Empowering Student Engagement: Reducing Administrative Barriers at Brandeis University
Brandeis University prides itself on student engagement and the diversity of events, performances and activities that students organize and participate in. With more than 200 student-run clubs and organizations, countless students are working to manage and implement their clubs’ events. However, despite the hours of time and effort that students pour into the Brandeis community — and despite the many benefits that the University attains from this engagement — this board believes that students are not appropriately supported by the administration in their endeavors. Given the unequal burden currently endured by students who want what is best for their community, this board wants to encourage the Brandeis administration to partner with clubs and organizations to ensure that students are set up for success.
The University aims to “enhance student experiences outside of the classroom,” but much of their work with clubs hinders or slows down the planning process. For instance, multiple members of the editorial board have faced challenges reserving spaces for their club, organization or event. Additionally, even if a student is able to book a room, there have been many instances where the room is double or triple booked, making it extremely challenging for students to organize community events. Sometimes, reserved rooms or blue booths are also not unlocked when students arrive, thus causing them to go through an extra step of calling Public Safety or contacting building administrators.
Administration consistently does not provide the resources or spaces that clubs or organizations need to succeed. As discussed in a past Justice story, dance clubs are being denied access to spaces they need to rehearse safely. Despite expressing their concerns to admin, the dance groups continue to be unsupported in their search for suitable practice space, even though the administration expects them to perform in events like the 75th Anniversary Celebration and the Leonard Bernstein Festival of Creative Arts. The University should find ways to support clubs that are affected by the administration’s — and in this case, Gosman Sports and Convocation Center staff’s — decisions. As discussed in a past Justice story, dance clubs are being denied access to spaces they need to rehearse safely. Despite expressing their concerns to admin, the dance groups continue to be unsupported in their search for suitable practice space, even though the administration expects them to perform in events like the 75th Anniversary Celebration and the Leonard Bernstein Festival of Creative Arts. The University should find ways to support clubs that are affected by the administration’s — and in this case, Gosman Sports and Convocation Center staff’s — decisions.
Beyond student clubs, another way that students can get involved is through volunteer work. The Community Engagement and Service website suggests that the Department of Student Engagement works with the Waltham Group to create volunteer opportunities. However, much of the communication about volunteer opportunities is communicated by the Waltham Group, a student run organization, instead of the administration. This puts a lot of the pressure on students to actively search for opportunities. For new college students, finding resources can be especially challenging as they adjust to college living.
One of the main events that Brandeis puts on is the involvement fair at the beginning of each semester, indicating that the University wants students to engage and participate in their community.
However, even the involvement fair is largely conducted by students tabling and recruiting new members. The Brandeis administration is eager to promote at the involvement fair to appeal to potential students, but in terms of actually supporting the facilitation of engagement, the administration is severely lacking.
Within the hierarchy of Brandeis administration, offices and divisions, DSE is the most connected with students and the most willing to work with us. However, the higher-ups within the Division of Student Affairs, the President’s Cabinet and other offices remain out of the loop and are not communicative with students and faculty. Faculty members had to ask for increased communication in order to be on the same page as students.
While the administration relies heavily on students to organize and implement events that foster community engagement, they are all too willing to take control away from students when it serves them. For instance, despite this being the 75th anniversary of Brandeis’ founding, the administration chose to derecognize and de-charter the Archon Yearbook — which was organized by students — citing a survey with enough data to support their decision. However, they have yet to release such data. This was a choice made without consulting the Student Union, even though all removal of secured clubs goes through student government to be de-secured and de-chartered. Administration simultaneously relies on students to encourage and create community engagement, but also takes away students’ power seemingly arbitrarily. This could not have come at a worse time.
When administration fails to partner with students in their engagement with the community, students lose places to express themselves and form bonds with fellow students. Instead of enjoying their college experience through activities and events, students must spend a large amount of energy and time communicating with the administration, constantly advocating for what they need. This constant struggle can have negative effects on students’ mental health. When there is an administration that fails to listen, students can become discouraged and ultimately experience burnout as a result of the constant battle.
This board appreciates the freedom that student led organizations and clubs have in creating and planning events. With that being said, students need some assistance from the administration to achieve their goals. As an institution that in theory wants to engage its student body, it is important to aid students in their desire to get involved with their community.
We call on the administration to truly listen to and support student-led clubs and organizations on campus. The DSE’s work is incredibly important and is valued by this board, but the lack of communication between departments and student organizers hinders student engagement rather than encouraging it. If administration and student clubs can work together effectively, student engagement could be improved dramatically. We have a dedicated group of student leaders who want to engage and energize the community, but they need guidance and support from administration.
— Editor’s note: Justice editor Ceci Xilei Chen ’26 and managing editor Smiley Huynh ’24 are employed as student staff photographers by the Department of Student Engagement and did not contribute to nor edit this editorial.