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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Administration accepts SE proposal

Published: November 30, 2007
Section: Front Page, News

A proposal submitted by Student Events to give the group control of 17 percent of the Student Activities Fee was accepted by the administration Monday, sources say. The administration’s decision came despite heated opposition from members of the Student Union Executive Board.

“We are really happy that they accepted it because it shows that they are supporting a really forward movement in social life at Brandeis,” said Student Events President Lauren Barish ’08. “They are supportive of Student Events trying to make a change that is going to make the social life even better on this campus.”

The Student Union was upset with the decision. “After discussing this issue with different members of the administration, we began discussions with [Senior Vice President] Jean Eddy,” said Union President Shreeya Sinha ’09. “We were not heard.”

“What everybody is most worried about is the student body’s autonomy is being lost,” said Treasurer Choon Woo Ha ’08. “We are setting a bad precedent in the future.” Furthermore, he stated, “our feeling is that Jean Eddy proved that she doesn’t mind breaking the constitution of the Student Union and going her own way to make her decisions.” Eddy did not respond to messages requesting an interview.

The proposal, which was submitted to Eddy on Oct. 29, will exempt Student Events from requesting funds from the Finance Board. Instead, Student Events will receive the fee directly, receiving checks from Accounts Payable through Student Activities after receiving the proper signatures from Eddy or members of Student Activities. According to Student Events Financial Director Ben Gordon ’08, Student Events has been getting administrative signatures for checks since before he joined the organization. He stated that this system was in place because students cannot sign contracts, adding the Student Union has a similar system for contracts such as buying T-shirts for the Midnight Buffet.

Barish stated “since [the funds] can be accessed by us directly, it increases our flexibility and efficiency which we believe will allow us to program more effectively. Student Activities has some oversight to ensure money is not misspent, but we will not be part of their office. We’re still a student-run and organized group.” She added the “semi-permanent” proposal can be altered if the Union and Student Events come to a compromise.

Some Union members felt the decision violated the Union Constitution, citing the 2006 Student Activities Fee Amendment which was passed by 72.5 percent of voters. On Nov. 18, the Union unanimously passed a resolution stating “Student Events will no longer be considered a student organization as it will be a committee under the administration without student autonomy if the proposal is accepted, and… no Student Activities Fee funds will be allocated from the Finance Board towards Student Events if this proposal is not rejected.”

In the past, Student Events received on average approximately $5,000 in addition to the $105,000 Student Events fund from the F-Board. Gordon stated that despite the loss of F-Board funds, Student Events will continue to hold the same number of activities, relying on fundraising and co-sponsorship from other F-Board sponsored clubs. Barish stated if the F-Board does not supplement Student Events, events such as the Spring concert will be ticketed.

Much of the Union’s frustration stemmed from the possible loss of autonomy as well as a lack of communication from Student Events. “For two months this was undercover; in two weeks it was proposed; in one weekend it was decided; and there were two days for a counterproposal,” said Sinha. “The administration has shown time and time again that they do not respect the Student Activities vote…that somehow students could not make up their minds on their own… It was alarming to us that [Eddy] did not find the [Student Activities Fee Amendment] figures legitimate.”

Sinha and Ha added their time constraints were compounded by the program’s implementation in January, allegedly because the Student Events leaders are seniors. Barish, however, “I’m completely surprised that they said that because that’s not a reason that’s even crossed my mind. We think the changes should be made for the spring because why wait to improve social life on campus?”

Furthermore, Sinha felt this proposal could cap the Student Activities Fee at $1 million, as opposed to growing with inflation. “The administration considers clubs a prohibitor for large-scale campus events that clubs don’t know how to spend their money,” she added. “If this happens, it is a nibble-effect: it’s only a matter of time that we cannot react to something.”

Ha concurred, stating the difference between student and university oversight. “When I sign the forms… [the administration] cannot say ‘Choon Woo, I don’t like the fact that you gave $500.’ They have to sign it if it’s under regulations,” he said. “Now that control is going to the administration they have the complete power of that SAF money.”

Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray ’10 agreed, stating “the most unbelievable—or maybe deceitful—thing I found was that when we asked Student Events why they wanted this, it was because they wanted the flexibility to spend their money when they wanted to spend the money. When we asked Jean Eddy, she said she believes professional oversight is needed. I think that the administration is taking advantage of Student Events in this case.”

When asked to respond, Barish said “we already do have some professional oversight and I don’t think the amount of professional oversight is going to change.” While the administration could cancel “risky” events such as Modfest or “The Less You Wear, The Less You Pay” Dance for safety reasons, Barish felt that Student Events’ close relationship with Student Activities would facilitate rather than restrict events.

Gray expressed disappointment in Eddy’s decision, but added the Union would lobby administrators all the way to University President Jehuda Reinharz. “Jean Eddy’s decision is not something we will allow to happen, to the best of our abilities,” he said. “We will fight this to the end.”

Ha said he felt representation would be lacking, because Student Events leaders are not elected. Barish said Student Events leaders undergo an “intense and rigorous application process” open to entire student community. She added “even though were not elected we are completely qualified to spend this money and working with these people, finding the cheapest prices…this is what we’ve dedicated our lives in college to. Whether we’re elected or not, I don’t think that matters. I think it’s our experience that counts.”