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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Aronin impeachment trial awaiting UJ verdict

Published: January 29, 2010
Section: Front Page

<i>PHOTO BY Robbie Hammer/The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Robbie Hammer/The Hoot

Student Union Secretary Diana Aronin ’11 attempted to stave off her possible impeachment Sunday evening, defending herself before the Union Judiciary in a case that has pitted two Union organs against each other.

Aronin argued she deserves to remain in office because the proposal she was supposed to have called for a vote was already Constitutionally compromised and because she believed she was following the Constitution in listening to advice from the Union president.

The Senate impeached Aronin on Dec. 6 for allegedly violating “the duties set forth to her in the Constitution” when she purposefully failed to put a proposed and Senate-endorsed creation of a midyear class senator position up for a vote of the student body.

Aronin, as the respondent, had attempted to have the case dismissed on technicalities including a dispute over Senate meeting procedure, but the UJ opted to save the decision for the trial.

The Senate’s case argues that Aronin should be removed from office for allegedly failing to follow through on her Constitutional obligations. Aronin’s case disputes that, arguing the process was already compromised because then-senator Jon Freed ‘10 who co-proposed the amendment, was no longer an undergraduate by the time the proposal was eligible for a vote, meaning he was no longer a Union consitituent. Furthermore, Aronin’s case asserted the proposal was not announced at the “next regularly scheduled Senate meeting” as required by the Constitution because the Senate held a meeting over the Spring 2009 semester’s finals period–something it has never done before.

While the claimant Senate presented no witnesses, Deena Glucksman ’11, Aronin’s counsel, called Union Vice President Amanda Hecker ’10 to speak. In her role as president of the Senate, Hecker told the court it was “not generally” the case that Senate meetings were held during exams, seeming to discount the Constitution’s regularity requirement.

Fanning countered that argument saying that “no other business [from that meeting] had fallen under question,” and later pressed her to describe the status of Daniel Acheampong ’11, who was sworn in as Union Treasurer at the same meeting. Hecker admitted that, “Yes, the [other] business was all valid.”

Aronin went before the court to speak in her own defense. Her response to Glucksman on why she believed putting the midyear proposal to a vote was that she had “nothing in the way of an argument for the amendment,” which the Constitution also requires. Freed, who is now a graduate, had submitted one but Aronin believed that a sponsor needed to still be an undergraduate at the university.

With another argument, Aronin vouched for her continuance in office by saying that “[Union President] Andy Hogan [‘11] gives me orders and I have to listen to them.” Aronin recounted how she had gone to Hogan after Freed’s e-mails and late sponsor’s argument, the president had told her they should include the proposal in the unrelated but upcoming Constitutional Review process this spring.

“I felt that if I had gone against—if I had not done what Andy [Hogan] told me to do and put it to a vote, I would be violating the Constitution,” Aronin said.

Hogan was not present at the trial.

Fanning fought back by pointing out that it is “not explicitly stated [in the Constitution] that Freed could not submit an argument in favor.” He argued that once it was proposed, even a sponsor (he hypothesized “Barack Obama”) could submit one, as the founding Union document only says someone must be willing to write “in favor.”

The Constitution also makes no mention of the secretary being a direct subordinate to the president. “It is nowhere explicitly stated,” Fanning said, noting correctly that the positions are “independently elected.”

UJ Chief Justice Judah Marans ’11, who declined to be interviewed for this article, later questioned both parties on whether they thought their claims were “fair.” Saying that “morality is hugely related to the law,” he asked whether it was right that the Constitution does not specifically say when a “regular” Senate meeting can take place (the oral arguments went so far as to suggest that it could happen, technically, in the summer if a quorum could be gathered). Marans also asked Aronin’s team whether it was right to deprive the midyears of another term without a possible chance at representation, even if the Constitution would, again technically, allow it.

The justices also had both parties answer whether they believed the letter and “spirit” of the law always, in any case, must agree. “Sometimes” sums up the answers of both counsels, knowing that the coin could hurt them both with either answer.

Aronin’s only comment was that she was satisfied with the trial’s direction. “I think the trial went very well, and I’m confident the justices will make the right choice.” But she also expressed disappointment with the turn of events, saying she did not think “the case was properly researched before I was impeached.”

Attendance at the event was still extremely low, despite the abandoned attempt of the Senate and its chief counsel, Ryan Fanning ’11, to have the justices invoke a section of the Constitution allowing for closure of a trial if “the presence of the public [at the trial would]…have a negative impact on the hearing.”

The UJ has no more than five academic days to announce their decision, but that time does not run out until Monday morning. The decision is expected late over the weekend.