University named sixth in social justice activism
On Aug. 24, Her Campus ranked Brandeis University students 6th in the nation for “Social Justice Activists.” Her Campus serves as an online magazine aimed at women on college campuses across the country. More than 280 colleges and universities engage with the magazine with over 6,400 student representatives.
This year, Her Campus had eight different lists, including rankings for the most students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields; the most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer friendly schools; the most pet-friendly schools and the preppiest schools.
This was the first time Brandeis University appeared on a Her Campus ranking since the magazine’s founding in 2009.
In the email announcing the rankings, Her Campus Co-founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Kaplan Lewis wrote, “The college experience is about so much more than just academics, and these rankings take a critical, multi-faceted look at our nation’s colleges and all they have to have offer in and outside the classroom, while having a little bit of fun, too.”
The students’ involvement in activism and social justice is also evident in the classroom, according to Prof. Melissa Stimell (SJSP), the chair of the program in Social Justice and Social Policy. Stimell wrote in an email to the Justice that the SJSP program “brings together an unusually broad spectrum of faculty, supporting coursework in social justice, social research, social service, and social policy.”
“The University encourages students to get involved and stay involved by both linking the academic program to real world problems and giving financial support to students in the form of World of Work scholarships,” she added. “This institutional support is vital to student involvement, Brandeis’ core mission, and its national recognition.”
Throughout the year, students discuss current social justice topics, including sexual assault policy and fair working conditions. In February, students participate in a weeklong celebration of social justice—called DEIS Impact—which includes workshops, forums, and speaker-based events.
Of the 200 clubs at Brandeis, 24 are listed under the “political and activism” tab on the University’s “Student Clubs and Organizations” page. This list includes clubs such as Students for Environmental Action, Brandeis Climate Justice and Women, Inc.
SEA is the largest environmental group at Brandeis, engaging with the community and informing it on environmental and sustainability issues. Each semester, SEA works on projects to improve the University’s environmental impact, including planting trees and promoting reusable bags and electronic recycling.
In an email to the Justice, Vice President of SEA Jay Feinstein ’17 said he invests his time in environmental issues because he believes it is an “important” cause. “It’s great for people to think about sustainability because that’s the future,” he said. “It’s important to take care of the Earth because it’s our home—we only have one!”
Saren McAllister ’18, a board member of BCJ, said in an email to the Justice that BCJ’s main goal “has always been to encourage and pressure Brandeis University to divest (remove its investments) from fossil fuel stocks because fossil fuels are the leading cause of climate change and the companies that extract them are immoral and unjust.”
According to McAllister, BCJ’s focus on divestment has been supported by the group members’ commitment and determination to make a difference. McAllister also noted that recent policy changes within the University—including the Brandeis Exploratory Committee on Fossil Fuel Divestment’s report last semester analyzing the cost and benefits of divestment—will influence the club’s initiatives. “This report strongly encouraged the board of trustees to consider divestment, so this semester we will contact the [Board of Trustees] and further encourage them to divest or at least come to a decision on the issue,” she wrote.
WINC is a leadership initiative for Brandeis women to support and inspire each other while pursuing careers, also advocating in part for gender equality in the workplace. Similarly to Her Campus, WINC unites women together to support each other during and after college.
Vice President Lauren Nadeau ’17 wrote in an email to the Justice, “there are a lot of women in our community who want to have professional careers after Brandeis, but could use a ‘leg-up’ [on] the competition. I am one of those women and I am striving to create opportunities for others that I would want to have myself.”
“Social justice isn’t just this idea that we talk about it,” said Feinstein. “It is something that Brandeis students put into action every day; [we] make that one word come to life.”