The problem of Brandeis civil society cannot be solved merely by elections. We cannot shove elections down the throat of a mostly apathetic and uninformed populace: with a typical voting rate of 30%, Brandeis students vote less often than the population at large. The newspapers, which are the first line of defense for this sort of thing, have their problems as well.
There are two Brandeis newspapers – the establishment Justice, and the ambitious Hoot, and they present the same sort of challenges. Both are under the control of an executive editor (elected by writers at the Justice, unelected at the Hoot) Both operate under the rules that have them write one
article issue for each piece of news and consider it “covered”. Both are prone to holier-than-thou, split-the-difference editorials. (Though the Justice has gotten much better in this regard). Both are extremely reluctant to challenge the administration: the head of the Justice recently told me that “the trust of the Administration is very important to us”. How can I trust them to report on the administration, then? Lastly, they are read by only a portion of the student body.
The student body, finally, is split into clubs. These clubs are fragmented, numerous, and rarely talk to one another. Great projects might be taken on in the dark, mainly because no one club knows what the others are doing. Each club wants to plan their own events, so a barrage of speakers and gatherings overwhelms even the most active students. There was no strong voice or “propaganda of the deed” promoting a culture of activism or awareness of Social Justice as a holistic movement on campus.
With a student body atomized in discrete clubs, and the newspapers failing either to interest or stand up for them, how can they be united for any task? The Student Union, the natural (and official) nexus of all interests and all students, is one hand paralyzed in the Senate, and on the other hand unaccountable in the executive board. If we can’t even govern ourselves, how can we realistically ask for more control in governing the school?
Pending revolution, a realistic goal would be survival: holding the administration (and faculty) accountable and advocating for a better future. Individual student clubs might be too small on their own to do so. The newspapers are afraid; too dependent on access to serve as the only check to power, and the Student Union is a wildcard: it could be strong, principled, and effective advocate for students (see the Jason Gray administration), or it could fall into the traps of either adopting too harsh a tone which alienates, or being too accommodating to do much good. We need another strong body, standing powerfully for student interests and whipping others into doing so as well. We need an institution that looks something like what Innermost Parts strives to become.
(The second paragraph has been corrected to clear up how internal policies (such as elections) work for the Justice and Hoot. The last sentence has also been rewritten for style)