UPDATED: 9/16, 2:10 p.m.
With all the changes happening within the Student Union and university administration, we as an editorial board are unsure of how these internal instabilities will affect the student body. The administration has had a large staff turnover, and the Union has on occasion acted without the approval of the student body. Despite our past uncertainties, there is a lot of potential for positive change as new students arrive and members of the administration leave, especially with the recent election results for new Union members.
Student Union President Simran Tatuskar ’21 is in the first few weeks of her term. Fittingly after a semester of turbulent relations both within the Union and between the Union and the student body, Tatuskar’s campaign platform emphasized a more direct line of communication. Tatuskar also claimed in her campaign platform that she would be more approachable for students. Overall, it seems that Tatuskar hopes to break down the barriers between the student body and the Student Union, making the Union what it is meant to be: a place for students to come and voice any comments or concerns they might have about Brandeis in confidence.
In the past, we have encouraged the Union to do exactly as Tatuskar promised during her campaign—increase its transparency. Once the Union can accomplish this, the student body will understand its decisions and, more importantly, understand what the Union does for Brandeis. As 17 new members are elected to various positions on the Student Union, we are hopeful to see what they have to offer, but we also want to reiterate the importance of keeping the student body informed.
The administration has had a similar problem with transparency, with student requests to reveal more about what is happening behind the scenes. These requests gained traction with recent events that resulted in a complete rearrangement of the athletics department. The shock waves from the firing of basketball coach Brian Meehan after a university investigation into his conduct and the resulting resignations and terminations affected the rest of the administration, causing the rearrangement of many high level administration positions.
The investigation demonstrated several problems with Brandeis’ complaint processes and how personal relationships between administrators, such as those between Meehan and his superiors, can cause a blatant disregard for students’ rights. As a university, we cannot forget the mistakes of the past for fear of repeating them in the future. The decision to hold and subsequently disclose the findings of the independent investigation was commendable, but action to counter discrimination at Brandeis cannot end with one investigation. It must be a continual choice by administrators to act with transparency and actively combat it on a daily basis.
The recent expansion of the Ombuds Office provides an additional confidential resource to the Brandeis community. Currently, Brandeis has two Ombuds available to the community, according to an email from Julie Jette on Sept. 16. Two of the three part-time Ombuds staff members have transitioned to doing ombuds work exclusively, according to an email from Provost Lisa Lynch on Aug. 29. The Ombuds Office is in direct communication with the administration and releases reports quarterly showing recent trends with complaints and gives recommendations to the administration.
On this same plane, we, as a student body, must stand up for causes we believe in, in order for the administration to take notice and make changes. We especially echo various student groups’ call for changes in accessibility and in ethnic studies. As an institution dedicated to social justice, inclusion and diversity, we should be open to all students. But as Brandeis saw last year through a student letter sent to University President Ron Liebowitz, although the administration’s trajectory is promising, we are far from being a truly accessible campus. Several locations on campus remain inaccessible to students who use wheelchairs, and closed captioning could be better adopted across university classes and presentations.
Overall, it’s not just about the administration or the students. It’s about the interaction between the two, and one of the Union’s responsibilities is to act as a bridge. The Brandeis Hoot editorial board hopes that this upcoming year, the Union will act as a voice for the student body and the administration will act as a voice for the community as a whole.
Correction: A previous version of the editorial incorrectly stated that two of the three Ombuds have transitioned to full-time positions. The two Ombuds remain part-time but exclusively do ombuds work.