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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

EDITORIAL: In Mock Trial fiasco, blame is shared

Published: February 11, 2005
Section: Opinions

None of the Student Union Senators who voted to approve the charter of Brandeis University Mock Trial Association back in 2001 are still on Senate today, and few of them are even still at Brandeis. Thus there is no one to ask what senators were thinking when they cast their ballots for an organization with the primary goal of competing at off-campus tournaments.

This constant turnover in the Student Union makes major reforms to a clearly broken system difficult, if not impossible. Systemic problems with how clubs are chartered and how money is allocated are worsened by a tendency to take what was done last year and decide it is what was always done. At the same time, senators and others are quick to reject outdated rules and procedures without understanding their original purpose.

The Senate charters clubs, but the Finance Board funds them. These two branches of government are independent and uncommunicative, and as a result something often gets lost between the charter and funding. Every club is given a little, but few clubs are given what they truly need. Three dollars are requested for every dollar allocated, and yet no one has stopped to take a long, hard look at how money is doled out and to work towards a consensus on what is and is not appropriate use of the Student Activities Fee money that we all pay each year.

It is remarkable that with almost one million dollars in student money to spend, there are so many problems determining how to spend it. This is not helped by the fact that over 50% of student money is given to seven secured organizations that are not transparent in their operation and are not necessarily open in their decision making to the entire student body. Who decides what concerts we have on campus, anyway? Maybe someone should find out.

While student money is locked up in an antiquated funding system, the University also deserves some blame for not offering adequate support to competing0 teams. Most other universities fund academic competition teams like Mock Trial because they understand that such organizations are important co-curricular avenues for students to pursue learning, while at the same time are a method of spreading the universitys name and increasing the universitys prestige. Why not at Brandeis?

In this case, there is no one clear responsible party, but there are a lot of opportunities to improve things for the future. To start with, the Student Union needs to begin the process of introspection. The Finance Board needs to be re-evaluated. How the Senate chooses to charter clubs needs to be examined. And the entire community needs to be involved.

We call on the Student Union to heed the sentiment of many, including some within its own ranks, who believe that the time for change is now. Some hard choices will need to be made, but in the process student organizations at Brandeis will grow stronger and be better served.

And for goodness sake, can someone just step up and pay for the Mock Trial team to go to their competition?