Liveblogging Alterman v. Student Senate, Hirschhorn, and Melman

I (Emily) am sitting outside Shiffman 122 right now, waiting for the Union Judiciary to finish their pre-trial motions for today’s big lawsuit. If you haven’t heard, Class of 2009 Senator Eric Alterman has charged Class of 2011 Senators Lev Hirschhorn and Alex Melman for possibly violating an article of the Student Union bylaws that states that all Senate Money Resolutions must  be allocated towards Student Union projects with the SMR meant to bring Bill Ayers to campus. The SMR granted $900 for the event, which is sponsored by DFA and SDS.

Members of Alterman’s council are Senator for Massell Quad Nipun Marwaha and Union Director of Communications Jamie Ansorge. Hirschhorn and Melman’s council consists of Senator for Castle Quad Nathan Robinson and previous Director of Community Advocacy Ryan McElhaney.

Several members of Innermost Parts are debating at the moment whether to let Sahar have his own snarky liveblog, in addition to my “straight” post. I’m not sure whether that will happen or not. Hirschhorn is saying, “We have relationships to maintain.” UPDATE: It’s happening, in comment form. Check it out.

The following paragraph is very tentative: according to DFA member Carrie Mills, the security costs for the event are so excessive (over $3,000), Ayers will not be able to speak at campus, the event possibly relocating to Back Pages Books or another off-campus location. If this is the case, the Senate money will be used for renting transport to the off-campus location, according to Mills. Hopefully this will be cleared up during the trial. UPDATE: Carrie cleared this up in a comment to this post, which says “the exact costs are $8,560 for security and we won’t be moving the event off campus as we aren’t sure whether or not F-Board funds can go to off-campus events.”

Now for the trial.

8:10: Court adjourned! The decision will be out ASAP! Hope you enjoyed my coverage, thought it was fair, etc. Comment about incorrect name spelling, misheard facts, etc.

8:07: Melman’s discussing recusal now, repeating the argument that F-board members are different than Senate members in terms of objectivity. He says he voted for the SMR not just for DFA, but for his constituents and the community. He also says that the precedent that refusing this SMR would set would limit the Senate’s involvement too much.

8:03: Melman is still going. The event has many other sponsors besides DFA and SDS. He further discusses how Union members discussed Student Union involvement. He says in the future, resolutions will include the Student Union’s tentative involvement. Melman says there’s more transparency because it was covered in the news and discussed in public. He also says there was plenty of debate for the SMR.

8:02: Alterman has to go. Kudos!

8:00: 4 hour mark! Melman’s final statements. Melman says the Ayers event could be both a club event and a Union event. He lists the club SMR precedents again, in favor of a loose interpretation of “Union project”. He says that the event counts as a Union project in any case.

7:59: This SMR goes against financial transparency? I’m not sure if this could be viewed as a transparency issue. But Alterman says it’s worth noting that the resolution was passed because of the senators who were club leaders, and made up the 2 vote difference when this SMR was passed. Alterman’s done.

7:51: Hirschhorn is off, closing statements! Alterman repeats the argument that privileges shouldn’t be given to Hirschhorn and Melman, and that Union involvement is too limited to fall within the bylaw. He says the F-board should give projects to this. Alterman also says this was for a club, which is illegal. He also thinks that the SMR precedents are irrelevant to the case. I have clearly checked out of this trial.

7:48: OMG OMG Ansorge asks whether people in the room who asked Hirschhorn to not recuse were involved in DFA, but only asks about Kay, and cuts Hirschhorn off when he mentions me. McElhaney said I was not a member of DFA or SDS, which I am not. Ansorge says it was speculation. Blah blah blah it’s irrelevant, they’re not calling me to the stand, thank God. I have a sacrosanct non-biased rep to maintain. Hahahahaha, not really. My career is doomed!

7:45: Was there any other Union involvement that Hirschhorn and Melman? Hirschhorn says no. Ansorge is discussing vote recusal again. Hirschhorn recused himself “because Alex told me to.”

7:44: Hirschhorn describes how he’s discussed the event in recent days with Jason Gray. Marwaha’s objection that this occurred after the SMR vote was overruled.

7:43: Ansorge asks Hirschhorn “what hat” he was wearing: DFA member, senator, or SJC chair? Hirschorn says, “I was wearing lots of hats.”

7:40: Hirschhorn voted against the Winter Gala SMR because he didn’t know people under 21 could attend the event; he also said it was a lot of money, and that it was “kind of going to booze”.

7:37: McElhaney’s done, time for Ansorge’s questions. Hirschhorn says that the forms filled out for the jumpstart meeting did not mention the Student Union because they had not given money yet.

7:35: Hirschhorn is our last witness, finally! McElhaney brings up a SJSP grant for to bring King to campus, due Feb 5., 2009. This was introduced far before the Ayers/King SMR, presumably mentioned to prove that outreach occurred? DFA and SDS always wanted to involve the Student Union, according to Hirschhorn.

7:32: Gruszko says she didn’t speak to Gray after that call. Gray said he thought the event was a good idea, but was he involved? No, besides suggesting panelists, says Gruszko.

7:30: Gruszko tells Marwaha that she called Gray two days before going to F-board. She says she never really expected the F-board to give them money for Bill Ayers… she said several of them didn’t know who he was. They came to the Union at the time they did because that was the time they knew they needed money, before they booked the space. Gruszko says that was part of their outreach.

7:27: Muriel Gruszko is now on the stand, being questioned by Robinson. She says she’s Treasurer of SDS because they can’t receive funds without a treasurer. She’s explaining the reasons for Ayers to come to campus. She says she called Jason Gray up about the student/professor panel about the Ayers event, which is supposed to include some Senate members.

7:22: He went to the Senate to attain funds because he couldn’t get enough from the clubs involved. We got it. Now Ansorge is asking Birenbaum about the Ayers SMR. I think he’s saying the Ayers SMR and the Open Mic SMR are different because Melman and Hirschhorn were the only submitters and were a part of the Senate?

7:16: Robinson calls Jason Henry Simon Birenbaum to the stand, who worked with the Brandeis Open Mic series. The club wanted to bring a speaker to campus, and $150 was requested from the Senate. This money was received under a unanimous vote, according to Birenbaum.

7:14: Melman was “out of the Social Justice Committee loop”.

7:13: Melman says that when he wrote an e-mail to Alterman, the SJC weren’t presently involved in the SMR, but he assumed they would be. The e-mail was sent March 4.

7:11: Marwaha “can read correctly,” according to Melman. Kagan: “Alex, please. Don’t be glib.”

7:10: Marwaha brings up the camping in Vermont quote again. Melman describes: the DFA would like to visit DFA headquarters in Vermont. If the DFA were given the amount of money they wanted for Ayers/King, they would be able to go.

7:07: Melman said that 1,500 dollars was requested for Ayers, in addition to other events. Including King. Marwaha and Melman are squabbling a bit over whether he’s answering questions. Melman says that DFA decided that $400 was to be given to the Ayers event.

7:07: We’re going over the SMR again. I could probably recite it at this point. But probably not, don’t ask me to recite it.

7:06: Marwaha is up to ask Melman questions: “Do you recognize this?” Melman: “Yeah, I wrote this.”

7:03: Rothman asks if every single project helped by the Senate counts as a Senate project. Where does Melman draw the line? Melman says that if it involves the entire community, it does. Questions about this are stopped because Kagan thinks we’re done here.

7:01: Three hour mark! Melman says that at no point was the Ayers speaker supposed to be a club-only project. He also says that the Senate was not involved, but the money-giving made them involved.

6:58: Vote recusal again. Melman says that there’s a difference between F-board members and senators. He says that since senators are inherently biased (given endorsements, etc). “F-board members are supposed to give objective decisions, Senate members are supposed to give subjective decisions.” Kagan says the F-board comparisons have been done before.

6:57: Kagan has to repeat her request for McElhaney to repeat his question three times. Melman is positive that the clause doesn’t render the SMR unconstitutional.

6:55: Alex Melman to the stand! McElhaney is asking Melman if he is an expert. Expert expert expert. Melman says he’s reasonably familiar with the constitution.


6:49: More minor questions for Shulman, but Judah has pizza. Can’t… concentrate….

6:47: Ansorge is questioning Shulman if she didn’t hear anything but discussion regarding the Ayers event as a social committee project before the SMR was submitted. She says she did.

6:46: “The Advocates”, according to Shulman, were aided by the Senate in booking a room, which cost money.

6:44: Meryl Shulman to the stand. Robinson questions her. Shulman is a co-chair of the Social Justice Committee, but not a member of DFA or SDS. She says that there was discussion during a meeting about Ayers involvement.

6:42: Gubbala thinks this was “definitely” a Student Union project. She sits down.

6:40: Alterman is asking Gubbala if Melman and Hirschhorn did it for personal gain. Melman speaks sarcastically out of turn. I missed the rest of Alterman’s questioning, but Robinson called it speculation and it was sustained.

6:39: Lots of laughing! I missed the reason since I was trying to figure out which meeting was which.

6:36: More confusion about which meeting Gubbala is talking about. I don’t know which meetings “1”, “2”, and “3” were which, but one was before the SMR were submitted, and two were after.

6:36: Alterman asked why the Social Justice Committee was not included on the SMR. Robinson and McElhaney say that this is speculative. It is sustained.

6:33: Gubbala IS a member of the Social Justice committee. She’s being questioned by Alterman. Brooks testified that the SMR was not discussed at a particular time that Gubbala says it was. Meh.

6:32: Gubbala said that there were people in addition to Melman and Hirschhorn, including herself, who supported them voting for the SMR.

6:30: Gubbala is a very quiet speaker. She says she was interested in helping with the event, as well as the other 2012 sanator, Akash Vadalia.

6:29: Senator for the Class of 2012 Supreetha Gubbala is on the stand, being questioned by Robinson. She figured the Union was involved from the Social Justice Committee meeting. I assume she’s a member of that committee.

6:27: The Judiciary is asking Behrent clarifying questions. She says that if the DFA had all of their funds, they would have still collaborated with the Student Union.

6:26: Behrent is a very strong witness; she’s clear enough so nobody on either side could put words in her mouth. She says she discussed the Union involvement with Hirschhorn with her as a member of DFA and Hirschhorn as a member of the Senate.

6:23: Behrent has not attended the Social Justice committee, and Ansorge questions how she knew the Social Justice Committee would be involved. She responds that Lev is the chair, and the DFA was coordinating with them.

6:22: Behrent talks about the resources the Union might give, which she says is mostly “intellectual.” Ansorge tells her she’s on oath. Behrent says, “You think I’m lying?”

6:20: Ansorge questions Behrent, who says that there had only been discussion at the time of Union involvement, so it would have been presumptuous to put Union involvement on the SMR itself. There’s an interesting silence, before someone laughs.

6:18: Marwaha objects because he doesn’t take her testimony? Or questioning whether the Senate is actually involved? Kagan says he can question how MUCH the Senate is involved according to Behrent’s testimony.

6:16: Behrent is up. She yells “CUNT!” on request from McElhaney(she’s involved in Vag Mon), and then compliments Robinson on his watch when he questions her. Awww. She’s describing DFA’s planning process, which was supposed to involve multiple organizations and the entire community, according to Behrent. Behrent said there’s lots of planning to be done, in terms of professors to be a part of the panel, and how the Social Justice Committee was working on it.

6:13: Ansorge’s line of questioning is very short and deemed “irrelevant”.

6:11: Robinson is back up with a witness, Annie, who is a sophomore. Don’t know her last name as of yet. She was involved in the Prospect Hill project and the SMR, in which she says no Senators were involved.

6:10: Jordan Rothman, Judiciary member, wants to ask the petitionary about the SAF amendment, which has something to do with clubs. Kagan says we’re moving on.

6:09: No food break but Judah is ordering a pizza. I don’t need to mention this, but I’m excited. About the pizza.

6:07: Sahar did NOT elect the clerk! Now there’s general chaos. Is there a thirty minute food break, for real?

6:06: Muriel Gruszko, an audience member, says the trial is “an ocean of inanity”.

6:03: We might go to a dinner break, but Hirschhorn says his side’s witnesses have time constraints. Sahar offers getting people food! And Liza Behrent, witness, gives the justices her bagels.

6:00: More-or-less two hour mark! Ansorge: “Andrew has already been established as an expert of the Student Union.” Brooks says it’s very well possible that previous SMRs violated this bylaw, but that the past doesn’t matter. After some minor chatter I missed, Brooks is down!

5:58: Ansorge asks Brooks what precedent the Ayers SMR sets. There’s lots of discord from everyone over whether the case is over past precedents or future precedents. Are we having fun yet?

5:52: Ansorge asks Brooks to read the Winter Gala SMR’s list of contributors, which includes Jason Gray. McElhaney later asks him whether the vote for the Gala SMR occurred when only 21 and over members were allowed to attend, which is true-ish. Kagan finds this irrelevant.

5:51: Ansorge is asking if people in the room during the SMR vote “seemed” like members of DFA. Objection from Hirschhorn and Melman’s side for that point is sustained.

5:47: McElhaney is talking about Prospect Hill SMR. He’s going on about Brooks as an expert. Expert expert expert. Ansorge says “I’m more of an expert… and fucking students were involved.” The court goes “Ohhhhhhhhhhhh.”

5:44: McElhaney is asking Brooks if the SMR reads that the money is just for the speakers and not to the club directly. Brooks says, “Can you repeat that question?,” then, “Technically, that’s the way it’s worded… it goes to the club, though.”

5:43: People have been talking for the past minute, I don’t know what the issue is.

5:42: Kagan thinks it is irrelevant, because Ziv Quad’s vote is not heard when Brooks does not vote. Very good point.

5:40: McElhaney asks if there were constituents of Melman and Hirschorn were there. I was there! And I was very passionate about my vote being heard! But Brooks thinks that’s irrelevant. I’m not hurt, I swear.

5:36: Brooks think that recusals are most important for senators when money is involved, and is not specific about other votes.

5:35: McElhaney: “What is the purpose of the Student Union government?” After some confusion, Brooks says “Several different branches…”, and continues on what F-board is for. McElhaney specifies he wants to know the general purpose. McElhaney: “Do you think this speaker would benefit Alex and Lev’s constituents?” Brooks: “Honestly, I don’t think they would.”

5:34: Brooks does not know whether the Senate was involved in the Winter Gala before the SMR. Brooks was involved in the project beforehand, but Brooks is not sure whether that meant the Senate as a whole was involved.

5:33: We’re talking about the Winter Gala now, to which about 1,500 dollars was allocated by SMR.

5:32: McElhaney is questioning Brooks. He’s asking about club endorsements for senators, which Brooks has received. “I act on all clubs and all constituents whether they’ve supported me or not,” says Brooks.

5:29: Ansorge asks how long Brooks has been involved with the Senate. Supposedly forever. Repeats that Hirschhorn and Melman were the only Union involvement in the Ayers SMR. Social Justice Committee-related SMR was Union related, according to Brooks. Hirschhorn is chair of the SJ Committee.

5: 27: Ansorge asks Brooks what the debate was like, since Melman and Hirschhorn decided not to recuse themselves during the debate, after numerous straw polls that informed them it would be “very close”. “I wouldn’t say there was a sudden flip to whether they would participate,” said Brooks.

5:25: Nobody recused from the SMR vote but Brooks. Melman and Hirschorn didn’t have to recuse themselves, supposedly. Brooks: “I can’t force anyone to do anything”.

5:24: Brooks is reading certain lines. I can’t figure out why at this point.

5:23: Brooks will read his statement. Kagan asks if there’s anything in particular Ansorge wants to question him about.

5:22: We’re deciding (well, the Judiciary is) whether Brooks’ required omitted vote is relevant to the case.

5:22: We’re back!

5:22: Judiciary member Judah: “We’re all here, we’re all reading Innermost Parts.” Hirschhorn: “We’re staying out of this.”

5:20: There’s lots of guffawing from the bloggers and Andy Hogan in front of me over the “snarky” liveblog. Awwww. I’ll read it later.

5:14: 5 minute break! Time to soothe my inevitable carpel tunnel!

5:13: Judiciary is trying to determine whether Melman and Hirschhorn not recusing their vote from their own SMR was constitutional or not.

5:11: Kagan says that Melman and Hirschhorn’s personal motivations tipping the vote enough to pass the SMR is “irrelevant”.

5:10: Brooks says he never votes despite his status as Senator, which is true. Conversation turns to vote recusation.

5:07: Ansorge is asking lots of questions leading to whether this is truly a Union project. Melman and Hirschhorn were the only senators involved in the SMR.

5:05: Brooks reads SMR. Ansorge asks what “whereas” means. I can’t figure out why, either from too much typing or something else.

5:04: Andrew Brooks is up!

5:00: Melman is “re-re-cross”ing. Wallach doesn’t seem to know much about the Senate, but he “is sure” the Senate has granted SMR money to clubs before. Marwaha objects again.

4:59: Wallach didn’t think the 900 was worth for an event he “didn’t think was possible.” Choon isn’t here, so we can’t verify anything. D’aww.

4:57: Wallach uneasy with Ayers SMR; thinks senators should back out of SMR since e-board members do not vote in cases for clubs they are in.

4:56: Wallach doesn’t remember the SMR he supposedly approved that Melman places in front of him. Kagan says it’s still evidence.

4:54: According to Wallach, he doesn’t remember if any clubs have asked for SMRs in the past, as well as a specific example Melman mentions with a club called  “The Advocates”.

4:53: Melman up to question Tresurer Wallach. Apparently the submitted evidence (old SMRS) can’t be deemed accurate by Wallach.

4:51: Reading the Constitution. This is fun. Marwaha asks if money can be allocated to clubs. Says Wallach, “No, funds are supposed to be used for student government”

4:48: Wallach describes purpose of F-Board. Where is this going? Everyone is still deciding whether this evidence is still permissible to use. I don’t even know what exactly the evidence is.

4:46: Hogan down, Student Union Tresurer Max Wallach up. Marwaha asks: “What are constitutional requirements for Student Union Treasurer” Wallach: “I have to be elected.”

4:44: McElhany asks Hogan some questions about previous planning. Kagan says Hogan can step down. Some questions first, Hogan says “At the moment my job there is very broad.”

4:41: Ansorge is questioning Hogan again. Was the event supposed to be a collaboration with the Student Union? “No,” says Hogan.

4:38: McElhaney is addressing Hogan as an expert on jumpstart presentations when he has been to two meetings, and keeps insisting over objections and a bang of the gavel. He wants to know if the statement was preliminary or not.

4:34: As McElhany questions Hogan, Marwaha objects that the case is about overturning a false precedent rather than determining what the precedent is. I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant. Says Judiciary Rachel Graham Kagan, “You can bring that up in your closing statements.”

4:30: Witness: Andy Hogan, current Director of Community Advocacy. No mention of the Student Union on a document recording a February jumpstart meeting with DFA for bringing Ayers to campus, a day after the SMR was submitted.

4:29: McElhaney: “Are the DFA minutes reliable?” Witness: “No.”

4:28: The witness, Shanna?, reads aloud the plans to bring Ayers to campus in the DFA minutes, which do not include mention of the Union and a reference of using possible excess Ayers money for camping.

4:25: Ansorge is questioning a witness, a DFA member. She is looking at the officer list on DFA’s Facebook page, which includes Melman and Hirschhorn.

4:21: There’s some confusion about witnesses and evidence, the judiciary is waiting to decide how that works until it’s time for witnesses.

4:20: Robinson says SMR was for the event, not for the club.

4:15: Robinson is up. He says the Ayers SMR was intended to be a Union project and a community event. Robinson also says there is a long tradition of giving Senate money to club projects. He says the precedent of voting against this SMR would be too limiting for Union involvement.

4:11: Alterman says there was no substantive Union involvement in the event planning, even after the allocation of funds, and says Melman and Hirschhorn’s status as senators and DFA executive board members gave them an unfair advantage. He says it’s a bad precedent.

4:10: Pre-trial is over and we can begin! Everyone shuts off cellphones.


3 thoughts on “Liveblogging Alterman v. Student Senate, Hirschhorn, and Melman”

  1. I haven’t really familiarized myself with the specifics of the complaint, but as I understand it, the SMR isn’t relally constitutionally defined for this. Isn’t that something that needs fixing?
    Also, just noticed the CC license. Very nice.

  2. Forgot to mention to you, Emily… the exact costs are $8,560 for security and we won’t be moving the event off campus as we aren’t sure whether or not F-Board funds can go to off-campus events.

  3. Eric Alterman opens by arguing this “this SMR sets a bad precedent”. He says it’s unfair for other student clubs, and for senators who only have this SMR pool as a resource for funds for their own projects.

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