Voting today…

In such a small campus, every vote really does count. We here at strongly suggest voting Mike Kerns for Vice-President. A strong advocate of endowment transparency here at Brandeis University, Mike is the chair of the Social Justice committee on the Student Union, the guy bringing us bikes for cheap rental next semester, gender-neutral housing, and other goodies. Mike is a genuinely good guy, a former Democracy for America organizer, and a big proponent of Social Justice.

Mike’s opponent, Jordan Rothman, is also a genuinely nice guy. Jordan is also a strong proponent of transparency at the Brandeis student union. However, Mike has a clear history of active, positive, progressive change both Brandeis and New York City.

I, Sahar Massachi, am also running for office; if you elect me to F-Board, I will press for a campus more in line with our Social Justice roots and also a more transparent endowment process:

If you voted for me, that would be excellent.

The Presidential Race:

I’m still personally torn. Both Jason Gray and Justin Kang have the potential to become great Student Union Presidents. Therefore I’m going to decline to endorse either / I endorse both.

Both have been demonstrably great leaders.

Jason Gray has done a lot of behind-the-scenes advocacy and rendered significant assistance to several activist groups on campus. After his assistance, my sense of personal loyalty makes me want to vote for Jason. Furthermore, his oft-repeated phrase “It’s time for Student Union to stop being ‘pretend government club’ resonates with many, and his list of policy proposals is excellent, containing planks such as “More endowment transparency and responsible investing”, “Environmental sustainability as a campus priority to create a culture of conservation”. Personally, I am impressed with Jason’s commitment to a Students’ Bill of Rights. As a member of SODA (Students Opposing the Decision to Arm. the working group created by the Democracy for America and Students for a Democratic Society), It’s heartening that Jason is still nurturing an idea born in the crucible of SODA’s frustration with the administration’s autocratic style, long after SODA has disbanded.

Justin, on the other hand, is not an ally of activists but an activist himself. Just this year, he “organized WiLD: Eco-Fashion Show, VOCAL 2008 which raised nearly all the operations budget for Prospect Hill Terrace partnership and Students Crossing Boundaries trip to Israel and the West Bank.” Additionally, he is the former Treasurer of SEA. Not only that, but he plans on creating a non-profit upon graduation. Justin’s biography and drive is impressive – working outside the Student Union system, he created some pretty wondrous things. Now he’s trying to take that energy and put it to good use inside that system. I know others were impressed with his experience with, and knowledge of, Student Union Finances. Personally, I find this idea of his the most exciting – Justin will “Plant trees as they will enhance the environmental quality of the campus but also make the campus more beautiful.” Yes please!

On first look, the choices seem to be between two charismatic candidates committed to Social Justice. One has been a reliable ally of activists and progressive groups in the past, such as SODA, DFA, and InVest. The other is an activist himself, and has not only worked within activist groups such as SEA, but created some (Students Crossing Boundaries, VOCAL2008) himself.

Looking at their Social Justice Proposals, there are changes in focus – Justin seems to emphasize environmentalism and conservation a bit more, Jason on student rights and student-union related wonkery.

Here’s something important: Thanks to tireless – and impressive – efforts of the InVEST coalition, led by our very own Loki, both candidates prominently feature endowment transparency and sustainability on their platforms. Kudos.

In the end, we have two very impressive men running for Student Union President. After paying close attention to both candidates, I can honestly say that I’m more undecided than before.

Though, to be frank, I thought I would be voting for Justin Kang when I started writing this piece, I have decided to vote for Jason Gray, for two reasons.

1. Jason has at least a rhetorical commitment to F-Board transparency on his website. Justin does not. Since I am running for F-Board, in part, to improve the transparency of the process, especially around recusals, Jason Gray seems to be more committed to helping us reach that goal.

2. As a progressive political activist and patriotic citizen, I really like not only Jason’s proposal to register the entire Brandeis campus to vote, but his pledge to work to make Gosman a polling station again. Easy access to voting stations is key. I had the misfortune of dealing with overfull BranVans, dreary weather, and long lines during the February 5th primary, and it irks me that voting could be so much more convenient for such little effort.

3. Lastly, I approve of Jason’s campaign’s use of an open platform meeting to incorporate supporters’ (and detractors’) ideas. An open campaign suggests an open government.

Still, Justin Kang is a very impressive individual, and I dearly wish he finds himself in a position of power next semester – we need more people like him around. I bet that in any other election, I would have voted for him, and it reflects well on Brandeis that we had such a strong and socially-aware group of candidates running for E-Board office this year. It reflects well on the activist community that our concerns, such as a sustainable and transparent endowment, are prominently listed by both candidates.


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