. Were not at this point talking about any changes.

In terms of the future of the position Senator for Racial Minority Students, Cahn said in his e-mail, the Student Union will be engaging in a wide-ranging discussion with the Brandeis community about how to better meet the goals envisioned for the position.”
He added, “in finding a solution to these problems it will be essential to involve the Registrar, Jamele Adams, and members of the ICC community.

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