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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Compliance with the law comes first

Published: November 9, 2007
Section: Editorials

At the peak of the Civil Rights era in the mid-Sixties, Title VI was enacted, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of color, race, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance;

agencies that violated this act could be stripped of their federal funding. More than forty years later, this aspect of the Civil Rights Act has reappeared on our campus.

Over the past year, the legality of the position of Senator for Racial Minority Students at our institution has been under scrutiny. Now that the issue has been brought to the forefront, it is necessary for both the administration and the Student Union to work together in an attempt to comply with the law. Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer said it himself declaring, We remain ready to assist the Union in trying to find a solution to the apparent problem caused by the current structure and constitutional description of the [Racial Minority Senator].

Much debate has ensued behind the scenes regarding the future of the position, and many individuals have already voiced their concerns with what they see to be an inherently discriminatory position. Even in the past, some students have labeled themselves as a minority on the registrar in order to vote or run for the position. Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams has added that it is unlikely the position will remain unchanged. In the end, Brandeis must do everything that it can to follow the law. To continue the existence of a position that is in violation of Title VI would be irresponsible and reflect badly on the university as a whole. Moreover, it is simply not an option.

In order to best remedy this situation, perhaps the first step should be an open forum in which the Brandeis community can participate. Thus far, in an issue that Sawyer maintained was brought to his attention by students as far back as election time of last year, little has been said publicly. No committees have been formed to address such a powerful issue. On a campus where diversity and race are consistent topics of discussion, there is no reason to keep this issue quiet or to hide any discussions that are taking place. We are glad that, finally, both administrators and Union officials have gone on the record regarding this situation.

Getting this important issue out in the open is a good first step. If the Racial Minority position does in fact violate Title VI, we have to deal with it responsibly. However, as much as it is important to hear what students on campus feel about the position, and what sort of representation is needed in the Union, when its all said and done, none of it matters if the position violates the law. Our opinions are a moot point. The ultimate decision of whether or not to keep the position begins and ends with the law.