Section: Hoot ScoopsApril 24, 2015
Sneha Walia ’15 delivered the State of the Union Address on Wednesday night, April 22 and swore in President-elect Nyah Macklin ’16. Both Macklin and Walia emphasized the importance of bridging the divide between university administrators and the student body and reasserting student involvement in the administration of the university.
Walia began her state of the union speech addressing concerns she has about the lack of solutions provided by school administrators. She acknowledged the anger that many students feel toward university administration and the divides that seem to exist between the two parties.
“When communication is broken between administrators and students on issues and conditions that matter deeply to those students, then it is no wonder that protest and anger have felt commonplace among student body this year. When frustration and communication have become a major part of what we know, then how can we not feel like we have to break down the door in order to have access?” Walia argued.
The search for the new university president will be a critical moment, Walia insisted, for students to reassert their involvement in university processes. The administration is soliciting voices from across the Brandeis community, and students must not take for granted their role in this decisionmaking process.
Walia argued that there are some things that students not only need, but are also entitled to, and that the administration must be attentive to these needs. However, there is balance that must be kept between the financial situation and the needs of the student body. “This balance is made difficult by the school’s youth, precarious financial situation and constant transitioning,” Walia said.
Though Walia was critical of the administration, she recognized many successes that involved both administrative efforts and student efforts. One of these successes was the opening of the Rape Crisis Center, a center started by students that provides counseling, education and advocacy. Walia expressed optimism for the Student Union and the Brandeis community in the coming years.
Walia swore in new Student Union President Macklin, former Class of 2016 Senator. Macklin focused on increased communication between the university administration and the student body. “The Student Union is not here to protect the administration from the topics that you are most passionate about. The Student Union is not the gatekeeper to stop you from voicing your concerns or your praises that you have of this university,” Macklin said. She praised the Board of Trustees for their consideration of student needs but said that students must be willing to participate in important decision-making processes.
The Student Union, Macklin insisted, must work to keep students informed about the actions of the university’s administrators. “We are here to empower you, to make sure that we are doing everything in our various powers to make sure that while at this university you are given the tools to realize your dreams. And if we can’t do something to help you, we wont keep you in the dark about the realities and the stresses that this university is under.”
Macklin, in an email to The Brandeis Hoot, expressed her desire for students to break down barriers that exist within the student body. “These divisions are preventing us from getting real work done. It is preventing us from banding together to attack larger issues with a critical lens. We must work to close these boundaries before we can do anything else,” Macklin argued.
Both Macklin and Walia voiced concerns about tensions between administrators and students, whose commitments often seem at odds with each other. They expressed the need for the two parties to work together to create a better campus environment. Macklin wrote that part of the frustration comes from the lack of understanding of university processes.
“I believe firmly, that it is a problem that the student body has been left in the dark about why these issues have not been realized sooner,” Macklin wrote. Understanding the obstacles that the university faces in decisionmaking, she said, could help the Student Union and the student body accomplish their goals.
Macklin ran for the seat unopposed and received 70 percent of votes cast. She is majoring in Afro and African-American Studies and serves on both the Ethics Center Advisory Committee and the Richman Fellow Selection Committee.
After delivering her speech, Macklin swore in the other members of the new Student Union, including her vice president, Dennis Hermida-Gonzales ’17. About the new Student Union, Macklin said, “We are passionate about the future of our university too. Give us the opportunity to change it.”