Student Union elections for next year will be held next Thursday, and undergraduates will elect a new president, vice president, secretary and treasurer of the Union, as well as representatives to the Board of Trustees, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and the Brandeis Sustainability Fund.
Student Union Vice President David Herbstritt ’17 and Ford Hall activist Christian Nuñez ’18 face each other in the race for Student Union President.
As head of the student government, the president’s responsibilities include organizing the way the Union runs, maintaining contact with the administration, advocating for student needs and spurring the development of change on campus, said Union president Nyah Macklin ’16 at the candidates meeting this week. The job requires around 20 hours of work per week, and other activities may have to take a back seat, said Macklin.
Herbstritt served on the Union as Castle Quad Senator and Chair of the Club Support Committee last year. This year, he was Class of 2017 Senator and Executive Senator until he took over as Vice President this semester.
This year, in response to student frustrations, he has worked to reform the Allocations Board by increasing the size of the board and simplifying the Marathon (funding request) process by decreasing the number of different request periods. He has also worked on the initiative to require all club leaders to participate in bystander intervention training.
With a new university president taking over in July, Herbstritt said in a Facebook post that it is important for the Union present to develop a “strong cooperative relationship with a new administration.” It is necessary to work with administrators to promote initiatives, said Herbstritt. “The unfortunate reality is that the deck is stacked against us—we simply don’t have the financial resources or level of professional authority that the university administration does,” he wrote. “Experience and institutional knowledge, along with diplomacy, flexibility and negotiating skill are absolutely essential in order to get the most out of our relationship with the administration.”
As Vice President and Executive Senator, Herbstritt has worked with Assistant Dean of Students Stephanie Grimes on club funding issues and promises to take a “hard line” with administrators when necessary but remain open to “beneficial compromise.”
Nuñez was involved with the Ford Hall movement last semester, participating in the 13-day occupation of the Bernstein-Marcus administration building to protest for racial justice at Brandeis. The sit-in culminated in a Diversity Action Plan to increase diversity among students and faculty, hire new counselors at the Psychological Counseling Center and appoint a Vice President for Diversity, among other points.
“Brandeis has entered a time of change and deliberation between the students and the administration. This is a result of many Brandeis students coming together in order to target institutional racial bias and discrimination on the campus,” said Nuñez in a statement to The Brandeis Hoot. “From chanting the name of justice to actually sitting down with those who make the decisions on behalf of the university; I along with many others have risen and have proven to many that although we are young our narratives are not.”
Nuñez has remained involved with Ford Hall activism, including the fundraising recyclable drive for the water sanitation crisis in Flint, MI and protesting the dean of Harvard Law School who received the Gittler Prize for her work on racial justice while her students are holding a sit-in to demand change at Harvard Law.
Nuñez has not served on the Union before, but he responded to questions posted in the Facebook event page for his campaign addressing the issue.
“Ever since high school all I have ever wanted to do is help those like me,” wrote Nuñez, citing his experience with Ford Hall, the Brandeis Asian American Task Force (which has fought for the creation of an Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies minor) and organizing events for International Day of the Girl Child.
“I have stood side by side with President Nyah Macklin while chanting the word ‘Justice.’ No I have not held the official label of ‘leader’ but actions speak more than any office position and no one can deny the action they have seen and have heard,” wrote Nuñez.
Macklin, who was also involved with the Ford Hall movement as a student negotiator, ran unopposed in last year’s presidential election. Out of about 3,600 undergraduate students, 890 cast votes in the presidential race last year, with 619 (70 percent) going to Macklin and the remaining 271 going to “other” or “abstain,” according to election results.
Class of 2018 Senator Paul Sindberg ’18 is running unopposed for Vice President. Sindberg is the chair of the Services and Outreach Committee and took over as Executive Senator this semester when Herbstritt became vice president. He oversaw the Turkey Shuttles over Thanksgiving break, “which transported 250+ students over 1,000 collective miles for a net cost of less than $200,” said Sindberg in a statement to The Hoot.
Also as chair of the outreach committee, he organized the Midnight Buffet for more than $1,000 less than the semester before and used the buffet to fundraise for the Charles River Watershed Association by selling “shoutouts” students could have shared at the event.
“I’ve realized that the Executive Board of our Union is a space with the power to create tangible change for marginalized members of our student body,” Sindberg wrote. “I believe that our current Union’s legacy of bridging gaps and raising voices is a legacy that must be continued and even pushed further.”
The vice presidency is an organizational role that involves coordinating the activity of the Senate, working on special projects and making sure that the Union follows its rules, said Herbstritt at the candidates meeting.
Gabriela Gonzalez Anavisca ’19 and Isaac Altman ’19 are running for Union Secretary. The secretary’s job includes crafting a weekly email to the student body, managing card access to the Romper Room for club leaders and administering the Union office, said Secretary Shuying Lui ’16.
Altman promised to make the weekly emails “funny and interesting.” Both candidates noted that the secretary is a link between the Union and student body.
Anavisca is the Myra Kraft Transitional Year (MKTYP) Senator this year and wants to continue to help make student voices heard as secretary. As a senator, she learned to communicate with others and find ways to address students’ concerns, she said in a statement to The Hoot.
Ziyang Chen ’18 is running unopposed for Treasurer. At the candidates meeting, Treasurer Nicole Lechner ’16 spoke about the intricacies involved with her position at the candidates meeting, including teaching clubs how to fill out forms, online ordering and working with the Allocations Board.
Wil Jones ’18 is running unopposed for Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees. He has served as Rosie Senator and Chief of Staff to Macklin. The board representatives attend trustee meetings and submit proposals such as the report on financial aid concerns this year’s representatives Grady Ward ’16 and Emily Conrad ’17 presented to the board last semester.
Cassie Cain ’18 is running to be a representative to the Brandeis Sustainability Fund, which gives students money for sustainability projects on campus. Cain became the Class of 2018 senator this semester, running on a platform focused on sustainability.
The list of candidates is not finalized, as some students may still be submitting their candidacy.