EDITORIAL: Communicate student life policy shifts
EDITOR'S NOTE: An abridged version of this editorial was published in our print edition, due to space constraints. The full editorial is published here.
In the past week, the University administration has made clear with its actions involving Cholmondeley’s Coffeehouse and the Women’s Resource Center that it is critically out of touch with the student body.
Firstly, it temporarily shut down the daily service of popular on-campus gathering spot Chum’s in a “restructuring” that Executive Director for Integrated Media Bill Schaller said has been in the works for 12 months, but which Chum’s employees say came after an incident when the coffeehouse was not evacuated after a fire alarm. All 13 Chum’s employees have been unfairly held accountable for the failings of the two employees working at the time of the incident.
Despite administrative assertions that payment has not been suspended to any employee, Chum’s staff report that administrators have constantly changed the terminology regarding their employment status, and none have been permitted to work since the March 2 incident. At best, communication between all parties has been severely lacking.
Hundreds of students and alumni have vocally defended Chum’s and called for daily service to be reopened while also saying that the penalization of all of its student workers was unfair. One alumnus, Zach Reff ’05, said on social media, “If Chums is shuttered, so are my donations.”
While this board recognizes that Chum’s has been problematic in its food service, hiring practices and overall management, Student Activities has handled the start of this restructuring in a draconian way. For a long time, there has been a confusing balance between responsibility and accountability amongst Student Activities and the students who run Chum’s. Though Student Activities technically oversees Chum’s, in an interview with the Justice, Chum’s staff said their actual coordination with Student Activities amounted to little more than weekly conversations with Student Activities staff. Chum’s staff received no training or orientation materials from their bosses, instead relying on institutional memory to acquaint students with their duties running a business.
While this board is glad that the issues are ultimately being addressed, the University has displayed a problematic lack of communication, both while Chum’s was still open and currently in its contradictory communications with employees. As of press time, no official communication has been transmitted to the student body about Chum’s. Instead, students have learned about the University’s decisions through canned responses from Schaller to the Justice and on social media interactions between Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel and students.
Secondly, the University decided to replace the Women’s Resource Center, the space in which the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Students Talking About Relationships meets, with a Dharmic prayer center, and move the two clubs to the room in the Shapiro Campus Center currently housing Student Sexuality Information Services.
On Friday, the administration reversed that decision, yet the only campuswide communication on the subject remains a defensive three paragraphs in Stephanie Grimes’ weekly activity update email on Thursday.
This incident too shows how out of touch the administration is with students. While this board agrees that a Dharmic Prayer Center is an essential resource to provide to students, we also agree with FMLA’s assessment that moving the WRC was a poor decision. The WRC’s purpose of providing a safe space for women and furthering advocacy on important issues conflicts with SSIS’s apolitical goal of promoting safe and healthy sexual activity; assuming the two are compatible without assessing the actual compatibility of the two clubs is problematic.
Part of the responsibilities of the Department of Student Activities and the Department of Student Life should be to be in touch with what students think about the resources provided to them by Brandeis. Such insight was clearly lacking in this case. This board is discouraged that the administration seems to place such low priority on the desires and concerns of students and carries out its Student Life directives so carelessly. It would pay significant dividends to start doing things right the first time instead of constantly having to find new ways to apologize, reverse decisions and placate angry students and alums.