By Gabriela Flores
As the University Student Senate’s (USS) newly-elected officers assume their roles on Monday, Oct. 25, Brooklyn College’s USG Co-President Aharon Grama continues to run for the unfilled chairperson position after slightly leading three rounds of voting. If elected, Grama intends to institute structural changes in how USS organizes and functions, incentivize student leaders to attend committee meetings, modify bylaws, among other plans.
“I think it [USS] could be better and that’s why I decided, ‘Hey, someone needs to go inside over there, shake some things up, and make sure that the body will actually operate like it’s supposed to do and meant to do. And not what has been going the past few years,” Grama, who served as the body’s Vice Chair of Technology Fee Affairs this past year, told The Vanguard.
Grama had no intention of putting his name on the chair ticket prior to running, but he chose to nominate himself during USS’s nomination hearings for positions in its Steering Committee, the highest body within the organization. Grama, who hoped to back Graduate Student Organization President Louis Di Meglio for USS Chair before his nomination fell through, had faced challenges within USS in the past. Last March, he reported to The Vanguard that he was barred from accessing USS’s social media accounts, website, and Google Apps, despite his technological duties.
Though these limitations continue, Grama intends to address the structures enabling leaders to revoke permissions and act against the body’s laws. With USS’s Rules and Ethics Committee, specifically, he plans to change how members are appointed by the chair. The committee, which oversees, investigates, and implements disciplinary action or impeachment against members reported for misconduct, also includes the chairperson per USS’s current bylaws.
“Which sounds great, but if you appoint your own people to the Rules And Ethics Committee, then what’s the point of having them,” Grama questioned, noting that the regulation causes an absence of checks and balances since a chairperson can hypothetically lead their own misconduct investigation.
The USS chairperson position is also “the one that hires and fires,” according to Grama, which he argues could also affect how those responsible for exercising checks and balances in USS.
Grama also plans on including Delegates, or student representatives sent by all CUNY colleges, in more USS conversations and financially incentivize them to attend their prospective committee meetings. “Nobody cares, nobody is coming, and I want to change that,” Grama said, explaining that currently most committee meetings are canceled since not enough Delegates appear. Under his committee centered around technology affairs, only one of three representatives usually attended. “If we address that, then finally we’ll have a body that can do stuff,” he said.
Grama also aims to have USS leaders, despite their title, be considered representatives of the body holistically by administrators when presenting their suggestions or concerns of student issues. After his various attempts to reach the CUNY Vice-Chancellor for Technology about the ongoing phishing emails sent university-wide, for instance, Grama’s suggestions and calls to address the cyberattacks were ignored because they were seen as his own opinion rather than that of USS.
“We have students who send their money to these scammers, and we have nothing to not only help them with resources, but we have nothing to stop it,” Grama said.
As the USS Steering Committee decides when the election for chairperson will continue, the position will be temporarily held by the newly-elected Vice Chair for Legislative Affairs, Cory Provost. Grama is currently in the lead by five votes against candidate Salimatou Doumbouya.
“I was really happy with the results even if I was in the lead by a little bit because I knew it would be a challenge, and I knew that people might disagree with what I’m saying,” he said. “[…]Sometimes, someone needs to step up. Criticize whatever is wrong with the college, whatever is wrong with the body.”