Following the Midday Buffet on Tuesday, May 3, Brandeis Student Union President Krupa Sourirajan ’23 gave the State of the Union address. Sourirajan began by congratulating everyone who made it this far, as the day marked the last day of classes for the spring 2022 semester and the 2021-2022 academic year. The day also marked Sourirajan’s last day as Student Union president.
Every semester comes with a set of challenges, not only in the face of COVID-19, but “the resilience everyone in this community had is remarkable,” said Sourirajan. Being the president of the Union, Sourirajan serves as the point of communication between the students and the administration, she said.
“Although it had its ups and downs, this semester had a lot of accomplishments.” Sourirajan then announced the beginning of the pilot student leaders payment program. Student leaders are very important members of the community and dedicate a lot of these activities, in addition to being full time students. Because of the time these roles take, there is a significant financial barrier to taking on these roles, Sourirajan explained.
This allows equal opportunity for students to get involved. Sourirajan herself works three jobs on campus in addition to being president, so from her own experience she says that this program will help future students not have to spread themselves so wide.
This program was developed with Kendal Chapman ’22, former student union president as well as student affairs staff, to make some of the more demanding positions in student leadership on this campus more accessible. The hope is that the program will be expanded in years to come, as Sourirajan recognizes that everything can’t happen all at once. “I would like to thank Kendal Chapman for all of her hard work on this last year,” added Sourirajan. “I am excited to see what the university along with the student union accomplish in the coming years.”
Sourirajan also went through the projects that the student union completed this past year. When students needed better access to masks, the union purchased and distributed over a thousand KN-95 masks to those in need. They also used their communication channels in order to better explain and inform students on COVID-19 policies at the university, including spreading information about getting rapid tests before spring break.
The union also met with President Liebowtiz about the university’s founding values, and how those values relate to the university’s future. This allowed them to communicate student’s voices to Liebowtiz directly, according to Sourirajan.
In regards to transportation, currently the Student Union and the Hiatt Career Center provide a subsidy for all commuter rail tickets for students, thus removing any barriers to internships outside the waltham area. She thanked the leadership of the Hiatt for making this program even wider and more accessible to all students. The new model will run in fall of 2022, and then be evaluated in December of 2022.
Following Sourirajan’s speech, the rest of the members of the executive board of the Student Union gave updates on their work. First were Inaara Gilani ’23, Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees and Sonali Anderson ’22, the senior Representative to the Board of Trustees. They discussed the recent decision of the Board, beginning with how their job is structured and what meetings they attend.
They discussed how they as student representatives have felt silenced, “our schedules have not been taken into consideration so we are in class and cannot attend meetings,” said Gilani. They were also not allotted time to speak or provide input on what to discuss, which causes them to have to interrupt board members in order to get a chance to speak.
They were also then informed that the decision was made that the board no longer wanted to include the undergraduate and graduate student representatives in the plenary meetings, which have all the board members present. All the students’ representatives were against this decision. Being on the board of trustees is one of the only times where students can provide their live experiences of going to Brandeis, said Anderson. She also believes that issues brought up to the board get a response faster than through regular advocacy.
Afterwards, the students heard from Ashna Kelkar ’24, the executive senator and interim Vice President of the Union. She reported on the progress of the Senate, saying she is “so proud of what they have achieved.” The health and safety committee finished five projects, including the distribution of fidget toys and menstrual products. The SOJO committee planned the DeisImpact this year. The dining committee worked closely with Sodexo to provide student’s feedback on their dining experience. The Club Support committee spent the year helping newly created clubs succeed and current clubs with constitutional changes as well as other challenges.
A-Board this semester finally had a full board, said chair Emma Fiesinger ’23, so they were able to hit the ground running, granting emergency requests and helping clubs have events. This semester the allocations board also has their first competitive election in a while, with three people running for two seats. They also processed over 500 marathon requests as well as 45 appeals requests. The amount of change we have been able to make over the last three years is fantastic, said Fiesinger.
Bonnie Chen ’23, Director of Academic Affairs, who discussed the Take your Professor to Coffee initiative, which allowed over 150 undergraduate students to spend time getting to know their professors, connecting with them outside the classroom. She also planned the faculty and staff appreciation week, which allowed students to show their gratitude.
Francesca Marchese ’23, the director of Media and Outreach, said that the amount of engagement on the Student Union accounts have increased since she took over the role. Overall she aimed to reach more students with important information and reinforce the transparency between the Union and the students. She also started the Student Union take-overs and spotlight of a member in the weekly newsletter.
Clay Napurano ’24 Director of Health and Wellness, said he collaborated with the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC) and the Accommodations office. Advocate for something for the mental health of all the students. This academic year, he helped with Wellness Days, in order to help students alleviate stress. Additionally, he tried to bring more therapy dogs on campus, which the students tend to enjoy. Currently, he is working on Stress Busters for finals.
Shelley Polanco ’24, Diversity and Inclusion Director, worked with the intercultural center in order to create more inclusive spaces on campus, to show students the power of uniting. She said she is excited to continue such initiatives already. She planned seven different events for the Intercultural Center (ICC)’s 30th anniversary.
Scarlett Ren ’24, Director of Community Engagement, has planned and executed multiple events, including “Meet the Union,” and tabling for Kindness day. She has also collected feedback from students about the various events held on campus.
Jasmyne Jean-Remy ’22, Chief of Staff, said that she also is the head of the Community Enhance and Emergency Fund (CEEF). CEEF was able to fund the ICC renovation, get KN-95 masks for the students, purchase for the Daramit Prayer room and get more picnic tables for the freshman quad.
Sala Vikle ’22, Director of Climate Justice and Sustainability, worked on the shuttles to Logan Airport and back, as well as to reduce the amount of plastics used by clubs. She also worked on a subsidy for public transportation for students who are not able to afford the commuter rail.
Emily Zhu ’23, Director of Residential Life, worked with the Dining committee and the Facilities, Housing and Transportation Committee to highlight and address the concerns about residential life at Brandeis.
Eamonn Golden ’23, Chief Justice, said that the Judiciary heard a case and worked with the Rules Committee on various bylaws.
Editor’s Note: Francesca Marchese and Scarlett Ren are staff members of The Brandeis Hoot, and did not contribute to the writing or editing of this article.