Brandeis University’s undergraduate Student Union, which acts to bridge the gap between the student body and administration, is constantly dealing with issues of unfamiliarity. Many students, although aware of its existence, remain unaware of the Union’s purposes and activities to achieve those purposes. Enter the 2016/17 Student Union, which will be working around the clock to represent, organize and act in this academic year.
Senators Kate Kesselman ’19 and Abhishek Kulkarni ’18, as well as Student Union President David Herbstritt ’17, explain the functions of the Union, its accomplishments in 2015/16, and its goals for this academic year in separate email exchanges with The Brandeis Hoot.
The components and functions of the Student Union branches are defined in the exchanges. The three Union members explain that, in a nutshell, the Union falls into the categories of the Executive Board, Senate, Allocations Board, Treasury and Judiciary.
According to President Herbstritt, a former Castle Quad Senator, Class of 2017 Senator, Vice President and now-current chair of the Executive Board, the E-Board “works to keep the Union running and uses its relationship with the administration and Board of Trustees to give students a voice in some of the biggest decisions at Brandeis.”
Senator Kulkarni explains the Judiciary as having “jurisdiction over conflicts regarding the constitution and over Union legislation and action.” Former Features Editor for The Brandeis Hoot Jacob Edelman ’18 and I previously detailed the current state of the Judiciary with Former Chief Justice Brian Levi Dorfman ’16 in an article to the Feb. 26, 2016 issue of The Brandeis Hoot.
Senator Kesselman briefly explains the purpose of A-Board as serving as an authority that “allocates funds to clubs.” According to Herbstritt, the A-Board and Treasury has a budget of approximately $1.7 million. For the 2015/16 Union, the functions and processes of the Allocations Board were of much contention. According to Herbstritt, the Treasury essentially “helps clubs spend whatever A-Board allocates to them,” by “making sure reimbursements go through and making large purchases with their university P-Card.”
Senators Kulkarni and Kesselman, as well as President Herbstritt, all believe that last year’s Union had its successes, particularly in the reorganization of the A-Board, which according to Kesselman, who is the Senatorial representative to the A-Board had previously been in a state of “disarray” and garnered severe unfavorability. She explains that “with new people in [A-Board], we were able to assign more specific duties to [board] members which helped to keep things more organized.”
Building upon the successes from last year will be among the goals for this year’s Union. Senator Kesselman explained that the A-Board “will be continuing the new structure of marathon, in which club to A-Board interaction is more conversational and where new marathon times allow for the best possible budgeting,” as was tested after the reshuffling of that Union branch. Herbstritt praised the changes made by last year’s Senate and “expects them to follow up last year with the same high-caliber work they put out last year.”
Of the other goals and activities planned for this year, many are still very much up in the air, with several seats on the Senate still up for grabs in the upcoming elections. In response to a question about new events on the table, Herbstritt says that although he “can’t confirm anything yet,” he believes that “the Brandeis community is going to like what we come up with.”
Senator Kulkarni says that he is “hoping to have a relatively large campus-wide event dedicated to just having fun and creating memories.” He also implores anyone interested in being involved with such an event to touch base with him.
A desire for greater transparency, for proper following of the constitution and for open channels of communication are also of great concern for next year’s Union.
President Herbstritt, as he outlines in his Opinion in this issue of The Brandeis Hoot, is looking forward to tackling problems the Union faces with transparency and issue dissemination. Through “partnering up with the Senate throughout the year to put our goals into action,” he hopes that the Union can ensure that it “disseminate[s] information in a way that is far-reaching and in step with how students use media.” He further details strategies to achieve these goals in his piece, located on page 12.
Senator Kulkarni hopes that the Union builds upon last year’s efforts to find and correct unconstitutional practices by the Union. He explains that the Union “discovered that the union constitution was not being followed in its entirety. We partially addressed this by confirming executive board members, who had previously served solely on the discretion of the president.” He believes that making sure the Union more strictly follows constitutional processes is a priority goal for this year’s Senate.
In order to further strengthen the channels of communication between the Union and the Student Body as a whole, Kesselman stresses that all members of the Student Union will be holding office hours at the Union Office in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC) and encourages students to go and voice their concerns. She hopes every student with a concern is able to address it with the Union and that the Union acts upon those concerns by the close of this academic year.
In addition to their views on the future of the Union and goals for next semester, the three Union members also offered advice to students new and returning, all centering on the common theme of keeping an open mind.
Senator Kesselman advises all students, regardless of their class standing at Brandeis, to put themselves in order to “create a community” or even to “create a stronger community.” She continues: “Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and push yourself to talk to as many people as you can.”
Senator Kulkarni and President Herbstritt also advise breaking out of comfort zones in pursuit of trying new things. Herbstritt believes that “the best way to really dive in and get the Brandeis experience is definitely to go to as many different events on campus as you can and to explore everything this university has to offer.” Even if you are a returning student, the President continues, “Don’t be afraid to try something new this year—you never know what you might end up doing and loving.” Says Kulkarni, “It is always better to have too much on your plate and drop what you cannot do than to have little and regret the experiences you missed—you only have about four years to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The Student Union Office is located on the third floor of the SCC, and office hours will be available on the Union webpage when they become available.