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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

An open letter to the student body

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Opinions

“To be eligible to run for an elected Union office, a student must be… [s]tudying on the Waltham campus for the entire period in which s/he will hold office.”

— Article IX, Section 1 of the Brandeis University Student Union Constitution.

My name is Adam Hughes, and up until two weeks ago, I was the Vice President of the Brandeis Student Union. Now, I am neither living nor studying at the University.

Therefore, with respect to the opening sentence of this article, only one conclusion can be drawn, a conclusion that is harsh yet one that I do not hesitate to embrace: I have failed in my Constitutional obligations, and I have failed you, the student body that elected me. I do not apologize for the circumstances surrounding my departure from campus; my absence represents a decision made in my best interest for my future, both at and beyond Brandeis. However, I am deeply sorry that I have failed in my responsibility to the Brandeis student body.

Holding Union office is a great privilege, not a reward, and though I cannot fulfill my end of the bargain that was made when I took the oath of office last September, I do at least owe you an explanation for my departure.

Over the winter break, I was diagnosed with a mental health disorder, one whose effects have impacted both my academic and extracurricular work.

Consultation with doctors and therapists has left me with absolutely no doubt that this is a problem that I will be able to overcome and that will not hinder me in any way from not only returning to Brandeis and graduating, but also for making the most of my time at Brandeis as an activist and a leader.

However, I also understand that until I have complete certainty that I am fully capable of succeeding in every realm of Brandeis life, I would be doing myself a disservice by staying on campus as a student. Therefore, together with my academic advisers, I made the very difficult decision to take a leave of absence from Brandeis for the upcoming semester.

It has been an honor to serve as a Union official, and I am still astonished at the amount of progress the Union has made this semester. President Jason Gray has done a tremendous job of leading successful policy initiatives and creating a culture within the Union government that spawns cooperation and hard work. He made an effort to reach out to me from my first day in office and to serve as an advisor for all of my projects, and as much as I admire his leadership, his friendship means even more to me. Yet the success of the Union is not his alone.

The people that I served with on the Senate and the Executive Board are uniformly a group of talented, dedicated individuals whose passion for Brandeis has brought great change to this campus. And the number of amazing people I have met within the student body as a whole still staggers me, particularly when I reflect on the breadth of contributions that each has made towards improving life on campus and fulfilling the lofty goals of social justice and activism that comprise the mission of this University.

In the past five months, we have seen wide-ranging success in many different projects. The long-anticipated bicycle rental program was finally developed. Student rights were prioritized, and the mechanisms of advising accused students were reorganized for increased effectiveness. The health center got a thorough review. Dining reforms were made. The daily newspaper program gave us access to great papers at no cost. Good citizenship was emphasized through the Brandeis Votes program and a series of highly informative political forums. The new weight room was installed. The Senate Social Justice Committee ran the excellent Search and Seizure forum and helped to fund the Prospect Hill community center. The Services Committee ran a very successful Turkey Shuttle and Midnight Buffet.

Particularly gratifying for me on a personal level were the formation of the Senate Outreach Committee and the creation of the Committee on Endowment Ethics and Responsibility, two projects with which I was closely involved and show that the Union is committed to transparency, both in its own affairs and in those of the University as a whole.

However, the specter of trying financial times looms large over Brandeis today, and we as students must be wary of losing our voice as the heart and soul of this University.

Now more than ever, we need a Student Union that is fully committed to working with our amazing faculty and administration as partners while remaining fiercely protective of our rights and of the Brandeis legacy to which we are entrusted.

We need leaders like Andrew Hogan, the newly appointed Director of Community Advocacy, whose work on the upcoming Combating Hate Fundraising Dinner proves him to be a great advocate for our most important principles and who I am grateful to call one of my dearest friends. We need leaders like Andrew Brooks, once my political rival and now my good friend, whose ability to fairly and productively assume my role as chair of the Senate is a certainty in my eyes.

Most necessary, however, is a student body unified for our common good and vocal in its desire for involvement in actualizing a strong future for Brandeis. It is with the students that the fate of the University ultimately lies, and while this is a challenge for every student on campus to involve themselves in the problems that face our campus, it is also the greatest source of hope for me that we will pull through this crisis stronger than ever.

The intelligence and activism that I have seen time and time again in my fellow Brandeisians is humbling to me, and I am so proud that I am able to count myself as one of their number. And while the products of these qualities are most visible on a grand scale, I have gotten first-hand experience in the last two weeks of how they can have great consequences in smaller ways as well. The support I have received throughout my departure from

Brandeis from my friends and colleagues has been deeply moving for me and has helped me through one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I am so thankful for every one of you that has wished me well and kept me positive during this time. Even while I am away, I intend to do as much as I can to work for the causes which you have made your own and which have shaped my entire Brandeis experience so far.

And more than anything else, I look forward to returning to Brandeis and learning, working, and living with all of you again.