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Communist to take office as UMass student president

AMHERST, Mass. -- An avowed communist, who claims he has been prevented from taking office as University of Massachusetts student president because of his beliefs, will begin his term when the new semester begins, his lawyer said Thursday.

Jason Rabinowitz, 21, a member of the Young Communist League, and Shari Silkoff, 21, who is not a communist, were elected co-presidents in a student body election last month but have been kept out of office in the nine months since the vote.

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Immediately after the election, the Student Supreme Court declared it would be unconstitutional for more than one person to serve as president of the UMass Student Government Association.

But Rabinowitz, of New York City, and Silkoff, of New Haven, Conn., contended they were kept from their positions 'because of our political beliefs.'

The pair maintained the student judiciary was influenced by a conservative student element that violently opposed the election of a communist.

The Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed suit on behalf of the pair in Hampshire Superior Court in Northampton, asking that Rabinowitz and Silkoff be instated and seeking unspecified monetary damages.

But Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Porada Wednesday denied a request for a preliminary injunction after lawyers said an agreement reached earlier this month with the Student Supreme Court would permit Rabinowitz and Silkoff to take office.

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'The request for injunctive relief has now been rendered moot to a large extent,' Porada said in a five-page decision.

'The decision who should be the officers of the Student Government Association at the University of Massachusetts is a matter best left to the decision of the students, student senate and university judiciary without the intervention by the courts,' Porada said.

The suit alleged former UMass Student Attorney General William Collins and justices of the Student Supreme Court violated the rights of free speech and association by keeping the co-presidents elect out of office because of their political beliefs. The university's board of trustees was named as a co-defendant of the suit.

Edward Etheredge, an attorney representing Rabinowitz, called the agreement 'a good decision' and said nothing remained to prevent Rabinowitz from taking office when classes resume following winter break.

'They are presidents now because of the decisions of the judiciary. Nothing stands in their way,' Etheredge said.

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