Online campaign comes to life through shared community stories
Last Wednesday, the #BrandeisIsOurHouse campaign hosted a series of speakers and performers in Levin Ballroom sharing their positive experiences within the Brandeis community. Kelsey Segaloff ’15, who began the #BrandeisIsOurHouse social media campaign this winter break, organized the event.
Once the semester began, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes reached out to Segaloff about hosting an actual event on campus. After a few short weeks of planning, the event kicked off in Levin Ballroom with several pre-arranged speakers—such as Johnny Bywater ’15, Rohan Narayanan ’15 and Dean of Students Jamele Adams—as well as free t-shirts and a buffet of pizza and desserts. The event also provided a forum for attendees to share their stories if they wished to. A number of students took advantage of this opportunity, including Jacob Altholz ’15.
Segaloff created the campaign to combat negative depictions of the University on social media with positive images and stories of the Brandeis community. In an interview with the Justice, Segaloff said that after Daniel Mael ’15 published a series of controversial tweets by Khadijah Lynch ’16 on the conservative news website TruthRevolt, she wasn’t able to go on Facebook or other social media platforms without seeing negativity being directed at the Brandeis community, often from those who weren’t affiliated with the University. “I found myself being so enraged every time I logged on to Facebook,” Segaloff wrote in an email to the Justice, and “[after talking] to a lot of people … a lot of us felt the same way.”
In response, Segaloff launched the #BrandeisIsOurHouse movement on Dec. 29th, which had over 700 participants either attend the Facebook event or share their Brandeis stories using the hashtag within 48 hours. Once the campus event moved into the planning stages, Segaloff said the idea was met with “tremendous support from students at Brandeis,” such as those who had participated in the social media campaign over the winter break.
Johnny Bywater ’15 presented a story on how he wasn’t a “stereotypical Brandeis student,” as an “international, non-Jewish junior transfer student over six feet tall—basically as un-Brandeis as it gets.” However, Bywater “fell in love” with the uniqueness of the student body. “Brandeis students are different; they’re weird and unique … and that’s why Brandeis is my house,” Bywater said.
Rohan Narayanan ’15 also shared his story in the form of a slam poem. In the piece, he praised Brandeis for allowing him to find his passions and give him “some of the best friends [he’ll] ever have.” He also commented on the presence of racism and bigotry on campus. After a rapid-fire volley of lines, Narayanan told the audience that “when Brandeis or the world asks you a question, you best be ready to answer.”
Community members in attendance also shared their positive personal experiences at Brandeis. Jacob Altholz ’15 recounted the support he received from the community after being injured in a car accident—and being forced to undergo intensive facial reconstruction surgery—while studying abroad in Australia in March of 2014. Once word of the accident reached the campus, the Brandeis community raised over $10,000 to help his parents fly to Australia to be with him and to cover his medical costs. Altholz also received letters of support, Facebook messages and emails from students and staff, which he said were “an immense source of support and just incredible.”
“The people; that’s the reason I fell in love with Brandeis,” Altholz told the audience.
In addition to students who spoke, Dean of Students Jamele Adams shared a story. Adams recalled when he lived in Ziv Quad approximately 10 years ago and was forced to leave the building—along with his wife, young son and baby daughter—around 5 a.m. one morning when a student pulled the fire alarm.According to Adams, almost every student in the building apologized to him following the incident—even the ones who had no idea the alarm was going to be pulled. According to Adams, this was his first “Brandeis is our house” moment.
Segaloff further told the Justice that while there are no immediate plans for a follow-up event, some students have expressed interest in making the event into an annual tradition.