Union reports on 2019, looks ahead to 2020

January 10, 2020

Brandeis Student Union President Simran Tatuskar ’21 and other Union representatives reported on their progress on various Union initiatives—including diversity training for Union officials and campus accessibility—in the student government’s State of the Union report on Dec. 10.

Diversity

Union Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Nakul Srinivas ’21 spoke about his efforts to reach out to the Intercultural Center (ICC) to support clubs on campus and an Instagram campaign with Racial Minority Senator Joyce Huang ’22 to share the stories of students of color on the Brandeis campus. He said he hoped to hold the Union accountable in the upcoming semester and work with a newly formed multicultural council, which will meet with cultural clubs and advisors, to create safer spaces on campus.

Allocations Board Co-chair Rebecca Shaar ’21 said that the Union needed to step up its efforts to offer diversity training. The Union-wide diversity, equity and inclusion training offered in October was cancelled last year due to a lack of attendance by Union members, according to an earlier article by The Brandeis Hoot, and Srinivas did not schedule a replacement training after the allocations board gave their availability, said Shaar.

“The Diversity training that happened in the beginning of the year was a failure,” said Shaar. “But that failure was not solved … There was no further follow up on diversity training,” she continued.

“Diversity training is incredibly important to the Allocations Board … We need to have all the training possible in order to make sure we’re not having any biases in the decisions we’re making,” Shaar said. “Diversity training in the Union needs to be stepped up.”

Shaar also spoke about the Allocations Board, which handles all Brandeis student club funding. The Allocations Board helped small clubs fund big events, said Shaar, and transitioned clubs to a new website to request funding, called Slate. Shaar said the Allocations Board plans to reach out to more clubs to collect and implement feedback to the new system.

“We’re the ones using the system so if we’re not listening this whole process is pointless,” said Shaar.

Shaar said that looking forward, she hopes the Allocations Board and the Union can work together with mutual respect. The Allocations Board needs to be included in the decision making process of Brandeis’ administration, said Shaar, and the two groups’ relationship should improve next semester. Though she did not give an example, Shaar said that the administration made decisions and then informed the Allocations Board, which hurt the board’s ability to function as a team. 

Shaar also announced that Marshall Smith ’21 and Aria Pradham ’21 have been elected internally by the Allocations Board to lead the group for the spring semester, as she is resigning and her co-chair will not run again for the position.

Housing and Accessibility 

The Director of Accessibility and Advocacy Sasha Manus ’21 spoke about her efforts to improve the housing accommodation process to make sure student needs are being met and allowing students to take courses outside of Brandeis for university credit if Brandeis courses fail to accommodate student accessibility needs.

Students have also raised concerns over the housing options and housing selection process, said Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees Zosia Buse ’20, who reported on potential renovations to the Brandeis campus, including moving the campus bookstore to Usdan Student Center and tearing down Kutz hall and replacing it with a residence hall and dining hall.

Buse also said she worked with the board to give more assistance to Greek life and other students pursuing off-campus housing. 

Student Life

Director of Academic Affairs Jacob Diaz ’20 said he worked to help students transition to the new curriculum requirements, which affect students entering Brandeis during or after the Fall 2019 semester. He wants to open more study spaces for students during finals and implemented a program to help international students get credit for two semesters, or 16 credits, rather than the previous eight, when studying at Brandeis. 

Five new clubs were chartered in Fall 2019, said Vice President Kendall Chapman ’22, who reported on the Union Senate. The Senate worked to clarify voting rules and senator responsibilities, put permanent condom dispensers in residence halls across campus and work to create a new bylaw to allow a capella clubs to get funding for on campus performances. The Senate also improved allergen labeling in dining halls after students complained of mislabeling-caused illnesses in the spring.

Union Chief of Staff Zachary Wilkes ’20 reported that he was planning a campaign to encourage Brandeis students to vote in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

“Brandeis is a social justice school,” Wilkes said. “How better to do that than to push for getting all of us at the ballot box?”

Tatuskar spoke about several transportation-related efforts, including the subsidized Thanksgiving break shuttles to New York nicknamed the “Turkey Shuttles,” a discount on Lyft rides for students traveling late at night and the commuter rail subsidy, which helps provide transportation costs to students with internships in Boston. 
She is also working on her own Community Engagement and Enhancement Fund (CEEF) project which would install more covered bike racks and help sell students bikes in the spring semester. Tatuskar said she was incredibly grateful for the semester and thanked the rest of the Union for their work.

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