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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Gold Standard: Irreconcilable differences

Published: November 2, 2007
Section: Opinions

If youre not in the fifty-odd member Student Union or on the editorial board of The Hoot or the Justice, you probably couldnt care less about student government. For this, I commend you. Its actually worse than you know.

In 1999, the Union adopted a new constitution, which established a new institution called the E-Board. (Previously, all relevant powers rested with the Senate).

The E-Board consists of the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary, plus such additional members as the president should choose to appoint. Currently the E-Board has ten members.

Not surprisingly, this board half of it unelected has all real authority in the organization. No administrator prefers dealing with a twenty-plus member debating body (the Senate) when a select group is available as an alternate.

The E-board governs by consensus. This means that the voices on the presidents side are always overwhelming. Not only is she considered the leader in a vaguer sense, but two thirds of the board consists of herself and her direct appointees.
Traditionally, this extreme circumstance was limited somewhat by an honorable agreement between the four elected members on the other appointments. Last spring, this tradition was broken, and with it the E-Board.

After over nine hours of interviews and discussion, we had come to a consensus on three appointed members. Two days later, Ms. Shreeya Sinha 09, the president, scheduled a meeting, insisting that it occur (against my strong resistance) on the Jewish Sabbath. There she announced that she had made her decision, that we would have five appointed memberstwo more than previously agreed upon.

Among the positions appointed: Union Advocate, Director of Union Affairs, Director of Research and Development. What these meant of what the difference between these positions was has still never been clarified.

One of the E-Boarders that we had decided on was Mr. Justin Kang 09. He was unceremoniously stripped of this honor and replaced with a nominee of Ms. Sinhas choice. Ms. Sinha clarified that these decisions were non-negotiable.

My voice was strongest in opposition, and the president took note of this challenge to her authority. On the evening before impeachment proceedings were to be brought against me in the Senate, I met with Ms. Sinha as a last ditch effort to avoid the subsequent drama, which I knew would only hurt all parties and resolve nothing.

I asked whether Ms. Sinha would accept any resolution other than my resignation or impeachment. Her response was No, you have proven that you cant be trusted as a friend of the E-Board, because you have taken controversial positions on every issue weve dealt with. Dissent had become an impeachable offense.

Our system is broken;

all power is in the hands of one individual. When, as now, this individual is insecure by nature and autocratic by method, even the forms of democracy are rarely adopted.

Frankly, few students much care. I once devoted my all to this institution because I believed in it deeply. Those days are gone, and I fully sympathize with the apathetic majority. The Union has changed, in my time, from a serious advocacy body to a Student Council with an unclear emphasis on the tenuous concept of diversity. It is, in fact, as trite as it is petty.

The mighty Senate has fallen. Its sole functions are the chartering of clubs and the occasional rubber stamp approval of E-Board policy. (The Senates refusal to impeach my person is the first exception since I joined the body).

It is time to dissolve this dictatorial system in favor of a senatorial restoration. It would take a constitutional amendmentapproved by a two thirds vote of the Student Body. Are you up for it?