Students demand to be more involved
Many students are demanding more transparency and more student involvement in decisions regarding the University's budget cuts and financial situation, especially after the University's recent proposals to create meta-majors, increase the student body by 12 percent, decrease the faculty by 10 percent and institute a required summer semester.Students were not allowed into last Thursday's emergency faculty meeting held to discuss this academic proposal. Unlike most Faculty Senate meetings, this emergency meeting was closed to students and campus media, a decision implemented by the senior administration and the Faculty Senate so that faculty members would feel comfortable expressing their opinions, according to Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe.
Sahar Massachi '11, Alex Melman '11 and Daniel Cairns (GRAD), who write for the blog Innermost Parts and members of the Justice and The Hoot were turned away at the door.
Since the faculty meeting, students have continued to call for more student involvement. Last Friday, students concerned about the budget cuts met in the Castle to discuss how to become more involved. "The pillars of Brandeis are social justice, academic excellence, Jewish sponsorship and nonsectarianism," Massachi said. He added that the students agreed to "focus on ways to promote and preserve and extend the University's commitment to academic excellence."
At the meeting, the students created committees to increase student activism by focusing on projects such as letter-writing and dormstorming. Massachi said he would focus on faculty relations.
Several students attended Sunday's Senate meeting, where they and Student Union senators asked Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer and Associate Dean of Student Life Maggie Balch questions about the University's current financial situation. Many students plan to attend this Thursday's Faculty Senate meeting, which will be open to students.
"We stand in solidarity with faculty; we have the same interests at heart. . We're not against anyone, we're just for the University . We feel hurt that we aren't being trusted or haven't been involved . as much as we feel we could contribute," Massachi said.
"Honestly, I can't tell you what to cut because the University hasn't given me their budget," Massachi said. He asked Sawyer for a detailed description of the University's budget at Sunday's Senate meeting, but Sawyer referred Massachi to other members of the senior administration, such as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter French, for this information.
Massachi initially suggested that the University should cut the entire athletics program, not including club sports, before cutting one faculty member. "Right now we pay a lot of money for official University sports, but . they're not essential to the character of Brandeis," he said. Massachi later wrote in an e-mail to the Justice, "I've changed my mind and no longer hold the same views [regarding] Athletics as I once did." He clarified that this does not reflect the position of the Brandeis Budget Cuts Committee, which was created last semester to encourage student involvement in conversations about University budget cuts.
When Massachi, Melman and Cairns went to last Thursday's faculty meeting, Assistant Provost for Graduate Student Affairs Alwina Bennett met them at the door. Melman demanded they be allowed into the faculty meeting, Massachi explained. Bennett said that it was a closed-door meeting, but Melman literally put his foot in the door.
"[Bennett] said to [Melman], 'Do I need to call somebody?' and [Melman] responded, 'I suppose you do,'" Cairns explained. Within minutes, two Brandeis police officers were inside the building, along with Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan. "[The police] said they would charge us with trespassing if we went into the faculty meeting," Cairns explained.
Massachi and Melman made phone calls to their friends to organize some form of protest while they waited for the police to arrive. Eventually, a crowd of about 30 protesters gathered outside Olin-Sang Auditorium. The students decorated the building's corridor with flyers that read, "Sunlight is the best of disinfectants," a Louis Brandeis quote that, according to Melman, demonstrated the importance of student involvement and the danger of transparency. The other flyers read, "Students need to be a part of the discussion," and "Transparency! Transparency! Transparency! NOW!!!!!!" The students were standing outside the auditorium when the faculty members exited the meeting. Many protestors had the flyers taped to their shirts.
The students invited each faculty member to what they called a "student-faculty summit," a meeting that took place after the emergency faculty meeting to discuss the issues that had been addressed. Prof. Jacob Cohen (AMST) and Prof. Sabrine von Merling (GRALL) attended the meeting.
"I understand why the students want to be involved, and I think that they should be," Jaffe wrote in an e-mail to the Justice. However, Jaffe believes that the "Faculty meeting is not . the appropriate forum for student-faculty discussion." He wrote, "Although certain student representatives typically attend faculty meetings, these meetings have never been a forum for faculty-student dialogues-they are meetings of the faculty."
-Hannah Kirsch, Miranda Neubauer and Mike Prada contributed reporting.