I’ve never written a post for Innermost Parts before, and I’m not sure why I am now. Mostly it is because I did not get a chance to air out my ideas at the Senate meeting last night, and I think that a good number of people who care about Brandeis read this blog, either to compliment or to critique. The bylaw to change the way the Senate gives SMRs was defeated by a wide margin, in part due to the impassioned defenses of Rachel Graham Kagan and Andrew Brooks, who were there under the system as it stood before the constitutional changes in how the SAF was apportioned. And they were right to warn us away from that path, because it sounded like utter chaos. However, the fact that those who supported the bylaw change were swayed by those arguments is a confirmation to me that I had a fundamentally different view of this bill from my co-sponsors. So I write this to ask this community of people who care, do you think that the system as it stands is the best it can be? Because I don’t, and I think that if that bylaw amendment was not the best way to go about reform, we need to find a way that is.
The first point I’d like to make is whether the Senate spends its entire discretionary fund has an impact on whether the administration decides to cap the SAF. So (as a more senior Union member has explained to me), in order to ensure that clubs are getting their due, it is the Senate’s duty to spend its fund. As Justin Sulsky pointed out last night, the Senate often has much more money to spend than it knows what to do with. So the first stop in this train of thought is do you think the Student Union Senate is the best place to put all this money? If you don’t believe it is, the answer is simple: change the Constitution to give more money to the F-Board. The clubs sure would love to have it.
If you do believe the Senate is a good allocator of funds (and I’m not sure that I do), the question becomes how to allocate those funds in a manner that is just. The system now has problems, and a lot of those problems were mentioned last night by those opposing the bylaw. They were criticizing the reform but also exposed weaknesses in the system. For example, those who knew senators would get a huge advantage in obtaining funds. If this is a problem with the reform, then the current reality is even worse. One or more (probably more) senators must prove substantial involvement in order to qualify an SMR. So the Senate fund is limited to whatever Senators come up with, or whatever constituents bring to committees and get the Senate involved early. But this system is unlikely to be attractive to or even get the attention of anyone not already heavily involved in the Student Union. Even if someone were to know that the Senate existed (many don’t) or wanted their ideas (most assume otherwise, probably rightly) they would not even be able to find out present committee members and meeting times from the Student Union website. Meanwhile we have the Student Union projects, which range from the rare innovation (DeisBikes) to the ultimate Bread and Circus (Midnight Buffet). The Student Union is a body that everybody is sure does not have a monopoly on good ideas, but everyone is equally sure that they won’t be the ones to solicit ideas from others.
What we have then is a problem, in either outreach, allocation, or both. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a question for you who try to watch out for Brandeis’s welfare: what are we going to do about this? Because I want to do something about it, and I want help.