The Judiciary will hear representatives from the Allocations Board (A-Board) and the Executive Board (E-Board) on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in a case that will decide whether the Student Union is a club and, as a result, whether or not the Allocations Board has jurisdiction over Student Union funding. The hearing is open to the public, though the deliberation process will be closed.
The hearing was originally set for Sunday, Jan. 27, but had to be rescheduled after Chief Justice Gabriella (Gaby) Gonzalez Anavisca ’19 resigned for personal reasons. The Judiciary elected Morris Nadjar ’19 as the new Chief Justice on Jan. 28. Nadjar will preside over the proceedings next Sunday.
“We just hope that everyone respects the final decision regardless of if it agrees with them, either side,” said Nadjar.
During the proceedings, the petitioners, Student Union President Hannah Brown ’19, Chief of Staff Emma Russell ’19 and Vice President Aaron Finkel ’20 will present their side of the argument. The three filed the case on the evening of Jan. 15, according to Nadjar.
The Judiciary has reached out to representatives from the A-Board, including Allocations Board Chair Aseem Kumar ’20, who will represent the A-Board side of the issue after the petitioners have presented.
The Judiciary, which will deliberate in the Student Union conference room, is given “final authority on the interpretation of the Student Union Constitution,” according to Article IV of the Union constitution. Nadjar, as the Chief Justice, has the final vote for the four-person Judiciary.
After both sides have presented, the justices will deliberate privately and then make a ruling “then and there,” said Nadjar. “Everybody is prepped and we’re all bringing 100 percent to the table,” he continued. “It may be unheard of before but we definitely want to make a one-time appearance and not have this drag on,” said Nadjar.
Though the hearing will be public, Nadjar emphasized that individuals disturbing the proceedings would be removed.
The Judiciary will decide on four claims of the case. The first claim was that the Student Union is not a club as defined by the Constitution, but rather is a governing body for clubs and organizations. In an earlier Hoot article, Finkel spoke about the first claim, saying, “We are arguing that the Student Union is not a club. It is the government. A-Board is just a mechanism to distribute funds.”
The second claim states that “the Student Union is not under the jurisdiction of the Allocations Board,” and the third claim is that the Student Union is guaranteed the entirety of its benchmark funding amount by the constitution. The fourth and final claim defines the word benchmark as, “the minimum amount guaranteed to a Secured Club,” and goes on to state that the A-Board can fund more than the benchmark, but not less.
When the case was first filed, the Judiciary met over Skype to discuss it. The core issue of the case, Morris said, is the Student Union’s designation as a club, or as something else, like a governing body.
In an interview with The Hoot, Morris talked about the central issue, saying “Is E-Board a club, whether it be recognized chartered or secured?”
He continued, “Of course checks and balances is an issue here. E-Board is arguing who’s checking A-Board when they give out their benchmarks. And A-Board is asking who’s checks and balancing E-Board if A-Board can’t tell them what to do with their funds.”
If the Student Union is a secured club, the A-Board would be able to decide how much to fund the Union, as it has done in the past. If not, then the Judiciary would dictate the new mechanism with which the E-Board would be funded, said Morris. “The Judiciary can issue whatever it is that we feel necessary for it to be modified,” Morris said.
Morris clarified that “we don’t like to create new mechanisms,” but could if they thought it was necessary.
The Judiciary case stems from early controversy within the Union, which began when the A-Board decided not to fund the Union an additional $12,000 that the Union requested. The A-Board decision was vetoed by Brown, but the A-Board unanimously overturned the presidential veto.
The Union was allocated $38,000 for the fiscal year of 2019, and the additional $12,000 would have allowed the Union to achieve their benchmark funding goal of $50,000. The A-Board allocation was based on the expenditure of the Union last fiscal year, and that the A-Board felt that the Union did not provide substantial reasoning for the request for the additional funds.
If the Judiciary rules that the term “benchmark” refers to a minimum funding goal, the Union would be guaranteed the $50,000 by the A-Board, and so would other secured clubs. To change that benchmark number, a constitutional amendment would have to pass with a two-thirds vote from the members of the student body who voted.
Clubs often receive much more or less than their constitutionally defined benchmark. Clubs such as Brandeis Television (BTV), for example, have a benchmark of $15,000, but was allocated just under $3,000 for the fiscal year of 2019. The Waltham Group and the Campus Activities Board both receive over $30,000 more than their respective benchmarks.
But the A-Board argues that a benchmark is a goal, not a minimum value, and that defining the benchmark as a minimum would mean other clubs would get less funding, according to an earlier Hoot article.
The Constitution as it stands refers to the word “benchmark” in Section 2 Article 1-1 when describing the Union government fund, saying, “[The] Union Government Fund … 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.”
The A-Board is defined by the Student Union Constitution Article 5 Section 1 as, “The Allocations Board shall establish the budgets from the Student Activities Fund for Chartered and Secured Clubs in accordance with this Constitution and its Bylaws, and shall publish their allocations each funding period, henceforth referred to as a marathon, to the Student Union and to the student body.”
The Judiciary is provided with information about the case including the E-Board claims and relevant sections of the constitution by Clerk of the Judiciary Abdul Rehman ’19. The Judiciary decides all cases by a majority vote of the justices present and voting, according to the constitution. All hearings are public, though the Judiciary can vote to make them private.