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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Gold Standard: Response to the State of the Union

Published: March 14, 2008
Section: Opinions

I suppose that I should be both flattered and flabbergasted at having made the first line of Union President Shreeya Sinha’s ’09 State of the Union Address this week. The sentence, to paraphrase, was something like “We’ve had a rough year; the Secretary was guilty of massive corruption”. In her Justice interview with Claire Moses ‘09 following the event, Ms. Sinha clarified that “My least favorite part of the year was seeing unfactual, biased and very low things written about me,” and the Justice article attributes these “very low things” to me by name.

Yet in honesty, I of all people am well aware that my impact on the Student Union’s year was much larger than it ought to have been. This is not only because Ms. Sinha and her allies wasted so much time and goodwill unsuccessfully pursuing my impeachment. It is because so little else of note happened.

In Moses’ article, last year’s President, Alison Schwartzbaum ’08, defends Sinha: she “said that while the Union works hard all year, “It’s sad for me, in a way, and really frustrating to see that the Union has such a hard time getting that message out.”” With due respect, I think that Ms. Schwartzbaum is projecting her own record onto Ms. Sinha. Schwartzbaum did a thousand little things very well, and did find it hard to communicate them. Sinha simply hasn’t done much of anything.

Well, there was the protest against loss of control of SAF money related to Student Events. I have already written of my total support for the Union on this issue. Would this have come to pass were a more respected Union leadership at the helm? We have no way of knowing.

Other than these two disappointments, most of Sinha’s speech regarded her flagship Brandeis Citizenship Campaign. Yet non-Union students at the event told me that even after the address, they were unclear on what exactly the BCC was. Those who are more in the know have suggested that the BCC was too ambitious, or amorphous; and several readers have asked me why I’ve hardly addressed the campaign in my previous columns.

The truth is that the BCC was so widely unknown that I had no intention of providing it with free PR. In fact, I know as much about it as anyone alive. It started out as a vague commitment to a year of Social Justice, possibly related to the Cambodian genocide. At the time, April 2007, she referred to it as “my SAF”, referencing former president Jenny Feinberg’s ‘07 tremendous and successful reform of the Union finances.

After the Gravity incident, the BCC went from vaguely irrelevant to dangerous. The furious official sanction of Gravity Magazine was to headline this new approach. At the worst of this period, about half of the Union E-Board seemed privately disconcerted by the intensely bellicose nature of the stance. Later, it came to be less about Gravity per se and more a focus on “diversity training” and prevention of so-called “hate-speech” on campus. By the end of the summer, that too was passé.

Returning to campus last fall, I found the BCC so broad that it had no meaning at all. Its official objectives – from improvements in Housing and Dining, to advocacy regarding the Hiatt Career Center – were simply the day-to-day business of the Union for many years past. Oh, some reference was made to Social Justice and sensitivity to discrimination; but this was mere gloss.

Well. A year flies by before we know it. The (unsubstantiated) rumor is that Sinha will not run for Union office again. I would call that the right move for both herself and the University. I, like many others, once had high hopes for her administration. I feel no joy that none of these were realized.