Student Union Senator Aaron Finkel ’20 introduced two amendments that would give the Senate additional powers to oversee Allocations Board policies and would allow the Senate to overturn a presidential veto of the A-Board’s policies, rule of orders or specific allocations, according to Finkel.
The amendments were introduced after growing divisions between the A-Board and the Executive Board over the Union’s status as a club and funding. These amendments are currently under review within the Union.
Finkel hopes that the amendments will provide more checks on the Allocations Board. “The way funding works is that there are zero checks and balances that are effective for funding and that there is basically no accountability at all,” he said.
The two amendments would affect presidential veto power and oversight of the Allocations Board. The first amendment, “The Allocations Accountability Act,” would give the Senate the power to overturn a presidential veto, according to Finkel. In an earlier draft of the amendment, there was an additional senatorial veto that would give the Senate the power to nullify an Allocations Board veto of a presidential veto, but it was removed.
The second amendment, “The A-Board Operations Reformation Act,” would give the Senate the power to approve rules and policies of the Allocations Board by a majority vote.
Both members of the A-Board and the Senate are frustrated by the editing and drafting process. Finkel cited a lack of feedback from the Allocations Board, saying, “I’ve tried to ask A-Board members about it, but they have not given me any feedback on it at all. And I think this is just one example of why we needed a check on A-Board,” he said. “They have not been working together with anyone else in the Union.”
Finkel emphasized that though he had asked for feedback within a two week window of sharing the amendments with the Union on Nov. 15, that he was still open to feedback.
In an interview with six members of the A-Board, Chair of the Allocations Board Aseem Kumar ’19 explained the A-Board’s frustration with the amendments.
In an earlier meeting between the Allocations Board and members of the Executive Board including the President, Hannah Brown ’19, they discussed vague language in the Constitution and what type of club the Union is and how it should be funded.
Kumar and the Allocations Board expected the amendments to reflect these discussions and were frustrated when the amendment was instead about Allocations Board oversight.
“We discussed that we’re going to collaborate and discuss about the benchmark and what the Union should be defined as,” said Kumar. “It [the amendment] is nowhere close to those two things that need to be resolved.” He continued, “It’s about the checks on A-Board and the authority of a board and about how they will be enforced in the future.”
Rebecca Shaar ’21, a member of A-Board, followed Kumar by saying, “The fact that the amendments proposed are completely unrelated to what we discussed in the meeting goes to show that the E-Board didn’t really come into the meeting on the same page as us.”
In the meeting with Executive Board members, Union members also discussed the word “benchmark” as it appears in the Constitution in the line describing the Union Government Fund, which “shall fund the affairs and operations of the Union and shall be distributed to the Union Government. A benchmark for this fund shall be $50,000.” They discussed whether or not benchmark is a funding goal, with the Allocations Board supporting this line of reasoning, or if the word benchmark refers to a minimum amount of funding.
In an interview with The Brandeis Hoot, Brown supported using constitutional amendments to address the language of the Constitution. “It just makes more sense to try to address things through changes constitutionally, and that also means that we get to have more student body input.”
The amendments, which touch upon presidential veto power, come after increasing tensions between the Allocations Board and the Executive Board. In late October, in an email emergency request, Brown requested an additional $12,000 of Union funds. The Allocations Board unanimously vetoed this request, citing a lack of substantial reasoning for the additional funds.
The relations between the A-Board and the Senate also became tense over a proposed project which will install two pianos in first-year dorm common rooms. It highlighted prevalent long-term funding problems within the process of determining how the Student Union is funded. Both Brown and Finkel agreed that the challenges with Union funding have existed within the Union before this year.
The current Student Union Constitution distinguishes the roles of and relationships between the student government and the Allocations Board.
The Allocations Board, known as the A-Board, consists of 12 members, including the Union treasurer, a Union senator, three three-semester members, two racial minority members, four two-semester members, and one non-voting staff representative from the Department of Student Activities.
The A-Board designates the budget each semester through funding marathons. These marathons take place before final exams each semester and at the beginning of each semester. The A-Board is also required to hold an appeals marathon within three academic days of releasing their allocations decisions.
The Constitution states that “the Allocations Board shall establish the budgets from the Student Activities Fund for chartered and secured clubs.” A chartered club is eligible for funding by the A-Board. A secured club is guaranteed funding. Within the marathon process, a secured club’s budget request has greater weight than a chartered club’s budget request. Secured clubs include Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCO) and Waltham Group.
Within the Constitution, it remains unclear whether the Student Union is considered a chartered club or secured club. However, the Constitution considers $50,000 a “benchmark” for the Union fund.
The constitution outlines the processes by which an A-Board funding decision can be overturned. Section five of Article two of the bylaws states that the President of the Student Union, in this case Brown, has the ability to veto a decision made by the E-Board. However, without the newly suggested amendments, a presidential veto can be swiftly overturned by the A-Board with a two-thirds vote, giving the A-Board an excess of unchecked power.
Article two, Section four of the Bylaws explains another option, other than the presidential veto, for overturning an A-Board decision. The A-Board will reopen a funding decision if the majority of A-Board members support reopening it or if the club in need of funding requests that the decision be reopened and has the support of at least two A-Board members.