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Editorial: Resolving a conflict of interest

Published: March 13, 2009
Section: Opinions


In student government, it is important to avoid conflicts of interest. But on a small campus such as ours, parsing out what is appropriate can get sticky. Last week, this paper condemned the attempts by Class of 2011 Senators Alex Melman and Lev Hirschhorn to use a Senate Money Resolution to help finance an event for Democracy for America, a club to which they belong. More than flying in the face of constitutional bylaws, the act presented a clear conflict of interest and was simply unfair. For this reason, the Union Judiciary’s decision to nullify the SMR was proper.

Though this particular case has been decided, the real question at hand remains unanswered. How do we define a conflict of interest on this campus? Where does advocacy on the part of a Union member end and bias and conflict of interest begin?

One option is to draw up strict boundaries, a zero-tolerance policy of sorts. We could decide that no F-board member or senator may serve on the executive board of another club. We could also opt for a more nuanced approach in which we evaluate every Union member’s other involvement on a case by case basis. The first option fails to acknowledge that Brandeis students are multi-faceted and the second is simply inefficient. There is no easy answer.

But the absence of a quick-fix solution should not allow us to bury the question. Fairness and integrity are at stake. In the absence of an across the board policy for student government and other campus organizations, we must not test how much we can game the system. Rather, we must ask ourselves how we can uphold the values of personal integrity and community obligation.