Here’s the latest interview we conducted in our series of Student Leader Interviews, this time with 2011-2012 Student Union President Herbie Rosen ’12.
Herbie, the former Secretary of the Student Union, has a long list of affiliations with Brandeis groups, including: Orientation Core Committee, Senior Week Volunteer, Tour Guide, Waltham Group, Liquid Latex, Hillel, Crowd Control, Undergraduate Theatre Collective and the Varsity Men’s Swim Team.
Now, with a new responsibility to add to his already-brimming plate, Herbie shared with us what he envisions for the Student Union, how he views his new role, and even a secret event he has planned called Union Day.
*The majority of questions were submitted by Brandeis students. Is there a Brandeis community member you want us to interview? Working on a project you want to share? Comment or e-mail ideas, suggestions, questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to make your dreams come true!
IMP: What is your biggest fear about being President of the Union?
HR: Haha, sounding like an idiot in interviews like these.
IMP: You have not been President for that long, but would you describe it so far? Has it been overwhelming at times?
HR: On my first day I got a bunch of emails about a bunch of different things, and I had somewhat of an (pardon my language) “Oh Shit” moment. But honestly it hasn’t been too bad. My biggest problem is that there isn’t enough time in the day. I can’t have all the meetings I want; I won’t be able to get to everything I want to do. So the worst thing this year will be picking and choosing what to do next.
So far it’s been fun being President. I get a lot of freedom to explore different aspects of campus and meet people from all around the University. I am really bad at remembering names though. So if I hesitate a second after saying hi, please forgive me. I am getting better, I promise.
IMP: You’re involved in many things on campus. If you had to choose, which would you say have prepared you most for your role as President?
HR: Being on the Orientation Core last summer! It’s a huge leadership training program, and I definitely emerged knowing what worked and what didn’t in my leadership style. It was the kind of experience where you learn your flaws first, and then get to capitalize on your strengths. I really enjoyed being able to usher in the Class of 2014 with my peers. It was that kind of work that made me confident in my abilities as President.
And of course by being Student Union Secretary, I got to learn about what the Student Union was, and how it worked. So obviously that ended up being pretty important as well.
IMP: Do you think you will be able to continue your involvement in your other interests on-campus?
HR: No, not to the extent of the past years. I am an Orientation Leader this fall, and I still will be giving weekly tours, but that’s pretty much it. I love my improv troupe, Crowd Control – so I’ll at least try to rehearse with them, though probably not perform. I’ve Co-Produced Quickies (the Student Written-One Act Festival) for the past two years, so I’ll continue that but I have a lot of help from my Co-Producer, and it doesn’t take up too much time. No, other than classes, Student Union will have to be my biggest priority.
The Student Union and Student Activism
IMP: The age old reputation of Brandeis Student Union is that it simply does not represent the students nor does it appeal to most. Do you plan to rebrand the Union to include those who are currently not engaged? If so, how?
HR: Of course! I totally understand where that reputation came from; I used to feel the same way. But I think the Union has slowly been combating that. I intend to add some rocket boosters to that fight.
We are going to be a lot more visible this year. I have a lot of ideas that have already gone into motion, and I’ll be focusing on getting every part of the Student Union to be just as active as the Executive Board. I intend to keep close tabs on how the student body is feeling. We will stress our office hours, and hold them outside of the Union Office. Meanwhile I hope to reach out to several groups of students who typically aren’t engaged with the Union (ie International Students & Athletes). These are just the first of many steps to rebrand our Union. More plans are in the works, and I promise that students will see a difference by the end of the year.
It’s time that people actually care about what the Student Union is doing. We are not just a group that gives out money, though that is important as well. We have a high potential to make a difference this year, and our main goal will be to prove that to the Student Body. It’s time to make the three flame emblem of ours well-known all around campus. It’s time that the Union is something exciting.
I want to add that I’ve got plans for something called Union Day. It will hopefully be every month – but I can’t tell you much else. It’s going to be a fun surprise!
IMP: Do you have any plans to make Brandeis more environmentally sustainable, and further, should the campus be bottled water free?
HR: Yes, I am very interested in pursuing options to make our campus more environmentally sustainable. I am currently setting up meetings with SEA and other student leaders – hoping to discuss what possible actions the Union may take. If students have ideas as to what we should do – share them! Please email me; any opinion is welcome!
Before going completely bottled water free; I would want to research the financial impact on the school. I am all for inexpensive ways to limit bottled water, so if the option presents itself: we will go after it. Should the campus be completely bottled water free? Personally I think we need to have some bottled water around, but I think its presence should be radically decreased.
IMP: With the 2012 elections coming up, does the Student Union have any plans to aid activist groups with voter registration, particularly for incoming freshmen?
HR: Currently no. In fact, it wasn’t even a note in my agenda. But it’s something to think about. The Student Union has no political leaning, and I don’t want students to think of us as a political activist group. We are a group that provides a service. Sure, we will make sure that all our clubs have the best funds possible to make their events happen, but we currently won’t be planning any 2012 campaign-related programs.
I believe that the right to vote is an important one, so personally I will encourage students to sign up and vote – maybe we’ll make a few posters and send out a couple emails. But no, I don’t see us making that a big part of our efforts at this time.
IMP: What is the biggest challenge the Brandeis Student Union faces with President Lawrence’s office?
HR: We just need to make sure that all of these new administrators understand the Student Body. It’s going to take strong and energetic voices to teach our administrative additions about Brandeis Culture. Our biggest challenge is starting off on the right foot. We have to consider how to help their Orientation to campus, and then how to move towards making a difference. Of course changes will come right away from these new administrators; the Union has to make sure that these changes benefit the student body.
So far I have really enjoyed working with President Lawrence. I think he is very honest and down-to-earth. He spent last year well, learning all about the student body. I am confident that his popularity will continue throughout this year. We as the Student Union will do our best to both advise and advocate to President Lawrence. The positive feeling everyone has been feeling with President Lawrence’s arrival needs to continue.
IMP: The Herbie the students elected is kind, smiling, and calm. If the students expressed interest in an issue counter to what the administration desires (for instance, meaningful exploration of the details of union contracts for employees in usdan) do you see yourself willing to stand up to their authority, even if it means compromising your personal relationship with them?
HR: I was elected to represent the student body. Thus, if there is a great interest in something counter to the thoughts of our administrators, I should act. Now, I will do due diligence. I will meet with students, investigate facts and consider all opinions involved. I can’t represent the student body unless I know both sides. I have no problem confronting administrators with something different than their opinion.
But I will not attack! My relationships with the administrators, staff and faculty, both personal and professional are still full of respect. I am not afraid to argue, push back or tell them that I disagree with their actions. But I will not try to tear them down. Civil discourse is my approach; I can be aggressive but I will not bully. Nothing gets done when one lashes out on first instinct.
I promised to be the student’s strongest advocate. And you all can rely on me to push, protest and fight – with reasonable cause. But I will not act without respect. And you need not worry that I will stay mum or neutral on some student concern because I am worried about ties with administrators. I am your President; I am not supposed to act that way.
IMP: What is your proudest social justice accomplishment?
HR: For the past two February breaks, I went on Volunteer Vacations. It was really rewarding to work along side my peers at sites such as the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter (Maine), and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center (NYC).Those have definitely been my proudest social justice experiences. This summer, I’ve been working at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism; it’s been an eye-opening experience, and I hope to later pursue my interest in the criminal justice system.
Honestly, I can’t call one event that stands above all others. But hopefully I will have several to remember after this year. The Student Union is currently planning a few social-justice projects such as the SoJust Career Fair (partnered with the Ethics Center, Hiatt Career Center & the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, see the facebook group) and the Local/Global Social Justice Fair (partnered with the Ethics Center). More to come on that later!