Do you ever wonder if you’re the only one who feels like on-campus resources at Brandeis deserve more critical attention? Have you and your friends talked about how they feel ineffective, or how you could make them work better for yourself or fellow students? 

Throughout my time at Brandeis, my friends and peers have spoken to me countless times about their negative experiences with current resources such as the Brandeis Counseling Center, Department of Community Living, and Public Safety.  However, those conversations didn’t frequently lead to brainstorming about how to better them. I was often left feeling sad for my friends feeling as though of these resources being more effective felt bleak. Once I realized I wanted to do a senior thesis, my topic changed multiple times before I settled on the one subject I was truly passionate about: understanding and improving campus resources. 

 For my senior thesis, I developed focus groups composed of University students to gather our peers’ opinions of current resources. The main resources that Brandeis offers involve mental health services, academic services, housing services, and support for survivors of sexual assault and various types of harassment and discrimination. I decided to take on this project because as a Brandeis student, I want to ensure the students here feel safe and validated while enrolled. 

Here is what I learned: students want to modify and revolutionize the resources currently provided. Students spoke passionately about wanting resources. Students wanted the timing of their circulation, to be “proactive”. Non-punitive alternatives for keeping students safe and wanted better training for clubs and organizations on campus. The recommendations these students brainstormed deserve recognition and action from the administration. 

When prompted, multiple students shared that they forgot campus resources existed, or didn’t have the energy to engage with them. This may be because the University typically uplifts resources only during crises or difficult parts of the semester. 

Students echoed this sentiment and pointed out that the University’s choice to extend resources amid these stressful times is not conducive to students reaching out for help because they, themselves, are stressed. 

As a potential solution, students proposed dedicating a permanent space to campus resources, such as a QR code or poster on a bulletin board in a central location like the Shapiro Campus Center to remind students of the resources. That way, when people are in need of resources, they don’t have to use their energy to figure out where to go. 

While at Brandeis I also felt overwhelmed during midterms or finals when events such as wellness days occurred, because that was the time when I needed to buckle down and focus the most. Although these events are a lovely gesture, I also wish more resources had been disseminated across the semester when I was more receptive to utilizing them. 

Another reason these resources should be re-evaluated is because many students have shared the need for non-punitive alternatives to safety. The Black Action Plan is a student initiative which lists needs and demands to ensure the Black and POC students on campus feel safe, included, and comfortable. Among my talks with friends and with participants in the focus groups, the Department of Community Living’s poor track record with communities of color was brought up numerous times. A specific concern that was shared was that when DCL is called, students can be put in uncomfortable, unsafe, or dangerous situations. One of the recommendations made for helping ensure student safety was to follow the BAP’s suggestion of hiring de-escalation therapists, so trained professionals would be the ones facilitating housing situations in a non-punitive manner. 

Students also identified a need for better trainings for clubs and organizations. A participant shared that diversity trainings are mandatory for many clubs on campus, but the same YouTube videos were selected for each club training, and the information was not consistently updated. Questions of how to advocate for others or for oneself remained. One suggestion was to use the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center’s model to create a student-run resource for people who have experienced discrimination who might not want to report it via existing mechanisms.

The suggestions students gave are all fantastic. However, there are several contradictions when it comes to what students wanted and needed and how they envisioned change. This tells us that these recommendations are not a one-size-fits-all solution, because people have different needs. These are the proposals that stood out as widely beneficial to students, and they are concrete ways to improve or add to current resources. 

You are not alone if you feel like on-campus resources at Brandeis need to be changed. My research reveals that strategies for improving resources are on people’s minds. 

The sample of students for this study is not representative of how all Brandeis students feel, because I only got to center 12 voices. However, it sheds light on the need to center the student perspective when it comes to how campus resources are created and managed. I believe that it is crucial to continue gathering this information so that when Brandeis develops new resources or revises old ones, the administration can access this data to help determine next steps.

In addition to this piece, I wrote a policy brief to the administration where I proposed that centering students’ voices, when it comes to evaluating and maintaining campus resources, will create a positive environment for current and future Brandesians alike. 

I proposed utilizing the Brandeis support webpage to organize information about all of the resources Brandeis offers in one virtual space, replicating PARC’s model for addressing sexual violence to implement non-punitive safety alternatives for students, and administering a survey to the student body that gauges when students would like to receive information about resources during the year. Also collects suggestions for strengthening other resources. I believe the most important first step is the creation of an annual survey that would allow many more students to weigh in on these issues so we can decide what deserves immediate attention. Every student deserves to feel heard; we have the unique perspective to know better than most what solutions have the potential to make a true difference for our community.