Elections for 18 open positions on the Student Union started at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. A total of 27 different students are running for 10 open seats on the senate, five open seats on the judiciary, one representative to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) and two representatives to the Community Emergency and Enhancement Fund (CEEF).
Class of 2020 Senator
Jacob Diaz ’20, Trevor Filseth ’20, Scott Halper ’20 and Dane Leoniak ’20 are all running for the two open seats for the Class of 2020.
Diaz is currently the Senator for Off-Campus Students. According to an interview with The Brandeis Hoot, on the Senate, he’s tried to hold senators more accountable by mandating attendance at senate meetings and committee meetings. If a senator misses more than three senate meetings or more than three committee meetings without an excuse, they are impeached from the senate.
Diaz also spoke about his work to keep “the free press free,” including his position against the recent proposal to de-charter The Hoot. Diaz also spoke about his recent criticism of the Justice in a senate meeting, calling his statements emotional and poorly worded. “What I should’ve said was ‘racially sensitive,’ not ‘racist,’” Diaz said.
Diaz also spoke about his role on the Rules Committee (formerly known as the Bylaws Committee), which has been under recent revision. Diaz said that the bylaws should be able to be changed quickly so the Union is able to respond quickly to student concerns. Diaz hopes to represent the student body, and to continue to make sure senators on the Union “[are] doing their jobs.”
Filseth currently serves as the Class of 2020 Senator, and is on the Senate Sustainability Committee (SenSus). He decided to run again because he finds the position rewarding and wants to get more people involved in the Union and working on environmental issues on campus.
Filseth spoke about helping to organize Meatless Monday in Usdan Dining Hall and tabling for Facilities Appreciation Day in early March, where students could write cards to facilities workers and staff workers at Brandeis.
Filseth also spoke about his candidate biography, which states, “During my time on the Union, I’ve… organized the Brandeis SaveOhno event.” In an interview with The Hoot, however, he clarified, saying, “I should’ve clarified that. SenSus did not organize the event itself.” Instead, the role of SenSus was to raise participation for the event. Filseth called the statements “a poor choice of words.”
Filseth said he didn’t have a lot of time to write the biography, and when asked if he would change the language said, “it’s the distinction of a couple of words and it doesn’t strike me as important.”
Halper has never been involved in the Union prior to this election but feels like the connections he has made with the Brandeis community beyond the Union will help him succeed in the position and bring the Union back to “democratic norms,” he said in an interview.
He was initially drawn to run for the Union after reading in both The Hoot and the Justice about various issues that have struck the Student Union this past year, including “Pianogate… the club advisor project… the petitions to recall Linfei Yang ’20 and Kent Dinlenc ’19… and the recent proposal to de-charter The Hoot,” Halper said.
“There’s a critical aspect of being a senator that I get,” he said. “Your job is not to talk, it is to listen. My focus is more on listening and that’s what I’ve done for the last three years.” Halper hopes to garner more relationships between the student body and different organizations on campus, especially those that do not have as large of a voice. He also hopes to build connections with the Greek community on campus and the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center (PARC) to be more comfortable when speaking about sexual assault on college campuses.
Leoniak is running because he wants to refocus on “doing what the students want, because it seems like that was being ignored,” said Leoniak in an interview with The Hoot.
Leoniak said that though he didn’t have a lot of experience in student government, he wanted to address larger campus issues—such as accessibility and diversity—if elected. Leoniak spoke about his experience with accessibility, saying that he faced unnecessary obstacles when trying to get a parking pass in the winter to make sure his insulin pump didn’t shut off when walking to class.
Leoniak also spoke about friends with more serious accessibility issues who experience similar if not more difficulty with getting accommodations. “The most Brandeis thing I’ve ever seen was instead of cleaning the snow off a ramp, they put caution tape around it. I don’t know how much the Union can do but I feel like it can apply pressure… I feel like we can do something to help with this,” Leoniak said.
“There’s so many other issues here but that is one I know about because I’ve experienced it,” Leoniak said.
Leoniak also spoke about his online criticism of a Student Union senator who proposed an amendment to de-charter The Hoot. “I feel like when someone is doing something as a public figure and you’re doing something for the wrong reasons… when you put yourself in that position you can be criticized.” Leoniak said he would be open to criticism from his constituents as a senator. “If I screw up, I want people to yell at me, because I don’t want to screw up,” Leoniak said.
Senator to International Students
Leah Fernandez ’22 and Shuorui Wang ’22 are running for one open seat for International Student Senator.
Fernandez is running because she wants to foster a community of international students of all cultures by communicating between the students and the Union, which she said in an interview with The Hoot.
Fernandez has worked with the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) in the past as a Global Fellow and helped to organize I am Global Week—a week celebrating global awareness and cultural exchange. She wants to use her relationships with the ISSO to make sure that all international students’ voices are heard. “International students don’t feel like they’re really represented here on campus and even if they are, they’re kind of isolated,” Fernandez said.
As International Student Senator, Fernandez would work reach out to international students more effectively—in person, not with only posters, Fernandez said. Fernandez also wants to increase international student integration into the larger Brandeis community, in ways such as improving international food in the dining halls on campus.
Wang is running for International Student Senator because he wants to address student concerns about the Gateway Scholars program, a program designed to give non-native speakers of English “critical thinking, analytical writing, and academic oral communication skills” necessary for Brandeis, according to the program’s website.
Wang is concerned that the program is unnecessarily expensive and doesn’t transparently or correctly assign students to certain “tracks” that then determine some of the courses a student will take. Wang said he’s heard many criticisms about the program, and wants to better understand and clarify the program to other international students.
“Another issue among international students… is food,” Wang said, and said he would work to get better international food at Brandeis so international students can feel more at home.
Associate Justice to the Judiciary
Nine students are running for the five open Associate Justice seats on the Student Union Judiciary: Maxwell Hunsinger ’20, Ruth Itzkowitz ’22, Junhan Lee ’20, Jack Ranucci ’22, Yehoshua Rubin ’20, Mack Schoenfeld ’21, Rachel Sterling ’21, Shania Thomas ’21 and Maya Walborsky ’22.
Hunsinger said in his candidate biography that he was called “far too zealous in my pursuit of perfecting and enforcing our team Constitution” while he has been secretary for the Brandeis Rowing team.
“‘Maxwell, if you talk about our Constitution again, I will slap you’ and ‘Please get a hobby and stop talking about the by-laws,’” are various phrases said by individuals on the team, according to Hunsinger.
Through these words, Hunsinger decided that he was well-suited for the role with his passion for interpreting Constitutional issues.
Itzkowitz is an admissions tour guide and is involved in the Waltham Group at Brandeis. “I have read through the bylaws and the Constitution to better understand the workings of the Student Union and want to ensure the Student Union is run fairly and justly.” Itkowitz did not respond to an interview request by press time.
Ranucci is currently an Associate Justice on the Brandeis Student Union Judiciary. His experience on judiciary and familiarity with the Student Union bylaws and the Constitution would make him an effective associate justice, said Ranucci in an interview with The Hoot.
Ranucci said that even though he has only been on the Judiciary for just over a month, he’s attended meetings with the Rules Committee to help advise committee members on possible changes to the bylaws. Ranucci said he would remain impartial and outside Union conflict as associate justice.
Ranucci said he was excited for the opportunity to serve again on the Union, saying, “The Union can be something that is respected and that’s really what I’m looking for is to stabilize the Union and especially to stabilize the Judiciary and make sure we don’t have as much turnover.”
Lee did not submit a candidate biography prior to press time.
Rubin did not submit a candidate biography prior to press time.
Schoenfeld has worked for the Justice, Student Admissions Program and Brandeis Phonathon. He is also a research assistant in the Lifespan Developmental Psychology Lab.
He is running to “help to mediate conflict and make sure that the Student Union Constitution is being interpreted properly while also being more involved in the different branches of the Student Union to make sure they’re running smoothly,” according to his candidate biography.
Sterling has served as an Associate Justice for the past two months. “My values are anchored in the belief that every student deserves the opportunity to be recognized and fully contribute to our school, and that we must encourage all student voices to be heard,” wrote Sterling in her candidate biography.
Thomas decided to run after a friend asked her about what her personal activism was on campus, and how she advocates for what she cares about. Thomas said that she wasn’t as politically active as she wanted to be, but when she got an email from the Student Union, she realized she could be. Thomas is running to make sure students are heard, and that the Union is accountable and transparent, she said.
“The most fundamental thing we can do is to make sure we are being held accountable for the weight of responsibility we have been given,” and to keep everyone else accountable, she said in an interview with The Hoot.
Thomas said that, if elected, she would interpret the bylaws and the Constitution to make sure they reflect the mindset of those who made them, and determine if the rules still apply to the current time. Though Thomas hasn’t been involved in student government before, she said she has “always had a healthy obsession with government,” and as a politics major and legal studies minor, she’s had the ability to “delve deep into how legislation is created.”
Walborsky is currently a student assistant at the International Business School, on E-board for HerCampus, a Brandeis Beacon and a member of TAMID business group, according to her candidate biography.
“As a member of the Judiciary Board, I would like to become more involved in the Student Union and impact campus life,” she said. “I also want to have a voice in Student Union running smoothly through overseeing meetings. I would love to show you all what I am capable of accomplishing to better our campus and Student Union!”
Representative to CEEF
Three students, Jiale Hao ’22, Anthony Cai ’22 and Mike Bender ’22 are running for representative to CEEF.
Hao is a business major who had a lot of experience with allocating money while he was in high school. As an international student, he had worked as an English teacher and TA for 12-17 year olds near his home to help them learn English.
He believed that the processes of CEEF were “straightforward to me,” he said in an interview with The Hoot. “If they have a financial statement on their project and I think I will be very capable of evaluating, whether it is a responsible way of allocating money.”
Hao said he would be readily accessible throughout the entire application process for prospective projects, whether it be by phone, email, Facebook, etc. “We’re there to represent the student body,” he reiterated. He believes that CEEF is meant to facilitate the projects that “touch the most fundamental aspects of student life.”
Cai was Vice President of the Biology Club and a leader in his church youth group in high school, according to his candidate biography. He is planning on majoring in biochemistry with a possible minor in computer science.
Bender is currently the representative to the CEEF board. “During my time on CEEF, we were able to put through some amazing student projects… I would appreciate the opportunity to continue supporting student-led initiatives on campus,” wrote Bender in his candidate biography.
Representative to UCC
Lyle James ’21 and Steven Luo ’21 are running for UCC Representative.
James hopes to give the opportunity to represent the student body on the UCC, according his candidate biography. “I am deeply interested in all aspects of the undergraduate education experience, and if given the opportunity to represent the student body on the UCC, I would be excited to convey feedback from students.”
He also stated that he “would love to be involved in making it [Brandeis] even better by helping to tailor our programs to suit the needs of the community.”
Luo stated that even though he is majoring in the hard sciences (Chemistry and Applied Mathematics), “I have always been passionate about exploring other disciplines and each of its pedagogies,” he said in his candidate biography. “I especially wanted to learn what all of you guys hoped to get out of YOUR education at Brandeis, and work with YOU GUYS to acquire the skills that YOU NEED or want for your future, whether it’s graduate/professional school or employment. That way, we can make sure that your tuition dollars is used in the way that suits your needs as effectively as possible, which will improve your educational experience.”
Class of 2022 Senator
Topaz Fragoso ’22 and Joseph Coles ’22 are running unopposed for the Class of 2022 senator positions.
Fragoso has served as the Class of 2022 Senator for the past year. “After being the senator for a year, I now know what I can try and change and what still needs to be done. I am learning how to represent everyone equally and make the best decisions,” wrote Fragoso in her candidate biography.
Coles is running because he’s been critical of the Student Union in the past, so he wants to join to see what he can do to help change it. Coles is in Posse, a merit scholarship leadership program, and Coles said that being in the Senate would be a “progression of his leadership.”
Coles would like to try to put air conditioning in the residence halls. “I’m not sure what can be done, but I’m willing to learn and I want to learn with everyone else,” said Coles.
“The student body has an incredible voice and we’ve seen that time and time again, most recently with the proposal to defund The Hoot,” said Coles. “I want to be that voice in the room.”
Class of 2021 Senator
Sissel Tan ’21 and Jake Rong ’21 are running unopposed for the Class of 2021 senator seats.
Tan is studying International Global Studies (IGS) and sociology and is an undergraduate representative of the IGS department and Vice President of Global China Connection. “I decide[d] to contribute more to our loving campus and make our community more active and energetic, by being able [to] participate in campus regulating, problem solving and improving,” wrote Tan in her candidate biography.
Rong has served on the Student Union since he was a first-year and currently serves as the co-chair of the Rules Committee on the senate. Rong spoke about why he wanted to stay on the Union, saying that he would like to his continue his work on projects that take more than a one semester term.
Rong spoke about opening the Rules Committee to non-senate members of the Brandeis community, and requiring a Justice from the Judiciary to attend Rules Committee meetings to increase accountability. “On paper it may look like just a semantic change, but we definitely introduced a bunch of proposals to revolutionize the way the committee operates,” Rong said
Rong said one of his top priorities if elected would be to continue reviewing and changing the bylaws through amendments, such as removing outdated offices and rules that exist in the bylaws. Rong also said he is committed to the Union, citing a perfect senate attendance record.
Racial Minority Senator
Rajan Vohra ’21 is running unopposed for the racial minority senator. He is pursuing a five year combined BA/MBA in International Economics and Finance is a member of the varsity tennis team.
According to his candidate biography, Vohra was taught traditional Hindu beliefs when he was growing up and often traveled to India during his youth to keep in touch with his roots.
“My desire is to bring my fellow peers together through more inclusive social events and show them how to celebrate a wide variety of cultures,” he said in his candidate biography. “I believe that with my background and determination I would be successful taking strides to make Brandeis University a diverse and welcoming place for all races.”
Joshua Hoffman ’21 and Nancy Zhai ’22 are running unopposed for the two senator-at-large seats.
Hoffman currently serves as the Skyline and Rosenthal Quad Senator and has been on the Union for two years, serving with the Campus Operation Working Group and the Health and Safety Committees, according to his candidate biography. “I participated in stocking tampons in bathrooms around the school to prove to administration that not only should they provide free menstrual products to the student body, but that it was economically feasible,” he said.
Hoffman’s main project during his second year on the Union has been working on the condom initiative, which stocked all the first-year dorms with condoms to promote sexual health.
Zhai currently serves as the Class of 2022 Senator and she is now running to be the Senator-at-Large. Zhai said that she hopes to change Brandeis for the better. Her work in the Senate has included meeting with dining services to clarify meal exchange options for students eating at the Hoot Market and Sub-Connect through signage and information on the website, according to Zhai.
“It’s important for us to be more proactive. I consider myself a do-er,” said Zhai. “Even though I was only in [the Student Union] for a month, I feel like I was able to accomplish a lot.”