UJ Declines to Hear Case on Electoral Eligibility

The Union Judiciary just sent out an e-mail denying certiorari (declining to hear) a case brought by Henry Schleifer, a former write-in candidate for next year’s UJ.  Henry had formed a Facebook group to campaign for the position despite the fact he’s currently studying abroad.  However, because his term would technically begin next Wednesday during spring inaugurations, he is ruled to have violated Article IX Section 2 of the Union Constitution, which states “To be eligible to run for an elected Union office, a student must be… Studying on the Waltham campus for the entire period in which s/he will hold office.”  This decision was made by Tia Chatterjee on the basis of a precedent set in Tansey v. Herman in a 2002 UJ case and upheld on precedent by this year’s Judiciary.

Tia did the right thing by upholding the accepted interpretation of the law, but the fact that this precedent exists at all can only be described as fucking stupid (though even more explicit phrases might be appropriate as well).  Much of the justification for the decision in Tansey v. Herman is no longer applicable under more recent study abroad rules, and I find it to be pretty weak in any case (the entire decision can be found here in PDF form).  It seems that the Constitution has been changed in the time since the decision to make the “studying on the Waltham campus” requirement a little more apparent, but there’s still a very good case that the current interpretation is not what was originally intended.  Tia is quoted in the complaint as saying “Seniors who are quad senators violate that section too. terms for quad senators run from september to september. currently the quad senators for Village, Ridgewood, Mods, Ziv, Off campus and Charles River are all seniors. [sic]”  The Village and Mod Quads are for seniors only; under this interpretation, there is NO ONE who is eligible to represent either in the Senate.

I wish that the UJ had decided to hear this case and challenge precedent, especially considering that there aren’t enough balloted candidates for the five open spots, making it unlikely that anyone would really object.  The quickest way to change the policy from here on in would be to launch a challenge to one of the six aforementioned senators, a challenge which the UJ would be forced to accept for consistency’s sake.  I don’t suggest doing this without that particular senator’s consent; it would be unfair to make a senior who’s about to graduate go through the hassle of defending their seat for just one Senate meeting.  However, if one of those senators did agree, it would be a nice way to end their Union careers by helping to change this foolish precedent.

As it is, juniors studying about during their spring semester are prevented from serving in Union government positions for the final two years of their Brandeis career merely because of the 10 or so days they miss, which, because they fall during finals, are very rarely active days for the Union in any case.  I think most people would agree with me that that just isn’t right.

The full text of the complaint and the order denying certiorari are below the fold.

The complaint:

Party against whom the case is being brought: Student Union Elections Commission

Complaint: This is extremely urgent and time sensitive. As I stated in my email, I just received this email from an apologetic Tia literally under 12 hrs before elections.

“I’m really sorry to inform you of this, but I didn’t realize that there was a UJ case (Tansey/Tapper v Herman) that address the issue of students studying abroad, running for Student Union Positions.

Article IX Section 2 of the Constitution states:

To be eligible to run for an elected Union office, a student must be:

1. A currently registered, degree seeking undergraduate student of Brandeis University or student in the Transitional Year Program.

2. Studying on the Waltham campus for the entire period in which s/he will hold office.

In short, the case found that since abroad students will not be on campus at the point of their inauguration (Wednesday), they do not fulfill this requirement and cannot run. I’m really sorry, its a very shitty situation for 2nd semester abroad students, but this is a precedent we need to follow.

If you have a chance, please close your facebook group and do whatever you need to stop your campaign, but since the polls open in 10 hours, its ok if you don’t have the time. As a Commission, we will be discarding any votes you receive in accordance with rule 9e of the election rules.”

Obviously, this is a mockery of the rule, as with this interpretation, I could not be on the UJ because I am not going to be on campus for 10 days. The intent of the rule is to stop someone from being UJ when they are gonna be away for a semester, but in fact this is stopping me from running for UJ for two years in a row. As a branch that recently had a case about enfranchisement, shouldn’t the people who want me to be elected (as will happen as 5 people running for 5 spots) have their voices heard?  I have seen from my freshman year how much participation in the system has changed, and for this to happen right now, as I am trying to be pro active and get involved, for them to say you cant participate for two years is patently ridiculous.

Especially considering the fact that this statue is violated all the time, as even as Tia says “Seniors who are quad senators violate that section too. terms for quad senators run from september to september. currently the quad senators for Village, Ridgewood, Mods, Ziv, Off campus and Charles River are all seniors. One of them being Andrew Brooks.” Therefore, who ever is the Mod senator every year is violating this statue, thereby making it null and void as the election structure that exists at Brandeis contradicts itself inherently. I am asking for an injunction to delay this election until this can be sorted out, as this rule may prevent many people abroad from running for positions. As well, it is necessary to fix this inherent contradiction in the electoral system, and having an election now would be completely unfair to me, to certify everyone else as winners in a race that my votes are just thrown out. Thanks for your time-
Henry Schleifer

The order denying certiorari:

To: Henry Schleifer
Tia Chatterjee, Respondent

Cc: Student Union Government
The Justice
The Hoot

Re: Order Denying Certiorari

Having received a case for review from petitioner Henry Schleifer against the Chief of Elections Tia Chatterjee, the Union Judiciary denies certiorari, and thus will not at this time hear the case.

The complaint alleged a violation of the Constitution had been committed when the Elections Commission informed Mr. Schleifer that any write-in votes for him in the upcoming round of elections would be disregarded since he is currently studying abroad. We believe a prior case, Tansey/Tapper v. Herman (2002), exists as precedent. While not all of the Union Judiciary’s reasons in that case are still valid, we believe the case is still controlling in this instance.

As always, to increase transparency, we have attached the original complaint.

A decision in our previous case, Klionsky v. Student Union, will be forthcoming shortly.

From this point on, please direct all communication the UJ listserv (uj@lists.brandeis.edu).

Thank you,

Rachel Graham Kagan
Chief Justice of the Union Judiciary


7 thoughts on “UJ Declines to Hear Case on Electoral Eligibility”

  1. I’m abroad next semester and as such in violation of this rule. If someone wants to sue me for it, go ahead.

  2. Jenna – Abroad students were chosen for E-Board as appointed E-Boarders. The Constitutional requirement are only for elected positions. For abroad students, the appointment would not start until the student returns. You don’t have that choice with elected students since the start date of their turns is constitutionally mandated.

  3. Avi — The problem with holding senior senators and juniors studying abroad to different standards is that the cited precedent gives reasons that apply equally to both. As things stand now, you would need a UJ case to find some distinction between the two groups, and I don’t think you’d be able to find one in the Constitution.

    Rachel — I think you have a good point, but there’s a reason why all of the aforementioned bodies have quorum rules. Why should we judge study abroad as a reason for absence more than any other reason? Perhaps missing the beginning of a term is a significant factor in determining who should hold office, but why shouldn’t we let the voters judge that on a case by case basis rather have a 2002 UJ decision decide it for them?

    It’s true that this is an unusually short transitional period, but in light of the fact that we’re still preventing spring semester study abroad students from holding Union positions for a full half of their Brandeis careers, I think that’s more of an argument for changing the typical timeline of spring elections.

  4. People from abroad can and do run for E-board. In fact, two abroad students were chosen for E-board this year. So why are E-boarders held to a different standard?

    I hope that during the Constitutional review this fall we can find some way of clearing this up.

  5. It is not usually my practice to comment on cases outside of what the UJ releases, but since this case has already been taken care of, I will say something.

    This is my reasoning, not necessarily that of the whole UJ.

    Usually spring elections are not as late as they have been the past two years. Usually the 2nd round is still supposed to allow the Senate to have a couple of meetings after new senators get elected so they have time to learn the ropes at least a little before the year ends. So, usually a candidate would not just be missing “the 10 or so days… which, because they fall during finals, are very rarely active days for the Union in any case.” If a precedent was set that allowed a candidate to run from abroad, how much of their term would they be allowed to miss? How much would be too much?

    Adam, I think you of all people would be aware of what can happen, especially with the UJ, in those “10 or so days” during finals. Last year we elected a chief justice, granted cert on a case, modified the court procedures that had previously existed, hear a case, met to discuss where we all stood, and wrote a decision. I doubt that this will be what usually happens, but it’s a possibility.

    Henry (or any abroad student) would not be here to attend a candidate’s meeting and sign a candidate’s contract (which everyone is required to do in person, so that would also need to be changed to accommodate abroad students), be sworn in, or serve the first part of his term.

    I’m curious if UJ is the only body you think should allow people abroad to run for. If they want to be senators, they can run for quad senate positions in the fall. If they want to be reps to the board of trustees they are elected their sophomore year. Do you think people abroad should be able to run for EBoard or FBoard. Can they run an election, say, or conduct early marathon from abroad?

    I have opinions on the idea of seniors who are quad senators not serving the part of their term after they graduate, but I won’t share them here.

  6. Adam there is a legitimacy to the Schleifer decision by the current UJ. First off there has already been a decision on the issue and this years UJ has decided not to rehear issues that have already been decided because then they are upsetting the idea of precedent of the court. Second, if Schleifer won and there was a case pending trial at the beginning of a court session (which is likely, due to the fact that a large number of the recent cases in the UJ were about elections). Schleifer would thus be unable to hear the case due to the fact that he would not be on campus. I believe it was an erroneous comparison for Schleifer to compare senators who are seniors to the case mentioned. the UJ is made up of five members where as the senate is made up of 23 senators so the impact is different.Also senators who are seniors would only miss meetings at the beginning of the year which sometimes do not happen until after quad elections. Lastly senators can resign at the end of their term when they graduate (this should become common practice)and thus would not serve there quad once they leave. This same standard cannot be applied to someone who is not there at the beginning of their term.

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