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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Candidates try to stand out in crowded-field debate

Published: April 20, 2012
Section: Featured, News

Elections were initially planned for Thursday, from midnight to midnight, but due to short notice in scheduling e-mail lists with LTS, were postponed until 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Current Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12 felt it was necessary to still allow the students a full 24 hours to vote, pushed the poll closing to 2 p.m. Friday, April 20.

Rosen felt that for technical reasons, he should keep polls open an entire day, though it is likely that the extra 12 hours on Friday are unnecessary. “Maybe voter turnout might be a little different, but the people who I think are going to vote have already voted,” Rosen said Thursday evening.

Rosen said he only notified the LTS contact who manages security of e-mail lists earlier this week, short of the typical two-three week notice she receives to prepare e-mail blasts for the election. Because of the shorter than average notification time, the starting time was delayed.

This year’s election has seen more competition than years past, with six presidential candidates and a run-off between incumbent Vice President Gloria Park ’13 and Senator Ricky Rosen ’14 for second-in-command.

In a debate Wednesday, presidential candidates faced off, attempting to differentiate their platforms. The largest point of contention was tuition increases, which candidates were reticent to condemn, but generally called for more transparency and communication between the student body and the board of trustees.

Dillon Harvey ’13, current Union director of community advocacy, said he felt “blindsided by the decision” to raise tuition by 4.85 percent for newly admitted students and 4.11 percent for continuing students.

“We’re not the only ones with a tuition increase,” pointed out presidential candidate and current Union secretary Todd Kirkland ’13, but he wants better communication with the board of trustees and an online method for students to examine university finances in a simple way, so they know where their tuition is going.

Louis Connelly ’13 suggested that instead of reacting to “always increasing costs” with tuition raises, the university should look for “ways to cut costs.”

Continuing the pecuniary concerns, club funding, which garners 1 percent of tuition currently, was hotly debated. Kirkland conceded that this is much higher than the funding that goes to clubs in many institutions. Many students feel that too many clubs are chartered each semester, which stretches the F-Board’s resources too thin.

Club funding inspired a more various response. Candidate Josh Hoffman-Senn ’13 believes that club funding could be raised through private sponsorship of local businesses and corporations.

Harvey questioned the constitutionality of this move, and felt that it could compromise the position of the student union as an unbiased governing body. Hoffman-Senn rebutted that “constitutionality is not a problem.”

“We need to be an unbiased organization,” Harvey said, to which Hoffman-Senn noted that the Senate innately avoids bias because of democratic vote.

“A lot of clubs get chartered at this point at Brandeis, and that’s a good thing,” Hoffman-Senn said, but explained that when students charter clubs, they “don’t know how to rally support” for their new institutions run clubs and “need more support from the student union.”

A major failing of this year’s Student Union, candidates felt, was the lack of delegation to the E-Board and integration, not between the trustees and the student government, but committees inside the Student Union.

David Fisch ’13 believes that he can better integrate WBRS, of which he is now programming director, into the Student Union agenda.

Harvey and Kirkland both emphasized the opportunities in social media. Harvey cited the “age of communication technology” and said that Twitter, Facebook and e-mails were the best way to let students know what was going on.

Connelly pointed out that perhaps technology and communication were not the aims of good student government. “What’s more important is what we can do for students,” he said.

“Students should not be left in the dark,” Kirkland said, even when committees were not allowed to release a report, they should still let students know that there is some forward progress.