By: Chana Weinberg  | 

Beren Constitutional Council Rules in Favor of the Defense in First Ever Trial

The Beren Constitutional Council — the campus’ student court — held its first trial under the recently enacted Beren Constitution on Sept. 24. The case, Pollak v. SCWSC, was decided in favor of the defendant, SCWSC, by a 3-2 margin. 

“Pollak vs. SCWSC was heard [Tuesday] morning by the Constitutional Council,” read the official statement released by the Council. “The case was brought against SCWSC by the head of the proposed Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Club, with the Education Club and Psychology Clubs signing on as well. Rachel Rosenberg represented the plaintiffs and Elka Weisenberg represented the defense. After much deliberation, the Council ruled in favor of the defense (3-2 vote), feeling that not enough evidence had been presented to prove that SCWSC violated the Beren Constitution. Both the majority opinion and the dissenting opinion will be circulated in the coming days.” 

“It was exciting to preside over the Constitutional Council's first hearing,” said Chief Justice Shana Adler (SCW ‘20). “I think I speak for all the justices when I say that we were impressed with the diligence of all parties involved and hope this case sets somewhat of a precedent for how trials will be carried out in the future.”

“SCWSC maintained that they could not reopen the form for my club application,” Pollak said, explaining her reasoning for bringing the case. A friend suggested to Pollak that she look in the constitution for a solution. “We found that new club applications are ‘to be made during an agreed-upon two week period,’ however this semester’s club application was only open for eight days,” Pollack explained.

The plaintiff’s case was represented by Rachel Rosenberg (SCW ‘20), as Pollak was unable to attend the trial.

“Article VII, Section 1B states that applications for new club status shall be made during an agreed upon two week period within the first three weeks of each academic semester,” argued Elka Wiesenberg, SCWSC Vice President of Clubs, in her opening remarks. “The word ‘during’ clearly implies that the time frame cannot be longer than two weeks, but mandates no minimum amount of time.”

“It is disappointing to hear that the Constitutional Committee could not rule in favor of the students,” said Reena Wasserstein (SCW ‘20). But Wasserstein felt “reassur[ed] that there is a system in place that is unbiased and can, to the best of their ability, evaluate and process these types of issues.” 

“The constitution was meant to be a lasting and legally binding document that could guarantee student rights and foster student empowerment,” said Shoshana Marder (SCW ‘19), former SCWSC president and creator of the Special Committee on Redrafting the Student Constitution, the body which updated the constitution to its current state.  “I'm glad the constitution and its systems are putting power in the hands of students, and I hope it continues to do so.”

Ratified by a majority in those who voted on May 28, 2019, the Beren Constitution nullified the three constitutions already in place for each of the Beren student governments — SCWSC, Torah Activities Council (TAC) and the Syms Student Council (SYMSSC) — and created the Student Government Association (SGA), which combines all the student councils under one constitution. 

The Constitutional Council consists of five justices and one alternate justice, with a chief justice counted in the five. The justices were selected by peer and personal nominations, followed by a majority vote by the Beren student council presidents and the chief justice. Commentator Archives indicate that a Wilf Campus Student Court, whose current system is similar to the new Beren Constitutional Council, existed as early as 1935. In recent years it has presided over cases such as Rubinstein v. Canvassing Committee and YSU v. Canvassing Committee.

Photo Caption: Stern College for Women
Photo Credit: Shira Levitt