Live-blogging the Fall 2010 SOTU

For those of you who can’t make it tonight, here’s what is being said (refresh for frequent updates).

6:30- Still hasn’t started, food is very good.
6:42- Ryan Fanning is doing the introduction. He thanks Aramark. Nice plug.
6:43- Ryan: Financial Situations, Pachanga, it has not been a quiet semester. But we will succeed through the struggles. We as a community are stronger than we can possibly imagine.
6:45- Ryan thinks Acheampong is a snappy dresser.
6:45- Daniel: Thanks to the Union. General welcomes. The Union means “you”.
6:46- Financial History of the last 2 years: Despite our hardships, we chose to do something unique. We moved together as one, as Brandeis.

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The Dearth of Democracy (aka: Why Innermost Parts exists) Part 1

Brandeis University is not structured to be a democracy, but the individuals inside believe strongly in that ethic. This contradiction produces tension and problems of Social Justice on campus.

As a private University, all power theoretically flows downwards from the Board of Trustees, but the picture is more complicated. They hire the president, he hires faculty and staff, and the admissions staff chooses students. At the same time, as consumers of the Brandeis product, students have the implicit power to boycott or complain about the product. Faculty, meanwhile, have over the years built themselves institutions and safeguards that magnify the implicit power they have as “producers of knowledge”. Low-ranked staff, such custodians, have none of these protections.

Yes, Brandeis is not a totalitarian dictatorship – as it would be quick to remind you, there is some history of students dramatically asserting their power over the ruling administration. However, the lack of a clear, agreed-upon democratic process for resolving disputes, and the (de jure and pretty much de facto) rule of the agents of the Board of Trustees leaves students and low-ranked staff with less power than they ought to have, and creates conditions for conflict every time there is disagreement.

This lack of democracy is manifested in more than just a decision-making flow chart. A large underlying challenge is the weak civil society among students. Our civil institutions are prone to being unaccountable or unreasonable, and our clubs (our standard organizational unit) are fragmented and balkanized.

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