A message from the Justice editorial board
In light of the recent tragic shuttle accident on Saturday night, the Justice editorial board would like to offer our deepest condolences to the students, friends, families, and others who have been impacted by this event. We especially want to express our sadness and condolences to the friends and family of Vanessa Mark. Our hearts go out to those who were on the bus, and we hope that everyone injured in the crash makes a speedy recovery.
This board sincerely thanks the various organizations and departments within and outside of Brandeis who responded to the accident. In particular, thank you to the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps, Brandeis and local emergency responders, the Brandeis Student Union, and every community member who offered help to those immediately impacted by the crash. Throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning, many Brandeis students and Waltham community members went to social media to give support to anyone who needed it, from offering to drive people to and from hospitals to sharing information and love between friends and family. We also encourage the University to provide additional support to the BEMCo students who responded to the scene Saturday night, as these students, while they are emergency responders, have most likely not had to deal with such an extreme and traumatic experience.
We would also like to acknowledge the continuous efforts made by several University departments to support students. Health and Wellness Promotion, the Center for Spiritual Life, Hillel, and academic departments have provided students with resources and activities, ranging from therapy dogs to hot beverages and snacks to arts and crafts. These events are scheduled to take place at various locations and times throughout the week.
As journalists, we at the Justice are well aware of the challenges that come with reporting on developing stories, especially stories that concern the immediate medical well-being of fellow Brandeis community members. With new information, updates, and clarifications about the accident being released throughout Saturday night and the following days, we recognize the efforts taken by local news organizations, the University, and city and county agencies to keep people updated about the accident and the aftermath. As we await explanatory details of the crash, we urge sensitivity in their sharing and resharing.
However, this editorial board is concerned about the inaccurate information that continues to be referenced in both official statements and high-profile, national reporting around what happened on Saturday. The official joint statement released on Facebook that was corrected Monday evening by the Waltham Police Department and the Middlesex County district attorney’s office claimed the shuttle bus that crashed was transporting students ”[to] Brandeis University from a hockey game at Northeastern University.” This statement is false. The shuttle is part of a regular route between Brandeis, Cambridge, and Boston that typically runs four days a week (Thursday-Sunday). This board criticizes the prolific nature of this inaccurate information because it implies that the shuttle was transporting riders to a special event, when in reality this bus was part of a regular and widely-used schedule, meaning any number of Brandeis students could have been on this bus. This inaccurate and misleading statement was repeated in initial reports by The New York Times, Boston’s WBUR, and the Boston Globe in their coverage of the crash.
Furthermore, the official City of Waltham Twitter account not only repeated the false hockey game detail in a Sunday post about the crash, but it also referred to it as a “horrible roll over accident.” Although information being circulated on social media immediately following the crash claimed the shuttle had flipped, this was determined to be incorrect less than two hours following the crash. Another post referred to the crash as a “mass casualty event.” While this is an accurate term to refer to multiple injuries and/or deaths, the average person may interpret this phrase as indicative of multiple deaths rather than a combination of injuries and fatalities. These are just some of the inaccurate, easily refutable details being circulated in the news and in communications from local government agencies. Students, parents, and other Brandeis and Waltham community members are relying on official sources and trusted news outlets to provide accurate information in the wake of this tragedy.
This editorial board urges Waltham Police, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan, and the City of Waltham to acknowledge the error in their original statement that they later corrected. And, we ask news organizations reporting on the crash to make efforts to correct their reports and stories that they have already released, and to make sure all future reporting and press releases accurately reflect the information available at the time. We also hope the University will do what it can to push for these corrections and provide outside sources with updated information.
This board urges journalists covering this tragedy to respect the privacy of students on campus dealing with the aftermath of this accident. Members of this board were approached by local news reporters outside a Brandeis chapel where the Center for Spiritual Life was hosting a community gathering on Monday in response to the accident. We ask reporters to please remember that they are talking to people who just experienced a traumatic event, and to respect the emotions and mental health of those directly and indirectly involved. It is the ethical obligation of members of the press to take an empathetic and trauma-aware approach to reporting on a story of this nature.
This board reiterates its admiration and appreciation for the first responders of Saturday night’s accident, as well as for those working diligently to create spaces for healing and community. Brandeis is a beacon of love, and these tragic circumstances have showcased the resiliency of our community. #BrandeisStrong
—Editor’s note: Justice Editor Natalie Kahn ’23 is a member of BEMCo. She did not contribute to or edit the section pertaining to BEMCo.
—UPDATE: On Nov. 23, Chief of Administration Megan Kelly sent a statement to the Justice on behalf of the Middlesex District Attorney's Office.
"We want to acknowledge that one of our Office’s earliest statements regarding this weekend’s tragic crash contained information suggesting that the bus involved was transporting students directly from a hockey game. That statement was based on very preliminary information and we have since corrected our statements. We apologize for any confusion which this statement caused. Our hearts remain with the students and families involved as well as the larger Brandeis community," Kelly wrote.