Union must start new academic year strong

April 27, 2018

As the year closes, The Brandeis Hoot editorial board would like to reflect on the year, and to look to the future, especially with regard to student government. The Brandeis Undergraduate Student Union has had successes over the past academic year, and we would like to offer our appreciation, criticism and suggestions for the upcoming year.

Over the academic year, the Union has undertaken several initiatives to improve student life. These include partnering with Brandeis Students for Reproductive Justice (BSRJ) on an initiative to provide free menstrual products on campus. The initiative began in fall 2016, but has yet to be fully or permanently implemented. This year, the Senate funded and helped organize a pilot program offering menstrual products in certain campus bathrooms, providing important support for menstruators across campus.

Senators are now seeking to have the university fund the initiative, but say they are struggling to get the answers they need from administrators. We encourage the Union to keep pushing on this important project.

The Student Union has also worked to increase dialogue between students and administrators this year by hosting forums on student life—on topics of public safety, mental health, on-campus social programing and sexual assault and misconduct services. These forums have provided students and administrators alike with valuable information about aspects of the student experience. They would, however, be more valuable with greater attendance. The panel on mental health saw higher attendance than the others.

Approximately 30 students attended the mental health forum, though closer to 10 attended the panel on sexual misconduct services. There was a Facebook event for the forum on mental health which helped to increase outreach. Several clubs also sent messages to their listservs encouraging members to attend.

Union leaders and administrators have said they plan to host additional forums next year. We encourage the Union to make Facebook events for any such forums and reach out to club leaders for help in increasing attendance—as students may be more likely to read emails to club listservs than campus-wide messages.

The Hoot also encourages next year’s Senate and e-board to clarify where the Union stands on the role of intersectionality in the club chartering process. There has been debate in the Senate this year regarding whether an intersectional club runs up against a clause stating clubs cannot replicate an existing group’s purpose. Much of the debate has centered on the Jewish Feminist Association at Brandeis—whether their purpose overlaps with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) or other Jewish groups. Despite this ongoing debate, the Senate has yet to develop a clear position on this issue. Intersectional spaces are essential on this campus, and the Senate needs to send a clear message to the student body.

Looking to the future, The Hoot hopes Student Union leaders will stick to their campaign promises, especially President Hannah Brown’s ’19 and Vice President Benedikt Reynolds’ ’19 aim to address university affordability—by decreasing laundry or printing costs and providing stipends for employees of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) or Student Sexuality Information Services (SSIS).

The Hoot congratulates the newly sworn in Union members and recognizes their commitment to these roles. We also recognize the Union’s shortcomings and hope they will continue their mission of communicating with the student body to improve the Brandeis community.

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