It is 2020, which means elections, Olympics and last, but not least, that Brandeis University is now back in session! Hearing student tales of a less than optimal start to the semester, the Justice opted to highlight some of the issues that plague students. Some problems students face — faulty WiFi, for instance — may be unavoidable, while others could easily be mitigated by improved communication between students, faculty and administration.  

  1. Wi-Fi

Eduroam, the service which provides Wi-Fi to campus, stopped working for several hours last Monday, Jan. 20. The firewall problems, which cut off internet access, also affected LATTE, so students accessing the Internet through other means still could not access that crucial website. This board commends the University for emailing the entire campus to notify us about the Internet outage. However, students worry that the full impact of the outage was not conveyed properly to professors. Without Internet or LATTE access on a day many students had set aside to finish assignments, many students were behind for the week, or at least for Tuesday. This board suggests that, in the future, professors should be mandated to offer extensions on assignments due the day after such a lengthy Internet outage. Failing that, professors should at least be encouraged to think about the impact of the outage on students, and to respond empathetically to legitimate requests for extensions. No one wants to begin the semester on a negative note.

  1. Reduced Status

Students in their final semester who have completed a major and all core requirements have the opportunity to attend school on a reduced status. Reduced status students can take as few as one course, and pay per class instead of semesterly tuition. The reduced status option is designed for seniors who are writing a thesis or taking an internship class, or who could graduate after their seventh semester but could be enticed to stay by cheaper costs. However, because of the complexity of financial aid, reduced status is not the most cost-effective option for all students. Each new course adds several thousands of dollars to the bill, so adding an additional one class can drastically change the economic impact of reduced status. Because students are required to declare reduced status during the October of their seventh semester, as opposed to during course selection, they face a major financial decision months later, during shopping period, as they finalize what their semester will look like. Reduced status students are required to finalize their status within the semester’s first week, meaning that they have a much shorter window during which to choose classes and figure out how many credits they want to take. This board calls on the University to amend that process to allow reduced status students the time and trials needed to make the best decision.  

  1. Gym classes

The new Brandeis Core, unveiled in the fall of 2019, separated physical education courses at Brandeis into half-semester Health, Wellness and Life Skills modules, as stated in a Sept. 24 article in the Justice.  These courses tend to be offered during popular class times — Wednesday mornings and Monday afternoons, for instance — preventing students from taking both a desired HWL and classes they may need for academic fulfillment. Moreover, the module system is inconvenient for students who work jobs, as their schedules switch halfway through the semester, leading to convoluted work schedules and confused employers. This board asks that the University reverse the module system and begin offering full-semester HWL classes, as it had done in past years. Failing that, the University could consider offering these courses at unpopular class times, or at night alongside the Brandeis Athletics sponsored exercise classes. Either solution would allow students a better range of options and be more considerate of busy students’ lives. In addition to long-term changes, this board proposes a quick fix to the off-putting requirement: offering the fitness test to juniors and seniors. This one-time test allows students to earn HWL credits conveniently, but it is only available until the end of sophomore year and is not included as an option in the HWL listing in the University Bulletin.  Offering the fitness test regularly to all students would demonstrate concern for student needs and create fewer headaches for all parties. 

  1. Shopping Period and Textbooks

Brandeis University offers a two-week period at the beginning of the semester during which students can try out different classes without committing administratively or financially to taking the course. Most students begin the semester with a schedule fairly set, but still often use the shopping period to finalize their choices or experiment with an empty slot. Students are responsible for all work they miss by adding a class late during this period, which is reasonable. Realistically, professors cannot abstain from assigning work for the first two weeks of class. However, problems arise when the work professors assign during shopping period necessitate purchased resources, such as textbooks or online access codes. Students who are unsure if they are keeping a class, or, even, whose materials have not arrived yet, are prevented from completing assignments. This board recognizes that the University Bookstore allows all books purchased to be returned within the shopping period for a full refund. However, some students do not have the financial resources to pay money for many extra textbooks at once, or decide to attend a class only the night before. This board asks for it to be University policy that all materials necessary for the first two weeks of classes are available online for free. Additionally, all physical books needed for class should be held on reserve at the library as well. Professors should be mindful of the ways students use campus resources. For example, placing a book on hold at the library may seem trivial to them — but it can be life changing for their students.

  1. Printing

Many professors require students to print readings to bring to class. Often, these readings are not actually discussed during the given class, or are given only a cursory acknowledgement. Even when they are fully utilized, students are inconvenienced by spending their own money on printing materials they will potentially use once. Printing costs money, and though a small cost like 30 cents may sound trivial, 30 cents of printing twice a week for four classes quickly adds up. Additionally, some classes require students to purchase online texts and then to also shell out the cost of printing them — an additional financial burden that professors should be cognizant of and strive to avoid. This board asks professors to be mindful of students’ financial restrictions. Yes, using electronics in class can be distracting. But they’re also a useful tool and can make Brandeis more equitable.