A member of IfNotNow’s Brandeis chapter requested the club to be chartered at the Senate’s weekly meeting on Sept. 22. IfNotNow is a campus group part of a national organization trying to end American Jewish support of the occupation in Israel and Palestine, according to the organization’s website.
The Senate miscounted the vote, informing IfNotNow that they had been chartered when in reality they did not meet the necessary two-thirds majority. In a statement sent to The Brandeis Hoot, IfNotNow wrote that it is no longer seeking to be chartered.
“While we are saddened that the original vote did not grant us probationary status, we want to respect the sanctity of the vote,” read the statement. “We want to put all our energy and focus on programming this semester. Going through the process of becoming an official Brandeis club would take up too much of our time that could be designated to our anti-racist, anti-ICE and anti-occupation work we are planning for this semester,” it continued.
Chartering IfNotNow appeared to pass narrowly at first—by only one vote—and IfNotNow was informed that it was chartered for a 12-week probationary period. Probation means that a club will hold meetings and events and can then be established on a more permanent basis, according to the Student Union bylaws.
The Hoot checked the vote count after the meeting and requested the official count from Senator-at-Large Nancy Zhai ’22. The Hoot found that just under a two-thirds majority, or only 13 out of 20 Student Union senators, voted to charter IfNotNow.
IfNotNow received one less vote than the two-thirds margin required for chartership.
IfNotNow applied for chartership and was denied last year, said Student Union Vice President Guillermo Caballero ’20, but passed during an appeal process. The club was supposed to present to the Senate in a meeting before the end of the year but didn’t get to because of miscommunication by club support committee members, said Caballero. This miscommunication was a part of his decision to not require a new vote, along with the public decision to charter the club.
Caballero gave IfNotNow the option to return to the Senate for a new vote if they so choose, he said in an interview with The Hoot. Caballero said that because IfNotNow should have had the opportunity to be chartered in the last academic year and because the club’s chartering was public, he decided to give them the choice of accepting the decision or returning for a new vote. The Senate’s focus on the club’s political beliefs, rather than their ability to function as a club, was another factor in giving IfNotNow the decision.
“I don’t think they [IfNotNow] should suffer the consequences of our mistakes given the mistakes of miscommunication last year in the club support committee,” Caballero said. “It was the right decision to take responsibility for the mistake and make the exception this time given these special circumstances.”
Caballero also said that the conversation in the Senate—which turned to IfNotNow’s political beliefs and activism—was not relevant to whether or not IfNotNow should be chartered.
Miranda Sullivan ’22 spoke about IfNotNow in the Student Union Senate meeting, calling it a Jewish-led activist group that fosters a community of Jewish activists on campus, though anyone can join the club. The club wanted to be chartered, Sullivan said, to host film screenings, teach-ins, educational events, Shabbat dinners and to be able to attend club fairs and reserve rooms at Brandeis.
The Hoot reached out to Sullivan, who provided The Hoot with IfNotNow’s public statement on Thursday, which said that the club wants to focus more on the club’s own programming rather than the chartering process.
“We want to do what is best for our club and right now we need to put all our focus on uplifting the Jewish community here at Brandeis to build a just, joyous and liberated future for all,” the statement read.
At the senate meeting, which Caballero could not attend due to a prior commitment with his scholarship program, senators focused on IfNotNow’s political beliefs, and debated whether or not IfNotNow was an organization calling for young Jewish people to walk off of Birthright trips—funded trips to Israel for young Jews.
One senator interrupted, “What does this have to do with chartering the group,” to which Foster Mods Quad Senator Trevor Filseth ’20, who introduced the topic, responded with, “Well, nothing.” Filseth also said IfNotNow’s political beliefs and its preferred solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict had nothing to do with whether or not to charter the club when Senator-at-Large Josh Hoffman ’21 brought up the topic. Hoffman clarified that he had asked based on personal interest.
Class of 2020 Senator Scott Halper ’20 questioned whether IfNotNow’s work on campus was in opposition to Brandeis Hillel, a Jewish life organization on campus, and if it was beneficial to the Brandeis community. Halper was referring to when IfNotNow placed a sign saying “Stop lying to young Jews #FreePalestine” over one side of a graffiti cube commissioned for Israel Week last year, according to an earlier Hoot article.
Senator for Rosenthal and Skyline Quads Leah Fernandez ’22 responded saying that fostering opposing viewpoints is important to Brandeis student life.
“We do want there to be opposing viewpoints and not everyone can be the exact same,” said Fernandez. “So saying that like someone can’t disagree with a big graffiti box on the center of campus is kind of saying you think everyone should think homogeneously, which I think is kind of a negative representation of Brandeis as a whole.”
Class of 2022 Senator Joseph Coles ’22 concluded the debate at the senate meeting by recommending that the club be chartered for the 12-week probationary period, but after the miscounted vote, IfNotNow decided to no longer pursue chartership by the Student Union Senate.