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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

EDITORIAL: Open government is fundemental in discussions affecting students

Published: March 4, 2005
Section: Opinions

Last week in these pages we reproduced an unedited e-mail from a Student Union senator to the rest of the Senate, sent on that bodys private mailing list. In the e-mail, Noah Haber 08 noted that he had just stumbled across mention of the position of Finance Board Member for Racial Minority Students and found the position, ridiculous. He said he was adding the removal of this position to his Senate reform proposals.

In ensuing discussions with Hoot editors, Haber made clear that he quickly received replies pointing out to him the reasons behind having the F-Board position, as well as telling him that, since the position is defined in the Constitution, he cannot remove it without a vote of the student body. One could comment on Habers rush to judgement and lack of respect for longstanding rules and institutions, but such discussions are, in our opinion, missing the point.

Habers e-mail revealed a larger Senate discussion of potentially significant changes to the Union Constitution and Bylaws. This discussion was taking place outside of ear shot of any student not affiliated with the Union Senate. When asked about the changes he was proposing, Haber replied that all of his reforms were dealing with internal Senate matters, and the general public would not understand them.

It is commendable that the Senate is attempting to reform its procedures and discuss innovative ideas. However, doing so completely in secret, and under the assumption that the general public has no need to know, is troubling. This attitude that we will tell you what you need to know when we are good and ready is echoed by Union Communications Director Alan Tannenwald 05 in his letter to the editor this week, and it is one reason why some students see Senators and other Union officers as elitist and disconnected from the constituents they are elected to serve.

Student leaders do not always know what is best for students. More often than not, Senators can get caught up in the intricacies of government and forget entirely about the people whom they are sworn to represent meaningfully in the affairs of the University, as it is written in the Student Union Constitution. That Constitution makes it clear that meaningful address of student concerns and perspectives can only be had through the principle of democratic representation.

The more the Union plays games, the more it will be looked upon as a game itself. We know that the Union, the hub of Brandeis social life and the arbiter of almost $1 million in student fee money, can be so much more. In order to be so, the Union must grow up.

As the Union as a wholenot just a few Senatorsembarks on a broad and deep analysis of how it functions, it is more important than ever to ensure that every voice is heard and every interested student is kept informed. Furthermore, campus media, as vital conduits of public information, should be sought out and told of proposals in the works, instead of having to rely on leaked e-mails.

Students at Brandeis are not children who need to be talked down to. Union Senators have an opportunity to demonstrate that, in short, neither are they.