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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Judiciary to mediate film festival squabble

Published: March 26, 2010
Section: News

The Student Judiciary (SJ) notified will be using an informal mediation process rather than a trial to resolve the slander complaint filed last week by Avi Swerdlow ’10 on behalf of the SunDeis film festival against Illona Yuheav ’11 and the IndieLouies film festival committee.

The SunDeis film festival committee submitted the complaint to the then Union Judiciary (UJ) because of a statement posted on the IndieLouies Web site, claiming that SunDeis was “taken over by the Film Department for fundraising purposes.” The Web site’s statement also read, “IndieLouies is the new student film festival at Brandeis; it is run by students, for students.”

Yueheav, along with Oren Nimni ’11, and Tom Charging Hawk ’10 organized the IndieLouies film festival, which will take place April 9 and 10.

In an interview with The Hoot last week, Yueheav said that SunDeis did not have the student involvement in planning this year that it did in previous years.

“We are following this process [of mediation] for a rather straightforward reason: it is the required one spelled out in the Constitution,” Chief Justice Judah Marans, wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot, referencing an amendment to the Union Constitution, said.

Marans’ statement also explained that if the mediation process, one that he claimed is informal and not as accusatory as a trial, is unsuccessful, a trial will take place.

“We made sure that both parties were aware of these new options,” Marans wrote.

Both parties still have the right to bring the complaint to trial if they wish to do so, rather than engage in mediation, according to Marans.

On Sunday, Nathan Robinson ’11, Yuheav’s counsel, wrote in an e-mailed statement to Marans that the IndieLouies committee requested that Yuheav’s name no longer be associated with the complaint, since she did not write the post on the Web site and has no more power in the committee than any other member.

According to Robinson, Yuheav requested that the entire committee become the defendant in the case.

“If this change is permissible, and the person responsible for the Web site’s statement can defend himself rather than someone not involved, we would be happy to engage in mediation with Mr. Swerdlow,” Robinson wrote.

Although official mediation with the SJ did not take place this week, Yuheav wrote in an email to The Hoot that she met on Wednesday with Director of Student Rights and Community Standards Dean Gendron, Gdaly Berlin, another member of the SunDeis committee, and Swerdlow, commenting that it appears “the accusation of libel has been dropped because BTV did not want to discuss whether the statement was truthful or not.”

Swerdlow said in a phone interview with The Hoot that “the meeting was very productive in terms of starting dialogue,” but because of the nature of the Gendron’s department, the effects it could have were limiting.

Swerdlow said that The Office of Student Rights and Community Standards is best suited to resolving disputes between individuals and the conflict between groups in this case makes it difficult for the Office to resolve the issue. Marans came to a similar conclusion after meeting with Gendron on Thursday afternoon, according to a statement sent last night. “It seems that everyone agrees that the Judiciary, and not the Office of Student Rights and Community Standards, is the proper venue in which to proceed,” Marans wrote.

Swerdlow, the director of BTV and member of the SunDeis committee joined by several students, originally filed a charge of slander, which constitutes false spoken information. Libel is falsely written information, which would constitute an Internet violation.

“They didn’t argue that it is untruthful. Instead the accusation is that IndieLouies negatively advertised the SunDeis festival,” Yuheav wrote. “The tone of what was written was the main complaint.”

Yueheav wrote Thursday, “some members of the [IndieLouies committee] feel that a conversation will just lead to mediation with the UJ anyway, so we should just go there directly.” But Yueheav added that the committee is willing to talk with Swerdlow both privately and with the guidance of SJ mediation.

Marans described the role of the SJ as aiming “to address issues of the student body in order to help achieve a just result, no matter the preferability of their timing.”

With the upcoming vacation, Swerdlow said he believes that talks will be stalled for a couple of weeks and resume when everyone returns to campus. Discussing anything over email, he said, can have unintentionally negative results.

“I think especially when we’re talking about starting a dialogue, the most effective way to do it is in person….I think comments can be misinterpreted very easily by email.” Marans also stated that mediation will not begin until after spring recess.