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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The official opinion of the Student Union is meaningless

Published: March 10, 2006
Section: Opinions

Last Friday, Aaron Braver certified Brandeis' greatest embarrassment of 2006: BIPAC's disgustingly irrelevant petition against Iran. Although the hypocritical and hawkish message of the petition truly offends my mind, I am deeply concerned with what the future will hold with the Iranian Petition as a precedent of success. BIPAC can now say that the “Brandeis Student Body endorses action against Iran.”

Unfortunately, this is a lie;

BIPAC's resolution against Iran only garnered an insignificant 7.3% of the Student Body's support, clearly showing that the campus does not stand in solidarity against Iran. The Student Union must amend their petition system to ensure that egregious petitions do not mass with farce majorities in the future.

Our Student Union has a fatally flawed petition system that yields unpopular opinions and that pigeon-holes the campus populace into extremist views. The Union constitution allows for any petition, provided it gathers enough signatures, to go to vote. This means that one could hypothetically advance a referendum to “advise Michael Jackson to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every Saturday for the rest of his life.” One could argue that it is completely foolish to waste the Brandeis Community's time with such an issue, but that is exactly what BIPAC has done. Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is not the concern of the Student Union and, unless we join the U.N. Security Council, it never will be.

However, BIPAC and the Student Union has shown that there is no threshold on what constitutes a legitimate issue. Now, majority groups can advance equally inane issues. The Brandeis Democrats could easily pass a petition labeling the entire student body as endorsing politicians, DFA could advance a petition against Iraq, and SEA could protest Alaskan oil drilling. But is it really fair to the community to do this, even if a true majority endorses the petitions? Holding minority political opinions is not an easy thing at Brandeis, as this is an extremely polarized environment. Is pigeon-holing the entire student body into political positions the best way to help include political minorities into the community and advance our reputation as a free-thinking environment?

The Student Union must amend the petition system or abandon it entirely. The Union should establish a “democratic majority” threshold, that maintains that a petition must achieve at least 25% of the student body's support to be considered the official opinion of the campus. This will insure that issues, such as Iran, is at least the concern of a reasonable amount of students, rather than a mere 7.3%. Moreover, the Student Union should also establish a “campus-relation” clause the that requires the petition to be related to campus action. With these amendments, the Student Union can help mend its image of being useless, and stop allowing political opportunists to take advantage of its weaknesses.