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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Kirkland ’13 takes presidency

Published: April 27, 2012
Section: News

Todd Kirkland ’13 was elected Student Union president last Friday, edging out Dillon Harvey ’14 by a narrow margin of less than 100 votes. This is the first year in many that the race has been so close, due both to low voter turnout, 32.85 percent, down from 44 percent last year and 50 percent the year prior to that. The straight decline in voter turnout and the increase in candidacy narrowed margins all around, steep change from the landslide victory of last year’s president, Herbie Rosen ’12.

Changes to the constitution are imminent in the face of a number of amendments, which Rosen sent to the student body this past week. The seven amendments include eliminating a student-elected alumni association position because, according to the dossier explaining the amendments, “the truth is that the position is largely ineffective if the representative is not a member of Future Alumni of Brandeis (FAB) … We want to ensure efficiency and better, stronger representation of students towards the Alumni.”

Kirkland is largely concerned with the efficiency of the Student Union. As president, he plans to eliminate a number of unfilled positions on the E-board, including social justice coordinator and the community advocates positions, a drastic change to previous president Herbie Rosen’s Executive Board, almost double the size of Kirkland’s.

As president of the Student Union, Kirkland claims he plans to focus on communication between the administration, the Student Union and the Brandeis student body. Like every other of the presidential candidates, Kirkland’s platform centered on transparency and communication with the student body and the administration. He does, however, focus heavily on the use of social media. His campaign was boosted by weekly emails sent to the student body as Union secretary, detailing each week’s events in the Union. In such a short election, Kirkland felt that his name recognition gave him a significant boost.

In an interview with The Hoot, Kirkland explained his support of the amendments drafted by Rosen.

The amendments include more frequent review of the constitution by the Judiciary. “It’s bad we only look at it every four years. Every four years is a whole new student body,” Kirkland said. “It gives the Judiciary more responsibility.”

“We need a position that is always monitoring our Constitution,” reads the amendment proposal, “making sure it remains flexible and appropriate.”

Other amendments propose a non-voting senior representative to the board of trustees, who will hold a town hall meeting two weeks prior to meetings of the board of trustees so that students may raise any concerns they wish to bring to the board. “If feasible,” the amendment proposal reads, “the student representatives in collaboration with the University President, or Chief Student Affairs Officer, will provide insight on issues to be discussed at the next Board of Trustees meeting.”

Current President Rosen explained the timing of the newly drafted amendments. “[I] put them right in time for the next Student Union to implement them. These are some things I spent some time working on as president and … I wanted to see them happen before I left.”

David Fisch, newly-elected senator for the class of 2013, explained why. “There’s a turnover every year, nothing gets finished.” By scheduling the amendments to go through at the end of the spring semester, Rosen hopes they will continue to move forward at the beginning of the fall semester.

Kirkland believes that his experience as Union secretary will allow him to be a more efficient and effective leader of the student body, because he needs less time to adjust to the office or learn the ropes. His position on the undergraduate planning committee to the strategic plans, he said, help his connections to the university administration.

In response to the brief election cycle, Kirkland felt it would benefit Brandeis not only to have a longer campaign season, but for voting to be open multiple days, which he says he has seen at many other schools, where campaigns last for up to six months. His narrow margin could have been due to low voter turnout.

Regarding contentious issues, including the Department of Community housing shortage, Kirkland hopes to act as a liaison between the administration and the student body. “The university knows that housing is an issue. I would gather student input and then talk to administrators.” Bringing up the issue is not, he says, “a shot in the dark” and administrators already aware of the issues.

His plans include streamlining the Union and making it more open to students, but “I don’t think the Union should take itself too seriously,” Kirkland concluded, “the student body isn’t like that.”