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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Open Process resolution defeated at Union meeting

Published: November 16, 2007
Section: News

A Student Union resolution for a more open process in the administrations decision making about controversial issues was defeated on Sunday night, causing some members of Students Opposing the Decision to Arm to express a lack of confidence in the Union.

The resolution, submitted by North Quad Senator Kaamila Mohamed 11, Class of 2008 Senator Darren Gallant, and Senator-at-Large Jessica Blumberg 09, said when controversial or highly contested issues are brought forth to the campus, a committee should be formed to actively engage the Student Body and gather opinions and concerns on those issues.

According to SODA organizer Ben Serby 10, the group approached the Union after gaining 830 signatures from students who felt at the very least unhappy with the process by which the university came to the decision to arm.

Serby stated students were concerned with the process by which the Brandeis administration decided to arm campus police because the firearm advisory committee met over the summer when people werent available and there were two students on the committee, who were approached by the administration in private. Additionally, Serby said the experts who spoke to the committee were all public safety and law enforcement.

SODA approached the Union as a byproduct of an unsuccessful meeting with University President Jehuda Reinhartz over the issue, said Serby. Obviously a Union resolution wouldnt have teeth to hold [the administration] to some sort of standard or procedurebut at the very least such a resolution would provide a codified statement of values, he said.

The reason why we wrote the resolution wasSODA had come to a Senate meeting, explained Blumberg. They seemed like they had reasonable goals [and] we felt like 830 students was a significant amount of the student body.

Both Serby and fellow SODA organizer Phil Lacombe 10 stressed the proposed resolution was not about firearms on the campus, but about the process by which decision are reached.

The resolutions message had two major points: the student body is disappointed with the process by which the decision on the guns was reached and that the student body asks the administration to consult the student body in a meaningful way next time they engage in a process to make a decision on a controversial issue. The resolution made no statement whatsoever on whether or not the campus police should be armed, wrote Lacombe in an email.

According to Ziv Quad Senator Justin Sulsky 09, however, it was very clear that it was about guns.

Blumberg stated while the resolution was pretty soundly defeatedthe Senate was not opposed to the idea. She said many Senate members want to create something even stronger.

Serby, however, stated theres a very strong division on the Student Uniontheres this very vocal half thats very conservative speaking up against the resolution. Serby also said while some Union members were concerned that it was a document that had no purpose and no teeth the other argument about passing such a resolution was that it inappropriately injects community into matters that are only for executives to decide.

Meanwhile, Lacombe pointed out the people who were against any action on the gun issue said the resolution wasnt strong, so why pass it at all. In my opinion, if they come out with a stronger resolution, youd have the same people against it for the same reasonthat they dont want to take action on the gun issue.

Sulsky, on the other hand, argued on an issue like gunsultimately the final say should come with administrators who know all the facts. That should come from people who have sent their life dealing with police and dealing with realistic threats. He also stated Ithink the resolution was kind of a slap in the face to Student Union representatives. If we dont trust them to make decisions, then who are we going to trust?

Meanwhile, the administration has set up an advisory committee to discuss the issue, with three students, including Student Union President Shreeya Sinha 09, holding seats on it. This became a point of contention after Lacombes application to join was rejected.

No one from SODA…whos actively been working [to oppose] this issue will be on the committee, said Lacombe.

All that Ill say is that all applicants to the committee were asked very tough questions. He was not singled out, said Sulsky in response. The committee chose two people they thought would do the best job of representing students.

Sinha stated via email, all of the candidates that were interviewed were asked questions by all five of the members of the committee, including Senators and Executive Board members. Due to the sensitive issue of the Firearms Committee we thoroughly interviewed the candidates and asked relatively the same questions to all candidates, in order to make sure that we choose the best student advocates for this important position.

She added, the Student Union does not take lightly the 830 students that signed the petition which is why we have advocated for student input in the implementation process and throughout our various administrative meetings.

SODA organizers disagreed. I think my group has lost a lot of confidence in the Senate, said Lacombe.

We havent really decided whether we want to continue with the Student Union, said Serby. As a group weve decided our means [to opposed firearms on campus] is…looking for people to find their own voicethats the only channel thats really available to uswe have very few options.