Hannah Brown ’19, this year’s Student Union Vice President, is running unopposed for president, having served on the Union since her first year at Brandeis. Brown was the North Quad senator her freshman year and served as chair of the Dining Committee in the spring. During her sophomore year, she was a Class of 2019 senator as well as the Executive Senator and chair of the Services and Outreach Committee.
Brown’s role as vice president involves holding office hours, attending e-board meetings and leading weekly Senate meetings. She also meets regularly with administrators and works on the Union’s major initiatives. This year, Brown is also chair of the Union’s constitutional review committee.
Over the past three years, Brown has been involved with projects like the Midnight Buffet, a large-scale Union tradition. She introduced vendor sponsorships that helped reduce the event’s cost of the event and invited student performers to make the night more enjoyable.
Brown also helped organize the first spring shuttles to and from campus for April break last year and contributed two new Union bylaws: one establishing an international student senator an the other, the Senate Health and Safety Committee.
Brown has created a three-part platform. She is holding office hours around campus during the campaign and created an online comment form. One component of her campaign is focused on the affordability of Brandeis, not just regarding tuition, but the “nickeling and diming” that she sees on campus, such as overdue library fees, for example.
In fall 2016, a marketing analyst reviewed Brandeis and found its alumni were far less likely to promote Brandeis than is typical. In thinking about what impacts students’ perception of the school, “what came to me immediately was all these unnecessary fines,” said Brown in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot.
An example came this fall, when the Department of Community Living (DCL) announced that students who got locked out of their room more than two times would be fined $10 each subsequent time. Brown and Student Union President Jacob Edelman ’18 met with Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Tim Touchette, and DCL decided not to enforce the policy.
Brown ”will work to eliminate fines as a form of punishment and will work to institute more productive means of reconciliation,” according to her platform.
She also notes the costs of laundry and printing. Earlier this year, Union members explored the whether Brandeis could offer some quantity of free or subsidized printing. They were told it was not feasible financially, but Brown may try to pick up this project; she proposed making even a student’s first 10 printed pages free. Brown also argues professors could use textbooks available in the public domain.
Brown further hopes to continue a more than year long Union conversation about student labor and how working one or multiple part-time jobs can impact students’ education and ability to be involved on campus. Brown said that in this conversation, ideas range from offering stipends to students in leadership roles or service clubs to ensuring need-based aid is strong enough that students do not have to work too much.
“All students should be given the opportunity to participate fully in campus life, regardless of financial situation,” Brown wrote on her platform, “This can be achieved through creating need-based stipends for some currently unpaid positions on campus.”
The Student Union Senate is responsible for chartering new clubs, and this year, the Union adopted a new, more complex chartering process. “The barriers to entry to becoming a club are very high, and the barriers to staying a club are very low,” said Brown, who thinks they should be more even.
She also wants to encourage more collaboration between clubs. “Something about Brandeis is we’re all stretched very thin, and allowing this collaboration gives everybody more resources and hands on deck.”
Another priority for Brown is “connecting and collaborating” with the administration. She gives Edelman a lot of credit for developing strong relationships with administrators this year. The Union operates on hard and soft power, Brown explained. The hard power is anything they can accomplish with their own resources, but the soft power comes into play with the bigger picture items that require administrative support.
“The more you have relationships, the more they’ll come to you. You certainly have to prove yourself before they’ll listen to you,” said Brown.
The ongoing series of student forums, on topics like public safety and campus mental health, is an example of what can come from productive relations. They are also an opportunity for students and administrators to engage with each other.
“It’s been a great learning experience for both sides,” said Brown of the forms, citing the mental health forum on March 1, where students called for better communication from the BCC.
Brown has also pledged to continue the Union’s work on diversity and inclusion, maintaining the Union Diversity Officer position and supporting education and training for Union members and within the student body. Other items on her campaign platform include advocating for greater accessibility on campus and working with the Health Center, Counseling Center and the Care Team to “improve their communication, accessibility and outreach with students.”