By Molly Meisels, Editor in Chief
On Tuesday, September 24th at 9 a.m., the newly formed Beren Constitutional Council will be conducting its first trial in 215 Lexington Avenue’s Gottesman Boardroom.
Chief Justice Shana Adler sent a sstud to the Beren student body regarding the historic suit. The case, Pollak vs SCWSC, has been brought by the lead plaintiff, Neima Pollak. Pollak attempted to have her proposed club — the Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention Club — approved by the Stern College for Women Student Council after the SCWSC club application deadline had passed. She was denied by Elka Wiesenberg, the SCWSC Vice President of Clubs and former-interim SCWSC President. According to Chief Justice Adler, the “alleged constitutional violation can be found in Article VII Section I.B of the Beren Constitution.” The constitutional clause states: “Applications for new club status shall be made during an agreed upon two week period within the first three weeks of each academic semester[…]” Pollak and the other plaintiffs — Ahuva Fried of the Psychology Club and Yael Marcus and Meira Gurell of the Education Club — are disputing SCWSC’s decisions regarding the club application process based on Section I.B.
Pollak says that the club application was open for 8 days, rather than 14 at the beginning of the semester, which she claims contests Section I.B. Pollak tells the YU Observer why she’s decided to take her case to the Constitutional Council: “ Unfortunately, sexual abuse does not discriminate and affects every segment of the Jewish community […] I believe it is incredibly important to have a club on campus for sexual abuse awareness and prevention because it sends the message to students that they are not alone and there is support available…”
According to the defendant, SCWSC, represented by Aleeza Katz, newly elected SCWSC President, and Wiesenberg, Pollak reached out after the club application was closed to request that it be reopened. After Wiesenberg declined her request due to protocol, Pollak reached out to the Office of Student Life, which stated that this issue was one she had to take up with SCWSC. It was only then that Pollak decided to bring the case to the Constitutional Council.
Katz and Wiesenberg express confidence in their defense: “We spend a lot of time working hard to represent the student body— it’s our job— but they have to work with us. It’s unfortunate that there’s a clash and we have to go to the Constitutional Council to resolve this issue, but [we] firmly believe in [our] council’s having made the right decisions by keeping to deadlines, and we stand by them,” they tell the Observer.
Since this is the Council’s first trial and according to Adler, “there is no official procedure established in the Beren Constitution,” the justices have decided upon their own rules. They’ve outlined a trial order with time limits. The plaintiff and defendant will each be allowed a 4-minute opening, followed by a series of evidence, witnesses, and rebuttals, meant to last no longer than 44 minutes total. Closings will be permissible, at 5 minutes per side. Only then will the Council deliberate and make their decision. The Council is comprised of Chief Justice Adler and four other justices — Noa Eliach, Eliana Lindenberg, Atara Kelman, and Yael Evgi. Chief Justice Adler tells the Observer that she is looking forward to the trial and is “confident that both sides will present their arguments well.”
This trial is historic for the Beren Campus. While the Wilf Campus has had a Constitutional Council for some time, Beren’s all-female Constitutional Council was officially established with the signing of Beren’s new constitution in May 2019. The justices look forward to establishing student-led authoritative precedence on the Beren Campus. “It’s exciting to be part of a new institution that has the power to affect real change on campus,” says Justice Noa Eliach. Justice Eliana Lindenberg, one of the individuals who constructed the Beren Constitution last academic year, is ecstatic to see her work come to fruition. She says, “It’s […] rewarding to see all the effort we put into the new Constitution last year become a reality! This council is something I especially care about…I’m so excited to be part of it and to finally see our first case.”
Update: The justices ruled in favor of SCWSC
Photo: Bird’s Eye view of 215 Lexington Avenue lobby