Brandeis students help their communities in quarantine: ‘Beyond the Pandemic’
The Justice spoke to Sophie Phillips ’23 about how she co-founded ‘Beyond the Pandemic,’ a blog that gives students the opportunity to write about their experiences during COVID-19.
No longer able to discuss issues face to face because of the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals all over the world have turned to Facebook, Zoom, FaceTime and Instagram for social support and interaction. Sophie Phillips ’23 joined a Facebook group for college students affected by the pandemic soon after Brandeis announced its campus closure. Phillips realized that the group was not just about sharing funny memes; it also served as a platform for people to share their experiences, thoughts and opinions about the pandemic and other current issues. Inspired by the diversity and passion of the students in the group, Phillips began to wonder what it would be like if everyone could turn to “one place where they could share their ideas … and write about whatever was on their mind.” After discussing the idea with other members of the group, she co-designed and launched “Beyond the Pandemic,” a blog where college students across the country could submit pieces about what was going on in their lives now that they were back home.
In a May 29 Zoom interview with the Justice, Phillips explained that while college students are the target of the initiative, all individuals are welcome to submit their pieces. After going through the “approval and denial process,” in which editors review the piece and determine whether it could be published within a week, writers receive suggestions and edits on their work. The submission is then edited by a primary and secondary editor, and the writer is given a publication date. Articles that are denied are “sent back to the authors with some general comments about how they can revise it,” Phillips stated. Once such revisions are made, writers can always re-submit their work.
Those who wish to write regularly can fill out a survey and apply for a staff writer position. As of press time, there are a total 11 staff writers who submit pieces several times each month. While maintaining a constant stream of content is important, the team ultimately “wants this to be something that enriches our lives … and is not necessarily something you dread doing,” Phillips said.
Apart from working alongside the leadership team on the blog, Phillips is currently organizing “ZoomFest” with Rebecca Goldfarb ’21. Set to stream July 25 on the “Beyond the Pandemic” Facebook page, the event aims to provide musicians with an opportunity to perform live in front of an audience, since “their livelihood sort of depends on how successful their music is and a lot of that comes from performing,” Phillips explained. Hosting a festival online will also benefit those who were planning on attending events that were canceled because of COVID-19. As Phillips said, “Performing is just fun and it’s a way to engage people and bring people together at a time when so many of us feel so isolated.”
Several musicians have signed up to perform, and a link to a preliminary playlist has been posted on the blog’s Facebook page. The event will take place over the span of three days, which will allow people to participate at whatever time is convenient for them.
In response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the “Beyond the Pandemic” blog is taking action to bring awareness to systemic racism and police brutality. In a June 14 email to the Justice, Phillips explained that the team is taking a break from normal content, and is “only posting about race and racial injustice.” They are also “limiting how much we post until about a week to two weeks from now so that we can give more space for others to take up,” she added. After June 17, the team will resume other content while still highlighting issues of race and injustice. Phillips and the rest of the “Beyond the Pandemic” team believe that donating to organizations such as the NAACP and Black Lives Matter remains the best way to help the cause because “even though we can also influence by writing and sharing things, we feel like a ton of people are already doing that, and our money is something that is super helpful to others.”
Those who wish to submit a piece to “Beyond the Pandemic” or have any questions regarding their work can reach out to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Noah Zeitlin contributed to reporting.