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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

State of the Union

Published: February 5, 2010
Section: News

Photo by Max Shay/The Hoot

In the wake of Diana Aronin’s removal and breach of the student Constitution, the Student Union is reeling from both the loss of a secretary and much of its remaining campus credibility. After the fall from grace of a university-wide elected student leader and the accompanying judicial infighting, all three branches of the student government have fallen victim to campus-wide disillusionment.

The newly former Secretary Aronin ’11 herself attributes longstanding internal strife not only to the way she was tried before the Union Judiciary, but also to the fact that the “Union is not what it was when I signed up for this.”

“They impeached me for a mistake, and one like we all make all the time,” she said.

Aronin’s impeachment charges and the subsequent ordeal for not calling a vote for a midyear senator were grounded on a technicality of timing and a series of complications perpetuated by the Constitution itself.

Aronin’s defense claimed she could not constitutionally call the vote because the proposal was invalidated by the fact that a senator who had since graduated had written its argument for passage.

The Constitution also affected the action taken by the Senate against Aronin. The document commands that once enough senators ratify a proposal, it is to go before the entire student body. When it did not, the Senate unanimously charged Aronin with impeachment for “violation of the Student Union Constitution.”

Finally the UJ in turn also saw itself bound by the fact that a proposal was not in fact voted upon. The justices “disagree[d] with [Aronin’s] first argument, [found] the second…ultimately critically uninvolved and fundamentally flawed, and expressly reject[ed] the third.”

Because the Senate did not present witnesses at the trial, the UJ had to weigh Aronin’s defense against only the Constitution in making its decision.

The result was Aronin’s ordered removal from office in a unanimous ruling.

Aronin believes her removal can be attributed to a Union power play, saying “the Senate was looking for a scapegoat and wanted to demonstrate their power.”

“The UJ just wanted a case,” she said. “It just landed on me.”

While internal struggles may have been part of the conflict, however, the case could not have unfolded were it not for the participants’ view that each was only acting according to the Constitution they had sworn to uphold.

The effect the trial has had on students’ perception of the Union is reflected in the scarcity of candidates for a multitude of vacant Union positions this week.

In addition to the office of secretary, the winter elections are being held for four Senate posts and a seat on the UJ.

The judicial election has drawn some candidates, possibly in light of its recent news-making, including Aronin’s friend and counsel for her case, Deena Glucksman ’11, who is running to join the justices she argued before last month.

“To be honest, [my running] was from the process of working with the UJ for Diana’s impeachment case,” she said. “The UJ process was really just frustrating.”

When asked about the view of the Union as a whole, Glucksman said that it was “ridiculous…and a lot of the things aren’t working.”

Glucksman said she wanted to run to be a justice because she feels she “can’t complain if I don’t try to fix it.”

Another candidate for Union justice, second-semester senior Ryan Martin said that he had “no particular agenda, but the Union’s reputation is pretty poor.”

“The students are completely disillusioned, and the Union has been termed ‘self-important,” he said. “I’m running just to see if I can have some sort of role trying to fix their awful reputation.”

Not all students believe it can be fixed. The Charles River position had a single candidate running unopposed, though the Class of 2012 election did marshal two candidates.

But the Senate position for East Quad, where the majority of that sophomore class lives, looks to remain unfilled, as the 60-odd percent of the 2012 class that lives in East could not muster any willing candidate.

Executive Senator Jenna Rubin ’11, the senators’ self-elected leader, said, “the Senate, after the impeachment business, is moving forward,” using the “really great project reports that are coming to completion” as an example.

But, according to the Union Web site, six of 18 senators have submitted three or fewer project reports this academic year, including one senator who has submitted zero.

At the most recent Senate meeting Sunday, half of the senators and executive officers did not submit their weekly reports. The week of Jan. 24, there was one report out of the 26 officials, indicating they share their constituents’ lack of enthusiasm in the Union.

Rubin said she “hope[s] students in the future will want to be more involved, because there’s a lot to be done.”

Union President Andy Hogan ’11 admitted that the Aronin case had put the entire Union under the microscope.

“We need to refocus what we’re doing—we need to move past this petty drama and toward what students really need,” he said.