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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Upcoming Howard Dean visit sparks controversy

Published: March 5, 2010
Section: News

Campus and national politics collided this week when the Student Union executive office decided to help pay for Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s upcoming visit and angered Brandeis Republicans. The union accepted a request by sponsors of the April 15 event including the university chapter of the Dean-affiliated Democracy for America and Brandeis Democrats.

The decision was met with criticism by the Brandeis Republicans, who attributed the funding of a party official’s visit not only as partisan but also beyond the scope of the Union’s discretionary funding budget.

“I believe it’s unconstitutional,” Nipun Marwaha ’12, the organization’s president, said. “Under Article VI, Section 1 of the Constitution, the Union may only use its money for specific government purposes.”

The section of the Constitution reads that the money “shall fund affairs and operations of the Union.”

In defending the executive’s actions, Union President Andy Hogan ’11 said that the Union was only covering the costs of necessary security for the event.

“The sponsors had already secured funding [through the regular Finance Board procedure], and the only thing from the Union money, which is split between the Senate and E-board, is going to security,” Hogan said. “We are paying just $100 and as far as I know, it’s going right to [Director of Public Safety] Ed Callahan’s office.”

But which and how much money, Marwaha said, was beside the point.

“The Union fund is not meant to be a second F-board for clubs who did not get enough,” he said.

Marwaha had threatened to sue the Executive Board in the Union Judiciary (UJ) due to the funding decision if the difference in interpretations could not be satisfied out of court, but he reconsidered filing a claim before the UJ after meeting with the president. At the meeting, Hogan agreed to disclose the decision in full to the Union Senate.

Marwaha contended Hogan should apologize in the form of an address to the Senate for apparent conflicts with the founding document, while Hogan said the dispute, since resolved, is a lesson.

“We need to be more diligent. We, as the E-board, will report all of our funding to the Senate, will be completely transparent,” Hogan said. “I’m working on making the Student Union less antagonistic—based on ‘charges-judiciary-prosecution’ systems—and base it on discussion. We’re all adults, capable of finding solutions that work for everyone.”

Campus Democrats argued that bringing Dean to campus is for the benefit of the entire student body, rendering Marwaha’s charges of partisanship mute.

“Everything in terms of speaking fees and attendance and logistics was secured through normal processes, the F-board,” Democrats Vice President Justin Backal-Balik ’10 said. “I think an open event with a Q-and-A and an opportunity to challenge an argument … is for the whole campus. [Dean] has a point of view, but so did Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter,” he said.