Survey Circulates About Environmental Impact of Student Newspapers

April 5, 2019

A member of the Student Union, Class of 2019 Senator Kent Dinlenc ’19 sent out a survey in a Facebook post regarding the interest in and sustainability of having two student newspapers on campus on Wednesday afternoon. A couple of hours later, Dinlenc posted a different version of the post, removing any mention of the Senate Sustainability committee, also known as SenSus.

Dinlenc prefaced the survey by stating that “Out of 830 college campuses in the United States that have student-run newspapers, only 29 of them (including Brandeis) have more than one.”

The survey asks what on-campus newspaper the respondent reads, and gives the option of the Justice, The Hoot, both or neither. It also asks what medium they prefer, and their level of interest in keeping both newspapers.

Dinlenc, who said he will be leaving the survey open another week, also included a question asking the respondent if they have ever contributed to either newspaper. In an email interview with The Brandeis Hoot, Dinlenc states, “I incorporated the question about writing for either paper because I plan on removing all votes from students who are [writing for either paper] (including my own) to eliminate bias.”

In an email to The Hoot, Dinlenc said he spoke to SenSus about the survey and that the committee did not voice concerns about it. “Any concerns brought up have only been criticisms of the possible intention of merging the papers, not with the survey itself. When I asked the committee if the survey was good with everyone, the only voiced concerns were with the merger issue itself.”  

Less than six hours after his initial Facebook post, however, Dinlenc removed reference to SenSus and instead said “I’m gauging interest…” rather than the original post’s wording, “the Senate Sustainability Committee is gauging interest in minimizing the environmental impact of university papers on campus.”

In an email interview with The Hoot, Dinlenc added that “It shouldn’t be taboo to defer to constituents on their opinion of a matter. I’m trying to avoid another Pianogate by actually providing data to back any move that may proceed if desired by the student body.”

In an interview with The Hoot, Sabrina Chow ’21, a committee member on the Sustainability Committee, claims that Dinlenc did not get approval to release the survey on behalf of the committee. Chow is also the opinions editor and treasurer of The Hoot.

The bylaws of the Student Union state that all decisions made by SenSus need to go through the non-Senate co-chair as well as the rest of the committee. Both Dinlenc and Chow agreed that she would fulfil the role of non-Senate co-chair after the original co-chair stopped coming to SenSus meetings, according to screenshots of a Facebook messenger conversation provided by Chow.

Chow is the only non-Senator member of the Sustainability committee, making her the only student able to be a co-chair. But according to Dinlenc, Chow is not the non-Senate Chair.

Dinlenc confirmed the screenshot but added, “I changed my mind due to the unethical nature of Sabrina’s position. That was months ago.” When asked if he informed Chow, he said, “I did not formally tell her because I thought it wasn’t necessary to inform a news editor to follow her own code of journalistic ethics.” Chow is not the news editor, but the opinions editor of The Hoot.

In a statement to The Hoot, Dinlenc wrote: “It [the non-senate chair] is still Cam Bechmann from when I appointed him last year. However, he has not attended a meeting since September. Sabrina is the only non-Senate member of the committee, but it would be extremely unethical to appoint a news editor of a campus paper as a co-chair of a SU committee. That’s a major conflict of interest, so the committee was forced to operate without a co-chair.” Chow is not a news editor of The Hoot, but the opinions editor.

Dinlenc also referred to Article VI Section 2 (a) of the Constitution’s bylaws, which states, “The President of the Union Senate shall, subject to confirmation by the majority of present and voting Senators, appoint all Senate and Non-Senate Chairs of standing committees.”

“Finkel never confirmed Sabrina, she was never co-chair to begin with,” Dinlenc wrote. “Cam Bechmann was appointed with Benedikt’s permission at the time he was VP last semester.” Aaron Finkel ’19 could not be reached for comment before publication.

Although a writer for the Justice, Dinlenc says he has no bias. “I’m just as critical with the Justice as I am with The Hoot. I’m not a Justice editor. I’ve never voted to elect any editor… I see myself as a seasoned contributor to the arts section and occasionally the forum section,” wrote Dinlenc.

In an interview with The Hoot, Jacob Diaz ’20, Senator for Off Campus Students and member of SenSus, was surprised that Dinlenc did not consider Chow the non-Senate Chair. According to Diaz, Chow has been referred to as the co-chair in multiple meetings and has been operating in the role.

The Hoot reached out to all other SenSus committee members regarding Chow’s role, but only Class of 2020 Senator Trevor Filseth ’20 responded: “Sabrina isn’t co-chair. I reached out directly to Kent about this and he confirmed it.”

Dinlec said that SenSus met to discuss this issue on March 25 and sporadically in previous meetings. “He addressed it at one SenSus meeting, which happened to be the only meeting I wasn’t at,” said Chow. Chow claims that Dinlenc has shown interest in pursuing a merger between the two student newspapers. Being part of the editorial board, Chow said that The Hoot editors would not be interested; instead the two newspapers discussed decreasing printing, but nothing has been decided.

Chow, who is also treasurer for The Hoot, said merging the two newspapers would not decrease Student Union spending. “We spent under 10k last semester, while the Justice spends 20k each semester,” said Chow.

Chow also claims that Dinlenc changed the meeting time for the committee at the last minute. Diaz corroborated this claim in an interview with The Hoot. As a result, only Dinlenc and Mary Fischer, the Sustainability Manager on campus, were present in discussing the issue, according to Chow.

The Hoot reached out to all members of the SenSus Committee. Four of the six members confirmed that they were not at the meeting. The Hoot confirmed that Dinlenc was at the meeting but was unable to confirm whether Madeline Scherff ’22, the sixth member of SenSus, was at the meeting.

Editor’s note: Sabrina Chow is The Hoot’s opinions editor and treasurer. She did not contribute to the writing or editing of this article.

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