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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Revisions to Student Union Constitution would help streamline Senate

Published: March 23, 2012
Section: News

In recent weeks, the Student Union Senate has been mired in debate over proposed changes to the Constitution. These changes include “how the Union is set up, improving communication with different corners on campus” and “increasing the overall effectiveness of the Union,” according to Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12.

Herbie Rosen  believes the Senate could be doing a better job, and said he would be “having some tough conversations” with people about “positions that aren’t living up to their mission.” He said that he “thinks we can be messy … and I want to set a better standard for the Union to live by.”

Currently, clubs are required to submit to two separate votes by the Senate for both recognition and chartering. Additionally, a club must make a presentation to the Financial Board in order to seek funding from the Student Union. Senator Ricky Rosen ’14 explained that clubs previously “required a majority vote from the Senate to be recognized and then chartered.”

In response to these issues, Herbie Rosen commented that the Senate had voted to increase the required number of votes for chartering a club to a two-third majority, as opposed to a 50 percent one. “We wanted to avoid overburdening the Financial Board and their resources,” he said. He also mentioned the prospect of assigning a “Senator Buddy” to each club, who would testify to the club’s effectiveness and merit.

These new revisions would require club founders and members to “be more prepared to spear for their club and its goals,” Herbie Rosen said. The overall goal would not be to make the process of becoming recognized “more challenging or imposing, but to make sure the clubs are prepared when they get to the Senate.”

Herbie Rosen also stated it has been brought up that the Senate has “not been adhering to some of the constitutional provisions … with regard to clubs and charters.” He claimed that the wording of these provisions was “a little unclear, vague and at times not discernible,” which has resulted in senators not being able accurately to follow them.

One recent example of the flawed execution of the laws dealing with clubs would be the new chapter of FaceAIDS. Village Quad Senator Ben Beutel ’12 said in an interview that the club’s significant similarity to the Student Global AIDS Campaign seemed like “a blatant violation of duality of purpose” under the existing clause. He also stated that the meeting dealing with FaceAIDS was rushed, due to the occurrence of the Super Bowl later that evening.
This process of revision is not without its fair share of conflict. Beutel told The Hoot that he had quit working on the amendment process because he “lost faith in the Senate as an institution.” During a recent meeting to address a series of amendment proposals, “multiple senators argued … that the rules in and of themselves are irrelevant” and then proceeded to veto the amendments. These proposals would have “made existing rules ‘easier’ to follow, but were opposed because the Senate doesn’t currently follow those rules at all,” Beutel said.
The current club rules have also resulted in some technical violations. The Special Olympics Club, which was approved for recognition with an 11-6 vote, had not held an organizational meeting before coming before the Senate, a clear violation of the rules, according to Beutel. He stated that the vote was divided “because Special Olympics had not had an organization meeting”—while not the most egregious breach of the rules, it represents a deliberate move by the Senate to ignore the current rules on club recognition.
When asked if these changes could be expected by the end of the year, Beutel stated he believes that both “a massive overhaul of the [Senate’s] bylaws is necessary,” and a major effort to “make the Senate follow the bylaws” are needed. He believes this is unlikely to occur this year, however, due to “stubborn resistance to even the most simple of changes” from the Senate.