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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Rosen delivers first Union address

Published: December 9, 2011
Section: Front Page

President Herbie Rosen emphasized transparency, efficiency and reforms in financing and voting methods in his first State of the Union address Thursday evening, calling the State of the Union address a “town hall forum,” and urging students to voice their concerns at the open forum following the speech.

More than 50 students and administrators attended the speech in the Mandel Atrium. Faculty members, student senators and fellow Brandeisians flocked to listen to the speech, which was followed by a very brief question-and-answer panel and then a workshop about strategic planning.

He lamented the “hindered” elections in which, Rosen said, “the option to abstain had a statistically better chance than an actual candidate.” Measures have been taken to “clarify contradictions, especially concerning voting.” A constitutional convention will be held two years early to address grievances and potentially re-brand the Union as a “necessary part of student life.”

“The Student Union entered this year with the intention to become more transparent, efficient and better representatives for the students,” he told the attendees, but maintained that there were, and still are, problems with Brandeis’ student government. “We are very much aware of our faults, and we are moving to correct all of the inconsistencies and organizational errors.”

While not all events were unmitigated successes, like the Riverside shuttles, Rosen lauds the union for a “particularly active semester.” Achievements included helping to plan Rumba, the extension of C-Store hours to two a.m. on Saturdays and, finally, a full senate without vacant positions. Additional study spaces, which many students asked for, are opening in Olin-Sang and Upper Sherman for finals, but the proposal has been met with skepticism due to the choice of location.

Next semester, Rosen said, more elaborate changes are planned. Much-needed renovations to sophomore housing in the Castle and East quad are being discussed. Rosen plans to hold more “fun campus-wide events,” including color-wars and a potential campus-wide pillow fight. Finally, “a fun event on behalf of charities for Somalia and Turkey may involve something to do with ‘Harry Potter’ and the Castle, I can’t really say.”

“While we don’t take ourselves seriously,” Rosen said, “we take our jobs seriously,” which elicited chuckles from the row of senators.

Following other dining successes, Rosen plans to move onto potentially increasing Einstein’s hours on the weekend, and is in talks with Aramark representatives about using more “real food” in the dining halls. Food that is “fair trade, ecologically sustainable and organic,” as well as more Kosher dining options at halls other than Sherman.

Rosen also plans to instigate midyear senators, midyear committees and a mixer to integrate the incoming students into the other first-years’ social circles.

The Finance Board representative further emphasized their intention to increase their transparency, both in terms of the student body and club leaders, who often need help filling out finance forms. “We just want to make sure that all students are on the same page at the beginning of each semester, having a complete understanding of the F-Board scope,” added Rosen.

The trustee liaisons will publicize meetings and hope to increase the participation of trustees in campus events.

Thematically, the Union address was geared toward creating a sense of future transparency and solidarity between the student government and Brandeisians. Students often feel that the student government and their senators do little besides discuss plans that do not come to fruition or battle against an immovable administration. Rosen claims to have worked tirelessly to battle this perception and make real changes in the Brandeis community and connect the university to the outside world, including a council-ship on the Boston Intercollegiate Assembly (BIA), which meets at Tufts, and a potential community service competition with nearby Bentley University.