Students run in Racial Minority Senator race after Union apology

December 6, 2019

Three students are running for the single open racial minority senator seat on the Student Union, which Brandeis students will vote in on Dec. 10. The three students, Ishaan Khurana ’23, Kurtis Lee ’22 and Sampada Pokharel ’23, spoke with The Brandeis Hoot at a meet the candidates event Thursday night. 

The special election comes after the second racial minority seat’s vacancy since Oct. 6 after the then-vice president dismissed Rajan Vohra ’21 for not attending senate meetings.

The Union discussed filling the seat in a Nov. 13 senate meeting at the same time as a special election for the vice president to the Union. Student Union Secretary Taylor Fu ’21 sent an apology to the student body for not including the seat in the vice presidential special election in a Nov. 19 email.

“The Student Union has received well deserved criticism about the lack of representation on the Student Union. The Student Union is a union that should represent the entire student body, especially those voices that are most marginalized. This was an all-around failure on our part, and one that we take full responsibility for,” the email read. 

“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. This was a miscommunication between branches as well as a constitutionally invalid decision, and one that we are deeply sorry for. Members of the Student Union are committed to amplifying marginalized voices on campus and we failed by not including this seat on the ballot,” it continued.

The Hoot sat down with the three candidates to discuss their experience, desire to run and what they hope to achieve if elected. The candidates are introduced alphabetically.

Ishaan Khurana ’23

Khurana was first introduced to the Student Union through a few friends who serve on it and said he decided to run to explore something new and to help the student community. 

If elected, Khurana wants to expand “I am Global Week,” an international education week, at Brandeis. Khurana wants to bring small minority groups to the forefront at Brandeis and hopes to work with clubs to create events where other students can learn about different groups at Brandeis.

Khurana said he would “make sure people know that I exist and make sure that they are bringing their concerns to me.”

Khurana wants to focus on outreach to minority communities to gather their concerns and said his experience in high school as one of the few racial minorities in his club, the Lexington Youth Commission, taught him to advocate for himself and other racial minorities because no one else would do it for him. 

Kurtis Lee ’22 

Lee decided to run because he hopes to create greater racial justice on campus, promote more inclusive racial policy and foster more intercultural discussion between different minority groups. Lee is a member of Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society, or BADASS for short, which he said will help him encourage conversation between persons of different backgrounds.

In high school, Lee participated in student government, helping to organize events; at Brandeis, he is a tournament director on BADASS. He hopes to push for more communication as racial minority senator.

“I myself am a racial minority, but given my own background and my own race, I can’t represent all types of racial minority groups on campus. However… I have the ability to listen to and to actually represent these groups,” said Lee. “I am able to hear their concerns… and work through their concerns and bring a solution through the Senate and broader student government.”

Lee is also interested in social justice from his perspective as a philosophy and politics major and called real social justice deeply complex. To advocate for social justice on campus, Lee said, he would try to educate the Brandeis community on different minority groups and then encourage discussion.

Sampada Pokharel ’23

Pokharel decided to run for the racial minority position to promote minority culture festivals. Pokharel hopes to bring the celebration of culture at Brandeis to the university as a whole, and not just in individual clubs.

Pokharel wants to focus on festivals and events, and if elected, hopes to plan an event where minority cultures can showcase their culture to Brandeis as a whole.

“A major focus of mine would be promoting their festivals and their culture because I want to make sure they feel valued and respected,” said Pokharel.

If elected, Pokharel would start by speaking to different clubs and individuals at Brandeis to see what change they may want. Pokharel is a first-generation student and hopes to make Brandeis welcoming of all cultures and backgrounds.

“As senator, I’ll make sure I represent every minority group,” she said. “[I’ll make] sure Brandeis is welcoming of all cultures, regardless of first generation or minority [status], so students feel safe enough and feel like they have a group on campus.”

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