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Views on the News: New Year's Resolutions

(01/14/14 5:00am)

A new year brings with it new resolutions, challenges and opportunities for self-improvement. 2013 was an eventful year for the college: Sodexo took over as the dining services provider, new administrators sat down in executive seats, the University suspended a 10 year partnership with Al-Quds University, and a front page article in The Boston Globe discussing President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz's compensation package led to petitions and protests. As the first semester of 2014 begins, what changes woul you like to see in the University? Prof. Bernadette Brooten (NEJS) I dream of a Brandeis that is free of violence, economically just, and active in pursuing peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. Unfortunately, students report that sexual and other gender-based violence is frequent, devastating and usually unreported. I dream of a day when everyone is trained in bystander intervention, and all staff and faculty know how to prevent and respond to such violence. If violence is in our own backyard, so too is economic injustice. The lowest-paid Sodexo workers earn $12.70 per hour, while senior administrators' compensation have ballooned, and the number of highly paid administrators increased. If these high salaries came down, everyone could earn a living wage of at least $15 per hour. The Daniel Terris, Susan Lanser, and Daniel Kryder report satisfies me that Al-Quds's administration vigorously opposed the hateful November demonstration. I hope that Brandeis will apologize to President Nusseibeh for its precipitous action and ask to re-establish the partnership.  Prof. Bernadette Brooten (NEJS) is the Kraft-Hiatt Professor of Christian Studies, and the director of the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project. * Stephanie Grimes As I look to 2014, I have many hopes for this upcoming year at Brandeis.  I would love to see the passions of our community come through to the University not because it looks good in an Admissions video or brochure, but because it is truly a picture of what our students can accomplish.  I want students to be involved in what matters to them-whether that is the creation of a conference dedicated to the discussion around Israel, excelling on the sports field or choreographing a dance for their peers to perform in the next show.  I want all of us to do things like this because we want to-not because it looks good on our resumes or we want to look good for our supervisors. I would like the students to continue to push the minds of our professors and administrators to think beyond what they know to what they can imagine.  Too many times in 2013, I heard comments like "well, I need to do this for my resume" or  "if I say no to this project, will I still have a job?"  We need to get back to doing things because we want to ... because we love it.   Stephanie Grimes is the Director of Student Activities. * Sahar Massachi '11 MA '12 Why did some of the most brilliant minds of the '40s decide to teach at a no-name school with barely any students? Maslow, Roosevelt, Bernstein, etc. came here because Brandeis was meant to be something amazing: a university committed to social change. For the first time in well over 10 years, we have a chance at moving toward that vision, instead of continued backsliding. But should Brandeis run like a non-corrupt corporation, or a non-corrupt social justice university? A Brandeis true to our values would allow students, faculty, and staff an equal say in decision-making. There would be faculty, worker, student, and alumni seats on the Board of Trustees; a cap on administrative salaries tied to our lowest wage; student, faculty and worker input on the budget; a just cause firing language for staff; a written commitment to place students on all search committees regarding hiring administration; not to mention urgent non-structural priorities like divesting from fossil fuels, diversifying our faculty and freezing tuition. It's time to remember why Brandeis was founded in the first place.  Sahar Massachi '11  M.A. '12, works at the Wikimedia Foundation and started the "Petition for Fair Executive Pay" on * Daniel Mael '15 Last semester was my first at Brandeis University and I tried my best to get a sense of the atmosphere of Israel-related activity on campus. While I was impressed by the vast programming available, it became evident that there are still many apathetic students. As I enter my second semester here in Waltham, I hope even more students elect to speak up about Israel, whether it is Israeli-Arab politics or simply why Israel matters to them. The number of students who care about and talk about Israel on a daily basis is already truly remarkable, and I look forward to seeing additional students voice their opinions and engage in dialogue. With speakers coming to campuses on a weekly basis, I can think of no better arena in the United States for young college students to explore everything and anything related to Israel. I hope everyone, regardless of their previous knowledge, takes advantage of Brandeis' unique climate. Daniel Mael '15  is the President of Students for Accuracy about Israeli and Palestinian affairs.

Reader Commentary

(11/26/13 5:00am)

Alumni demand wage transparency To the Editor: Learning that former President Jehuda Reinharz is still making millions from Brandeis feels quite frankly insulting. Students struggle financially to access the University. Academic and service workers work more but are less secure. Many in our community are sacrificing, but very few seem to be reaping most of the benefits. In 2009, Jehuda's administration forced drastic changes in the name of budgetary responsibility-increasing class sizes, laying off staff, thinning out departments and most infamously, trying to sell the treasures of the Rose Art Museum. Meanwhile, there are at least 17 officers on our payroll (including Jehuda) who made more than $200,000 last year. Inequality is spreading throughout higher education. Many of our peer institutions face pressure to behave like corporations, and in doing so abandon their public mission. Brandeis has the opportunity to lead in reversing these trends. During the crisis, students and faculty rose up and demanded greater transparency and power over budgeting. That was inspiring, and partially successful. Students now have a seat at the table on certain committees. Recent events have shown that those limited victories were not enough. We have two simple demands to get us back on track: 1) The Board of Trustees must institute a policy of transparency regarding past, current and future executive compensation. We should not have to learn about this from the front page of The Boston Globe. 2) The Board of Trustees must cap salaries at 15 times the compensation of the least-paid full-time employee. The cap will put our financial priorities in order and save money. If the lowest-paid worker is paid a living wage, the cap can be as high as $350,000, and we can instantly save $1.1 million annually. There is nothing earth-shattering or impossible about these proposals. They are in line with our stated principles and appeal to common sense. In the few days since putting forth these demands, over 1200 alumni, faculty, staff and current students have urged the university to adopt them. You can see the full text of our demands, and sign on to them too, at The Board of Trustees needs to act decisively, and the campus community must hold them accountable. Real transparency and a cap on compensation would preserve our integrity and move us forward. -Jonathan Sussman '11, Sahar Massachi '11 M.A. '12, Lev Hirschhorn '11, Mariel Gruszko '10 Reinharz accusations are unfounded To the Editor: The question is simple: is Jehuda Reinharz worth what we pay him? From the beginning of his presidency in 1994 to the end of his president emeritus status in 2014, Brandeis will have paid Dr. Reinharz somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million. During this period, he had raised $1.2 billion. Much of that sum would have been raised regardless of who was at the helm. The unanswerable question is: what fraction of that $1.2 billion was given by those who would not have otherwise donated to Brandeis, or would have given less than they eventually did, if not for the efforts of Dr. Reinharz? If that fraction is greater than 0.83 percent, then he is worth his salary. Some Brandeis faculty members have argued that Dr. Reinharz's salary should be reduced, because it is unfair that he earns so much more than they do. That socialist argument has philosophical merit. Yet it would be foolhardy for Brandeis to cap the president's pay, because we would be unable to attract and retain the best talent, who would prefer to work for our higher-paying peer institutions. Questioning authority is both healthy and intrinsic to the Brandeis character. At the same time, we the students should place some degree of trust in the judgment of the Board of Trustees. The Board is composed of 42 of Brandeis' most accomplished and respected alumni and donors-surely they possess more wisdom than we do and are best qualified to govern the University. Finally, shame on The Boston Globe for lowering itself to the level of tawdry populist journalism. The article was ostensibly a news piece, not opinion, but was explicitly one-sided. Moreover, it consumed a tedious 2,018 words, but failed to muster any basic statistical calculations. Hopefully the next generation of journalists will be capable of doing math. -Jonathan Epstein '14 

Petition circulates after Reinharz pay publicized

(11/26/13 5:00am)

In the week after the Boston Globe published its Nov. 17 article examining the "golden parachute" phenomenon in higher education, focusing on President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz's compensation, many members of the Brandeis community reacted with skepticism and even outrage. As of press time, a "Petition for Fair Executive Pay" at Brandeis on the website had attracted over 1,400 signatures from students, alumni, faculty, staff and others. The student representatives to the Board of Trustees also sent a letter to the chair of the board, Perry Traquina '78, with student concerns, according to a member of the Student Union executive board.  On Friday, Traquina issued a statement via BrandeisNOW in response to the Globe article and the public reaction to it.  "As Board Chair, one of my highest priorities will be to ensure that all current and future executive pay packages at Brandeis are fair, motivational and consistent with best practices," read the statement, in which Traquina also pledged to ensure that the Board's actions were consistent with "our namesake, Justice Louis D. Brandeis." Jonathan Sussman '11, who was involved with drafting and promoting the petition, said that he was glad to see this response from the Board, but still hoped to see more action taken. "I'm glad that the Board of Trustees understand[s] that they need to address these issues, that there is a strong concern from the student body and from alumni," he said in an interview with the Justice. "But until we see concrete change, I don't think that there's really going to be any satisfaction with those answers." The organizers of the petition will present it to Traquina and the Board of Trustees, according to Sahar Massachi '11 MA '12, one of the drafters. The text of the petition, which was spearheaded by Massachi and Sussman along with Lev Hirschhorn '11 and Mariel Gruszko '10, stated that "Reinharz's excessive compensation is part and parcel of a national trend of universities shifting resources away from the classroom and toward administration. Brandeis undermines its own values when it prioritizes donor relationships and institutional prestige over student access to scholarship and good stewardship of our communal resources." The petition also made two demands: that the Board of Trustees "[i]nstitute a policy of transparency" surrounding executive compensation, and that "[t]he complete annual compensation of the highest-paid employees of the University should be no more than fifteen times the complete annual compensation of the lowest-paid full-time employee of the University." In data Massachi collected from about 1,400 signatories, approximately 449 said they had donated to Brandeis in the past, 372 said they had volunteered for Brandeis in the past and 76 said they would help the creators of the petition "take [it] to the next level." "It's an astounding number of signatures," said Massachi. "Consider that the way this spread was ... posting a link to the petition on Facebook. And just from those humble beginnings, we got, I think 500 or 600 signers in the first day." On campus, Alina Pokhrel '15 and Benjamin Hill '14 are leading an effort to organize students, faculty and staff and "create a safe space" in which to share thoughts on the issues surrounding Reinharz's compensation. Whiler there are no concrete plans as of yet, they are planning to host an open forum on campus early next semester to address this issue and "foster trust" between the various parties, Pokhrel said in an interview with the Justice. Of the signers of the petition, 310 were current undergraduate students and 15 were current graduate students. Seventeen signatories said they were faculty members, nine were staff, 34 were parents and a combined 98 had "other" or "blank" affiliation to the University. Alumni, however, made up by far the largest group, with a combined total of approximately 891 alumni of either graduate or undergraduate programs at Brandeis. Massachi said that his statistics were rough because the method by which he gathered information left open the possibility of double counting people. According to this self-reported information, 37 of the 449 who said they had donated to Brandeis graduated before 2000, with some graduating as early as 1958. Nine donors were still undergraduates, and 403 graduated between 2000 and 2013, according to the data. Those who signed the petition were also given the option of writing a comment. Many addressed the topic of rising tuition and considered the amount of financial aid for which Reinharz's salary could be used, while others pointed out the disparity between Reinharz's compensation and faculty and staff pay. Still others simply quoted the University's motto, "truth: even unto its innermost parts." A few signatories wrote that "Justice Brandeis is rolling in his grave," and pointed to the University's mission of social justice as their motivation to sign. Several commenters stated that they would not donate to the University after learning of Reinharz's compensation package, or were discouraged from making a contribution. When asked about the involvement of recent alumni in the petition, Massachi said that "people of that generation just saw it really clearly," referring to the students who were here during the financial crisis. "Jehuda was the same guy who told us we had no choice but to, you know, admit a lot more students, be more cramped, have ... less professors and just change as a university." "We think this is really significant because ... if [Brandeis is] going to survive, it needs to have a strong base among students who have graduated very recently to contribute to the University both monetarily and just socially and culturally to keep the University alive," said Sussman when asked about the involvement of young alumni. "So we think it shows a real crisis for the University that the most recent generation of alumni are very concerned about its direction." *

Students occupy SCC for a day

(05/01/12 4:00am)

Students, faculty and other members of the Brandeis community gathered in the Shapiro Campus Center Atrium last Tuesday to attend a daylong teach-in on the Occupy movement. Prof. Gordon Fellman (SOC), Collections Manager and Registrar of the Rose Art Museum Kristin Parker and a team of student volunteers organized the events, bringing in a variety of Brandeis professors, administrators and Occupy activists to speak.

Tallying procedures likely lead to inaccurate results

(09/27/11 4:00am)

Student Union election results appear to incorrectly reflect the actual student vote, a Justice examination of 2010 and 2011 election data has revealed. The issue stems from a conflict between two major aspects of Union elections. These two aspects are the Union's constitutional election procedures and its instant runoff voting system. The result of this conflict is a vote-tallying system that distributes student votes to candidates in a way that is likely inconsistent with voters' intentions. The ensuing problem is particularly significant in multi-position elections, such as those for seats in the Student Judiciary. It is highly plausible that two additional candidates for the judiciary in last Thursday's election—John Fonte '12 and Claire Sinai '15—would have been declared winners had the instant runoff system operated true to its original intent. Fonte and Sinai received the most votes in the initial round of voting, and Gali Gordon '15, the candidate who won the judiciary seat, came in third. According to article IX of the Union constitution, "If abstain receives the greatest number of votes during a final election, than [sic] there will be a vacancy in the office until the next election." The apparent problem arises because candidates who receive the most votes in initial voting calculations may be systematically prevented from defeating "abstain" in a given election. This is due to the fact that Union's rules concerning the "abstain" option are not accounted for in the calculations of the Union's instant runoff system. In a phone interview with the Justice, Gregory Dennis, a board member of Citizens for Voter Choice, a Massachusetts organization that promotes instant runoff voting and proportional representation, who was briefed on the election data for the latest judiciary election, said "The tally, the tabulation, was right, but the interpretation was wrong." "There were four candidates in this race that won. Three of them were people, and the fourth was ‘abstain,'" said Dennis, who holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in computer science and has been involved with voting technology processes. In 2010, Dennis consulted with Sahar Massachi '11 MA '12 in order to advise the Constitutional Review Committee, which at the time was considering the implementation of the voting system currently in use. The Union began conducting instant runoff elections last fall, in line with a constitutional amendment approved by the student body in spring 2010. In instant runoff elections, voters rank their choices for a given position. For instance, in last Thursday's election to fill the four available seats on the Judiciary, students were presented with nine candidates and asked to rank them in an order that reflected their preferences. After the polls close, the system calculates a threshold for victory—the number of votes required for a given candidate to win. This threshold is calculated by taking the number of voters in that election—excluding voters who chose "abstain"—and dividing that figure by the sum of one plus of the number of open positions in the election. Then the system starts calculating the winners. First, the system declares any candidates whose votes meet or exceed the threshold as winners. For the judiciary election, those candidates were Fonte and Sinai. Next, the system reallocates winners' excess votes in a trickle-down process. To do this, the system subtracts all votes beyond the threshold from the first position candidate and distributes them proportionately among the second-choice candidates of that winner's voters. From then on, the system considers these winners as removed from the process and prevents them from receiving any further votes from redistribution. For the judiciary election, this meant that Fonte's surplus votes were distributed proportionately according to his voter's second choices. Fonte was then prevented from benefiting from further vote distribution. This process continues until the system finishes distributing the surplus votes of all candidates whose votes met or exceeded the threshold. For the judiciary vote, because there were only two candidates who met the standard, this meant that Sinai's surplus votes were then distributed by the same process as Fonte's. Sinai was then prevented from benefiting from further vote distribution, and that part of the process was complete. The system also reallocates the votes of candidates with the fewest votes in a trickle-up process. One by one, the system works its way up from the bottom starting with candidates who received the fewest number of votes, eliminates them and distributes their votes proportionately among the second-choice candidates of their voters. The system completes this process once there are no more candidates that could receive further votes. For the judiciary election, the system completed the process once the vote count of Gordon exceeded the threshold, making him a winner. Gordon, however, was in third place after the initial tally, which incidentally allowed him—unlike Fonte and Sinai—to acquire a number of votes greater than that received by "abstain." Because the system had excluded Fonte and Sinai from receiving any further votes—having already considered them winners—their initial leads in the vote count actually worked against them, preventing them from acquiring the votes necessary to beat "abstain" and win. In an interview with the Justice, Union President Herbie Rosen '12 said, "Honestly, this is something our union came to inherit. And it's things like this that get brought to our attention that we will move to correct and fix. Sorry for the confusion and inconvenience, but you can expect better from us in the future when we come up with as a solution." In a phone interview with the Justice, Fonte, a candidate for the judiciary who may have been affected by these election issues, stated that, although he was unwilling to discredit the Union's results, "If the results are false, then to be honest that's more of a problem on the Union's part. … I would still run again. According to the numbers I saw, ... I had a good running chance." Sinai, another candidate for the judiciary who may have been affected by these issues, wrote in an email to the Justice, "The situation is unfortunate for both Fonte and myself … I was really looking forward to serving Brandeis as a member of the Judiciary. " In a phone interview with the Justice, Rob Richie, executive director of Fair Vote, a national organization focused on election reform, who was briefed on the election data for the latest judiciary election said, "[The result of last week's judiciary election] sounds like that was a misinterpretation of the rules, because these other candidates weren't even in the position to get votes anymore, … so it sounds like someone misprogrammed the system." In 2010, Richie consulted with Massachi in order to advise the Constitutional Review Committee. Concerning the way votes were tabulated for the judiciary positions, Richie said, "That's nutty. That doesn't make any sense to then say that they lost, because they weren't able to win." Regarding the victory of "abstain" over several candidates in the judiciary election, Dennis, an expert on election processes said, "Just over 20 percent of [voters] didn't want anyone [to be elected]. ... I don't think those 20 percent of people should get basically 75 percent of the say, which was the result." —Andrew Wingens and Emily Kraus contributed reporting. Clarification: Sinai originally misunderstood the situation when first presented to her. This article has been updated to reflect her reaction with a full understanding of the situation.

Search committee for director of Library and Technology Services formed

(05/03/11 4:00am)

Provost Marty Krauss announced the formation of a search committee for the next director of Library and Technology Services in an April 13 campuswide e-mail.According to the Co-chair of the committee and Vice President for Planning and Institutional Research Dan Feldman, even though Krauss' e-mail specified the position as being the director of Library and Technology Services, the open position is for vice president and vice provost for Libraries and Information Technology, the same position Perry Hanson currently holds.The formation of this committee follows Hanson's announcement of his retirement last fall, according to a Feb. 15 e-mail to the Justice. In a Feb. 10 campuswide e-mail, University President Frederick Lawrence announced that the Library and Technology Services Advisory Committee submitted recommendations to himself, Krauss and Senior Vice President for Administration Mark Collins, in which they suggested that the next LTS leader should report to the provost and a national search should be conducted for the next LTS leader, both of which were suggestions accepted by the president.In a Feb. 14 interview with the Justice, Hanson said that he would not be involved in the selection of his successor.In addition to Feldman, the committee consists of Co-chair of the committee Prof. Ann Koloski-Ostrow (CLAS), Prof. Eric Chasalow (MUS), Director of Development Planning and Operations Michael Gilbreath, Associate Vice President of Communications Bill Burger, Prof. George Hall (ECON), University Registrar Mark Hewitt, Chair of the Faculty Senate Prof. Tim Hickey (COSI), Senior Research and Technology Specialist in the Division of Science Steve Karel, Senior Scientist and Lecturer of the Heller School and Deputy Director of the Institute for Behavioral Health Sharon Reif, Director for Networks and Systems of LTS John Turner, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and the Rabb School Michaele Whelan, Associate Director for E-Research of LTS Lois Widmer, Assistant Vice President of the Office of Budget and Financial Planning David Woodward, Jodie Lynn Austin-Cypert (GRAD) and Sahar Massachi '11.Krauss' e-mail also stated that the search firm Issacson, Miller would assist the search committee.According to an e-mail from Feldman, Issacson, Miller "assisted Brandeis in the successful searches that brought to Brandeis Dean Lisa Lynch of The Heller School [for Social Policy and Management] and Fran Drolette, the University's Senior Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer. He wrote that Krauss, Collins and the President's Chief of Staff David Bunis were responsible for selecting Issacson, Miller.In an e-mail to the Justice, Feldman wrote that the committee will be identifying criteria as it proceeds with the search.In an interview with the Justice, Feldman said that he and Koloski-Ostrow will be having their first meeting later this week with Vivian Brocard of Issacson, Miller."We're going to be developing the time line very shortly," Feldman said. "We're really at the starting point for this.""We want to make sure we get somebody who we feel confident is going to be a superb leader of Library and Technology Services for Brandeis," he said.While one undergraduate and one graduate student will serve on the committee, no students currently involved in campus jobs under the LTS umbrella, including Media Technology Services and the Getz Media Lab, will be included.Concerning the makeup of the committee members, Feldman said, "We need to make sure that the members of the committee are bringing to the table the full range of needs and viewpoints that ought to be at the table. ... LTS affects just about everything we do at the University.

Justice League hosts several alumni activists

(05/03/11 4:00am)

The Justice League held three events from April 28 to April 30 hosting Brandeis alumni Andrew Slack '02, Aaron Voldman '09, Sam Vaghar '08, Joshua Kahn Russell '06 and Jay Mandel '80, all of whom spoke about activism and met with and greeted current students. According to its website, the Justice League is a campus group of activist students "standing up for our rights, standing up for Social Justice, standing up for the Brandeis that inspires us."Thursday night, the Justice League brought Slack who is the creator, co-founder, and executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit organization, that according to its website, advocates human rights and equality. According to Justice League members and event coordinators Jenny Lau '14 and Liz Soolkin '14, Slack spoke in the Castle Commons about his organization, his time at Brandeis and about the Justice League itself.According to Soolkin, about 15 people attended Thursday's event, many of whom, said Lau, were first-years."It was a very intimate event," said Soolkin. Lau said that Slack also connected with students who were interested in internships with HPA. According to Soolkin and Lau, Friday's event featured Executive Director of the Student Peace Alliance Aaron Voldman '09 and Managing Director of the Millennium Campus Network Sam Vaghar '08, who spoke on their experiences and their current work. According to Soolkin and Lau, fewer people attended Friday's event, but Soolkin said that "it was definitely not quiet."On Saturday, Russell, who according to Soolkin is very involved in climate issues, and Mandel, who is involved in the Peace Circle and the Peace Room according to Sahar Massachi '11 of the Justice League, spoke on their experiences at Brandeis and their current work. According to Soolkin and Lau, about 15 people attended that event as well. "It was really interesting to see the difference in their Brandeis experiences," said Soolkin. Lau said it was great to see activists of different generations speak together.Soolkin also said that all the events were very inspirational and that it was great to see alumni interacting with students and each other. "It taught me how to become a better activist," said Lau.Soolkin and Lau said that Massachi had told them about the alumni and had already been in contact with them, and contacted one alumnus but later decided to expand the event into a weekend of events. According to Soolkin and Lau, the alumni all wanted to return to the University to speak with current students.

Group holds meal plan vote

(03/15/11 4:00am)

The Justice League, a student-run organization that focuses on improving the shared commitment of campus community through more student involvement, distributed ballots in students' mailboxes yesterday to gauge interest in what can be changed about the University after holding an informative event this past Sunday afternoon. According to the Justice League's website, the group coordinates student events focused around students "standing up for their rights, standing up for Social Justice, and standing up for a Brandeis that inspires them." The campaign was marketed with a main slogan, "Your Mailbox Misses You," printed over humorous pictures around campus."The flyers were all over campus, and I was just really curious to see what it was all about. I was also intrigued with the amount of excitement and involvement that all the members seemed to have," Danielle Gross '14 said in an interview with the Justice after attending the event.The informational event focused primarily on improving the meal plans, implementing point-dollar parity and giving students a voice through committees formed on campus, the areas that the ballot listed. During discussions, the event's coordinator, Sahar Massachi '11 said, "The meal plan is clearly a rip-off. We're allowed to have a say in more things than just the food. We live here, this is our university, and we want the best for it."In an interview with the Justice after the event, Massachi said that this event has been in the making for several years. He explained that during the recent budget crisis, the endowment shrank, causing the University to create committees to plan for its fiscal future. Rather than uniting the students for a common cause, Massachi explained, the administration decided to keep students in the dark. He said that, as a result of student protest, the administration agreed to appoint students to committees on academic structuring. He pointed out that the largest of these committees only had one non-voting student representative-the president of the Student Union. "Now, there's one student on each committee," Massachi said. In an interview with the Justice, Shea Reister '11, who helped with the mailbox ballot initiative, said that "the bigger picture is what students want, and it's not just these tiny steps." "It shouldn't be considered a privilege that students have a say in how their university runs," said Katherine Alexander '12, another student who helped to plan yesterday's event.Yesterday, the ballots placed in mailboxes asked students whether they thought "we should have a point-dollar parity," in which a dollar in points would equal a dollar in cash; whether Aramark should "have to compete with other companies for our business," instead of having an automatically renewed contract; or whether they thought "students should select two voting reps for every big committee, like the Presidential Search Committee, or Brandeis 20/20." According to the ballot, the Justice League will "hand-deliver [the ballots] to [University President Frederick Lawrence]."According to Alexander, the voting will continue through next week.-Robyn Spector contributed reporting.

Students react to Westboro Baptist Church protest

(12/07/10 5:00am)

Last Friday, seven members of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its opposition to homosexuality and its public demonstrations, protested on South Street in front of the Main Gate while students held Celebrate Brandeis in response, a day of performances and activities to celebrate diversity.According to the Church's website, the members were picketing Hillel "to remind these Jews that they bear the curse of their forefather's [sic] murder of Christ" and to chastise students for "spending their energies on drunkeness [sic] lust, sloth and greed rather than serving the Lord Almighty." In an interview with the Justice during the protest, Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of WBC pastor Fred Phelps, said that the church had picketed earlier that morning at nearby locations such as the Islamic Center of Boston and Framingham High School and were planning to picket at Harvard University Hillel later that day. "I couldn't miss this opportunity [to picket Brandeis]," she said. Phelps-Roper explained that in the past 6 months, she had been talking to Brandeis students about what she described as "doctrines" that concerned Jews in what she referred to as "the last days," or a prophesied apocalypse. Phelps-Roper was unable to say who the students were but said that they had contacted her. "I talked to one all the way home from the airport," she said. According to Phelps-Roper, the mission of the Topeka, Kan.-based WBC is to "preach the gospel unapologetically.""You got people who are going to multiply words instead of saying plainly, 'You have to obey God,'" she said, going on to refer to individuals and organizations that do not oppose issues such as homosexuality as much as the WBC does and quoted them saying, "This is the [group that says], 'God loves everybody,' [and] 'It's okay to be gay.' When asked if the WBC promotes hate, Phelps-Roper responded, "You can't preach God's word without talking about his hatred." She also said, "For every one verse about his love and mercy for his people that obey him, there are five verses about his wrath and his destructive vengeance against those who don't." Three adult members of the church held signs that bore phrases such as "Destruction is imminent," "Your Rabbi is a whore," "Rabbis rape kids" and "God is your enemy." There were also four children with the protesters, one of whom was Phelps-Roper's child. One of the protesters yelled out phrases similar to those on the signs. Students, many of whom were informed of the WBC's arrival through news on Facebook, an e-mail sent out by Jehuda Reinharz or by word-of-mouth came down to the entrance to see the protest from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. While some students tried to go to South Street to interact with the WBC protesters, many students formed a crowd by the University entrance and watched the picketers from a short distance. "I was just curious to see how many of them were actually here," said Anna Duey '14. Duey said that she had come from and was planning to go back to Celebrate Brandeis, a day of speeches, performances and activities put together by students, purposely scheduled at the same time as and in response to the WBC protest. The Celebrate Brandeis activities were held on the Great Lawn from 8:30 until 9:30 a.m. and included musical performances from Manginah, remarks from Student Union President Daniel Acheampong '11 and Hillel President Andrea Wexler '11, short speeches from University President Jehuda Reinharz and President-elect Fredrick Lawrence, face painting by Triskelion, hora dancing with Adagio and B'yachad and free breakfast and coffee. Events continued in the Shapiro Campus Center with an art gallery display, dance performance groups in the Atrium and an open lunch and discussion. According to an interview with Erica Shaps '13, the campus relations coordinator for Hillel, who was involved in planning Celebrate Brandeis, student groups like Hillel, the Brandeis Interfaith Group, the Brandeis Justice League (an organization of Brandeis students who advocate social justice), the Student Union, Triskelion, the Queer Resource Center, the Graduate Student Association and the Interfaith Chaplaincy assisted in organizing the event. "[The planning] was overwhelming because there was so much energy and so many ideas," said Shaps. "But what we really wanted was to create a framework that allowed for all of those ideas and plans to happen in a structured way that still allowed for creativity."In an interview with the Justice, Sahar Massachi '11, who writes for the student blog Innermost Parts, is part of the Justice League and was heavily involved in planning Celebrate Brandeis, said that the idea first originated as a counterprotest in front of the WBC but later changed to a plan to ignore the WBC while creating a positive event."[The WBC] is sort of a catalyst or excuse to have this celebration, but I think the celebration is a good thing in any case," said Massachi. "I think the need for something like this [celebration] has been out there for a long time."Both Massachi and Shaps said that although Celebrate Brandeis was sparked by news of the WBC protest, it was focused on uniting the University and said that they were unaware if the WBC protesters knew of Celebrate Brandeis."We talk about the Brandeis community, but it's great to have a chance to show up and form those bonds," said Massachi. "The main driving thought behind this day is how can we actually not just show, but actually create a Brandeis community." According to Shaps, over 300 students, faculty and community members attended Celebrate Brandeis, and over $4,000 was raised in the past few weeks for Keshet, an organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals of all Jewish backgrounds and denominations.Shaps said that the students she talked to after Celebrate Brandeis were positive about the turn of events, the involvement of students and the support of the Brandeis administration. "It's funny how something like hate, something like this terrible intolerance, like the Westboro Baptist Church can really unite a campus," said Shaps."I hope it sent the message that Brandeis is a place of both unity and diversity," said Megan Straughan '11, the coordinator of the Queer Resource Center, who worked to plan Celebrate Brandeis.

Senate Log

(11/23/10 5:00am)

At the Nov. 21 Student Union Senate meeting, the Senate unanimously agreed to support a letter in response to the upcoming protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. Members of the church are scheduled to protest Brandeis Hillel on Dec. 3. Sahar Massachi '11 said at the meeting that he is coordinating with many student leaders to organize a day of activities that will unite the community. Events such as a fundraiser and a Harry Potter-themed Hillel dinner will focus on the theme of building a united campus. The open letter supported by the Senate said, "The soul of Brandeis is found in our common values, including the need to stand strong against hatred and bigotry. ... These values compel us to affirm our support for Hillel and all of the Brandeis family under attack from the intolerant."Union President Daniel Acheampong '11 added that the protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church will not be allowed on campus. Acheampong said he is coordinating protest efforts with the Department of Public Safety. The Senate tabled a Senate Money Resolution proposed by Off Campus Senator Evyn Rabinowitz '12 that requested $218.45 for a meet-and-greet event for students who live off campus. The senators also reported that they are busy preparing for the Midnight Buffet and selling Turkey Shuttle tickets. Senator for the Class of 2011 Michael Newborn said that he explored the possibility of having the BranVan make stops at Riverside but that this will not be possible at the moment because of BranVan contract issues. Additionally, Newborn met with Rabbi Levy Zirkind, the Supervisor of Kashrut, and was informed that Einstein Bros. Bagels cannot receive kosher certification because the Asiago bagel that the store is contractually obligated to sell is not kosher.

Students organize response to protest

(11/23/10 5:00am)

Approximately 150 students gathered in the Castle Commons Sunday night to discuss a student response to the Westboro Baptist Church, which plans to protest Brandeis Hillel here on Friday, Dec. 3. According to the Westboro Baptist Church's website, the group plans to "picket the Hillel at Brandeis University to remind these Jews that they bear the curse of their forefather's [sic] murder of Christ. Further these college students of doomed america [sic] live for the devil himself, spending their energies on drunkeness [sic], lust, sloth and greed rather than serving the Lord Almighty."Multiple student leaders, including Student Union President Daniel Acheampong '11, Senator-at-Large Aziz Sohail '13, Hillel President Andrea Wexler '11 and Hillel Campus Relations Coordinator Erica Shaps '13 were present at the planning meeting. The meeting was led primarily by Sahar Massachi '11, Queer Resource Center Coordinator Megan Straughan '11, Jason Henry Simon-Bierenbaum '11 and Morgan Gross '14.At the meeting, students introduced themselves and discussed why they chose to come to the meeting, and then Massachi, Simon-Bierenbaum, Straughan and Gross explained plans that were the result of brainstorming from a preliminary meeting the night before between them and members of Brandeis Hillel.Their proposed idea is for students to meet together before the church protesters arrive and, once they do, turn their backs on the protesters and partake in activities throughout the day that celebrate Brandeis' diversity, including fundraising money for Keshit-an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Jews. A Student Union Executive Board press release from yesterday supports the proposed plans that will "celebrate the values that make Brandeis great."According to Massachi, proposed plans will come to a vote at a Nov. 30 meeting in the Castle Commons to create a finalized plan of what will happen on Dec. 3. "We're trying something new in this in that we're being as grassroots as possible and as democratic as possible," said Massachi in an interview with the Justice. So far, the response efforts have been entirely student-driven, he explained.In an e-mail to the Hillel listserv, Wexler stated that the day of the protests "will be a day of celebration of the values we at Brandeis cherish: inclusion, mutual respect, social justice, academic inquiry, and pursuit of knowledge. To unite our community, we are planning activities that exemplify all that Brandeis represents." At the planning meeting, Wexler emphasized that the whole campus is invited to attend a Harry Potter-themed Hillel dinner on the night of the protests to bring the campus together.Mark Hajjar '13 heard about the protests from a friend and began to spread the word. "They're a very hateful group, they preach a very destructive message about just about everybody on campus," he said in an interview with the Justice. "I made it my Facebook status, I talked to a lot of other people that I knew, and I e-mailed the administration about it." According to Hajjar, the students planning response events have been in close contact with Hillel to create an appropriate response. "We have plans for this to be a very large event to bring us together as a community, but for that to work, it's really important that everyone is on the same page and everyone is willing to come together as a community," he explained.Rabbi Elyse Winnick '86, the University's Jewish chaplain, said in an interview with the Justice that faculty will provide guidance for the students, but she was extremely impressed with their organization,Winnick added, "They will de-emphasize the values of the Westboro Baptist Church and focus on the values of our community, which I contend are a much more sacred word of God's intent than anything we will be confronted with next week," she said.The Brandeis Catholic Chaplain, Rev. Walter Cuenin, said in the interview with the Justice, "It's up to the students to formulate what they want to do, and [the Chaplaincy will] support them and be there." He clarified that the chaplains will support any kind of peaceful response.Senior Vice President for Communications and External Affairs Andrew Gully explained in an interview with the Justice that the University is in communication with students about their plans for responding to the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, but no conclusive plan has been officially established as of press time. In a campuswide e-mail yesterday, University President Jehuda Reinharz wrote that he "urge[s] all members of our community to focus on the inclusive values that Brandeis stands for rather than WBC's hateful agenda, knowing that what WBC seeks most is attention.""We'll be getting the word out to everyone we can and turning this into a very positive thing," said Hajjar.-Alana Abramson contributed reporting.

Students still plan to request apology from Peretz

(09/21/10 4:00am)

Sahar Massachi '11, one of the students who wrote a letter to Martin Peretz '59 demanding an apology for his remarks regarding Muslims in his column of The New Republic, still plans to send the letter after Peretz's apology was made public. Massachi had planned to mail it to the office of The New Republic as soon as the 500 Brandeis community members signed the letter online, which happened after Peretz had published an apology."Attacking people's First Amendment rights is un-American, un-Brandeisian, and unethical," reads the letter, its last words stating, "We, the united Brandeis community, respectfully and firmly demand you apologize."The letter was in response to remarks Peretz made in his Sept. 4 column of "The Spine" in The New Republic, stating that "frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims," and going on to say: "I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse."On Sept. 13, Peretz issued an apology addressed at his previous remarks. "I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever," he wrote, but did not apologize for his other statement that called Muslim life "cheap," which he described as "a statement of fact, not value."The Union Senate formed a separate letter, and the Union Executive Board drafted a press release on the matter, both of which denounced Peretz's statements but did not call for an apology.Massachi explained in an e-mail to the Justice that he plans to still send the letter to The New Republic because "we [those who wrote the letter] have an obligation to our membership [those who signed the letter]" to send the letter. Peretz has not contacted Massachi about the letter.

EDITORIAL: Peretz's apology is appreciated

(09/14/10 4:00am)

On Sept. 4, Martin Peretz '59, a notable alumnus and the editor in chief of The New Republic magazine, concluded a blog post on the magazine's website by saying, "Muslim life is cheap. ... So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people [who advocate building a mosque near Ground Zero] and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse." This board disapproves of these incendiary words. Mr. Peretz certainly did not act in a manner that one would expect from a Brandeis alumnus. His article surely insulted Muslim Americans and many in the Brandeis community.However, this board recognizes Mr. Peretz for his apology, published Sept. 13 on The New Republic website. Mr. Peretz wrote, "I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever. . I apologize for my sentence, not least because it misrepresents me." We feel that Mr. Peretz showed dignity in admitting that he was wrong. Mr. Peretz's apology is due in large part to a harsh response written by New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof last Saturday. However, the incredible activism of Brandeis students should be commended. Sahar Massachi '11, among others, created a Facebook group in order to encourage students to sign an open letter and petition demanding an apology from Mr. Peretz. While the Student Union Senate did not agree on the specific language of the letter written by Mr. Massachi, it still drafted its own response to Mr. Peretz. This board appreciates the Union's care for this important national issue and commends the Union for effectively responding in a way that it sees fit.Even though there were different approaches in responding to Mr. Peretz's remarks, all were effective and legitimate. As this issue attracts more national attention, it is important for the Brandeis student body to show both Mr. Peretz and those following the story that this issue is important to us. However, while we may disagree with Mr. Peretz's statement-and have the right and responsibility to criticize any comments we find insulting-it is important to respect his scholarly opinion, in cases that it is not clearly offensive to any person or people. In the half century since he received his Brandeis diploma, Mr. Peretz has, with great success, given much of himself to the world of journalism. This is why the University awarded Mr. Peretz a "Distinguished Alumni award" in 2009 and features him as a "notable alumnus" on its website.Mr. Peretz's words were hurtful and tactless. But just as we pay close attention to the controversies that our alumni stir up, we should pay close attention when they make an effort to resolve them. Because of Mr. Peretz's prestige and his ability to create an excellent reputation for the University-whether or not he always succeeds-it is important to maintain a relationship with Mr. Peretz. Ultimately, this editorial board still feels proud to have Mr. Peretz as part of the University's prestigious alumni community.

Students draft letter to Peretz

(09/14/10 4:00am)

Sahar Massachi '11 and Adam Hughes '12 drafted an open letter to Brandeis alumnus and Editor in Chief of The New Republic Marty Peretz '59 on behalf of the Brandeis community, requesting an apology for anti-Muslim sentiments he voiced in his column published in the liberal magazine last week, prior to Peretz's apology on Sept. 13.In the Sept. 4 entry of Peretz's blog titled "The Spine," his last paragraph states, "Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims." He goes on to say, "I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse," two phrases that Massachi and Hughes used prominently in their open letter to Peretz.Nicholas Kristof's opinion column in the Sept. 11 issue of The New York Times quoted the same two phrases as the open letter. Peretz has since apologized for one of the two phrases in his column, stating that his sentence concerning the First Amendment rights of Muslims was embarrassing. "I do not think that any group or class of persons in the United States should be denied the protections of the First Amendment, not now, not ever," he wrote, but he did not apologize for his other statement that called Muslim life "cheap," which he described as "a statement of fact, not value."Peretz, who has served as editor in chief of The New Republic for 35 years, was awarded the Brandeis Alumni Achievement Award in 2009. His alumni snapshot on the Brandeis website describes him as "one of America's leading intellectuals," having also received the Medal of Distinction from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and the National Magazine Award for Outstanding Achievement in Essays and Criticisms from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The letter in response to these remarks was created by Massachi and Hughes in addition to a group of students who have condemned Peretz's view, fearing that it may be misconstrued as a view that represents the Brandeis community. "Attacking people's First Amendment rights is un-American, un-Brandeisian, and unethical," reads the letter, its last words stating "We, the united Brandeis community, respectfully and firmly demand you apologize."The letter, attached to a petition for signatures from the Brandeis community, has been passed around the Internet through the use of various blogs and a Facebook group titled "Let's hold Marty Peretz '59 accountable for his bigoted remarks." At press time, 400 community members had signed the petition and, according to Hughes, it had garnered the support of the Muslim Students Association. Massachi and Hughes said in an interview with the Justice that once the petition reaches 500 signatures, it will be sent to The New Republic office. Since the apology was issued, Massachi stated in a phone interview with the Justice that the fate of the letter remains to be seen.According to Massachi and Hughes, the goal of the letter was for Peretz to retract his statements and issue an apology."At the very least, I want there to be a clear sign that at least Brandeis, a university which has given him accolades in the past, is also on the record saying,'This is wrong,'" said Hughes.Asked what he thought about Peretz's apology, Massachi stated, "The first half is really good, and it seems like he really understands why what he said was not okay. The second half, I have serious issue with; he's not backing down from his statement that Muslim life is cheap."Massachi and Hughes presented their letter to the Student Union on Sunday night, requesting that the Union co-sponsor the letter as representatives of the Brandeis student body. Senator for the Class of 2012 Liya Kahan spoke against the letter, advocating that the Brandeis community support the Muslim community instead of focusing on Peretz.Executive Senator and Senator for the Class of 2012 Abby Kulawitz echoed Kahan's sentiment. "I feel like we have no right to ask him to take that back," she said. "We should be focusing on Brandeis and what we can do here," she said. After debating the issue in executive session, the Student Union Senate issued a press release expressing a "continued solidarity with Muslim students at this University in light of recent comments made by Brandeis Alum Martin Peretz '59" and further explaining that "as part of its dedication to social justice and continued dialogue, this University must be a place that respects all ideas and creeds."The Student Union wrote in an a separate press release that "We were pleased to see that Mr. Peretz did publically apologize...for a portion of the statements made in his September 4, 2010 blog post."The Student Union Senate decided not to sign Massachi and Hughes' letter and instead drafted its own in addition to the press release.The letter stated that the Senate was "disturbed and distraught by the words of Marty Peretz '59" and "will continue to represent Brandeis' values and beliefs, through future events that bring education and awareness to this issue.

Grant Union candidates more public exposure

(04/20/10 4:00am)

As the 2010 American election season comes upon us, I am reminded of the tremendous candidate overexposure that has become a hallmark of the electoral process in this country. Election cycles in the United States last well over a year, and not a stone is left unturned after the pre-election candidate-vetting process in the media. As ridiculous as this kind of overexposure can get, it speaks a great deal about our electoral process that citizens really get a chance to know candidates before an election. Thank God that what we complain about in America is that we know our candidates too well.Brandeis politics is a completely different story. I have often heard students complain about the lack of transparency in the Union, and the Union elections were no different. With the exception of a few posters strewn about campus, each carrying virtually identical platitudes about why I should cast my vote for this or that candidate, there was little information about the candidates readily available. The candidates for the Student Union's Executive and Finance Boards got virtually no exposure to the student body in the time before the election. There were no organized debates or town hall-style meetings with all the candidates for Union President or any other office. No e-mails were sent out to the student body with the platforms of any of the candidates. Truth be told, when I went online to vote in the elections, I was shocked at how many people there were running whose names I had never seen before. While the Justice did publish an article with quotes from interviews with the presidential candidates on the day of the election (Union polls open for elections, April 13), no complete interviews of each candidate were even published prior to election day. No in-depth interviews were conducted with campus radio or television stations either. This lack of exposure is at least in part due to that fact that, according the Union's bylaws, candidates need only be given five days to campaign prior to balloting. In terms of getting the names and ideas of the many candidates for the Union's Executive Board, the onus in Union elections is placed entirely on the candidates themselves. It is certainly true that in any election, be it for president of the United States or president of the Brandeis Student Union, the candidates for any office will be largely responsible for getting their names out to the electorate. However, more institutionalized methods of achieving candidate exposure are necessary on college campuses. All the candidates for office have busy class schedules, and they have to balance academics, social lives and their campaigns. Furthermore, Facebook groups and websites can't ensure adequate exposure the way campus newspapers and debates could. To expect every candidate to have the time and resources to put him or herself out there in a meaningful way is simply unrealistic.The result of this lack of formal mechanisms for candidate exposure to the student body is that election results can become skewed. The candidates are simply never put on a level playing field. If there were a town hall meeting held with all the candidates for, at the very least, Union president and vice president, then any student who wished to be informed would be able to hear the ideas of every candidate and pose questions to each of them. If the election season were made longer and campus newspapers were to publish full interviews with each of the candidates for Union president, a large portion of the student body would be informed about who was running and what each of them stood for. That is the kind of vetting of candidates that ought to go on before we the students choose who will represent us to the administration for the next academic year. Instead, what happens in Union elections is that people are only aware of the candidates who take the time to go dorm-or dining hall- storming. By the time students get to the polls, they will likely vote for one of the few candidates whose faces they recognize or who introduced himself in person rather than the candidate who shares their visions for the University. At worst, people simply vote for their friends because they already know who they are.I am not the only one who feels that I did not get adequate exposure to the candidates for the Union e-board. In an interview with the Justice regarding whether he felt he had adequate exposure to the student body in the time before the election, former Union presidential candidate Sahar Massachi '11 responded with a resounding, "Not at all." Nipun Marwaha '12, a candidate for Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees, who got to know the student body by dormstorming and personally passing out fliers around the campus, expressed similar sentiments in a separate interview with the Justice.All this being said, the strongest reason to have more transparency and exposure of candidates throughout the election process is that, as I alluded to earlier, students don't know which projects the Union is pursuing or what the roles of each member of the e-board are. And we can't demand openness from the Union if there was no openness from the people we elected to the Union during the election cycle.The University has always prided itself on being an activist campus. Through protests and activism, its students have taken part in the democratic process of the country at large. There is no reason why such a student body shouldn't be able to take part in the democratic process at our own university. But that can only happen if the Union elections are carried out in a more transparent manner and the candidates are given more exposure.I will close with the words of Matt Kriegsman '11, one of the candidates who ran for Union president, in an interview with the Justice after the election. He said, "Considering that our campus is small, we ought to make something like a campaign election accessible to all students. That could ideally include some type of town hall or debate style setting where all of our views could be articulated to the Brandeis students. There is no reason why that type of informative questioning should only remain to the editorial staff of the Justice or of The Hoot. Think about it; that type of transparency is truly Brandeis."These words capture the gist of my argument very well. For they show that candidates are willing to receive greater exposure, and that we just need to afford them the chance.

Union polls open for elections

(04/13/10 4:00am)

Polls open today for Student Union elections. The posts of president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and junior representative to the Board of Trustees are all open for election. Members of the Student Union Finance Board will also be up for election. This is the first election that will take place after the constitutional amendment to implement instant runoff voting, which will eliminate the need for students to vote in multiple rounds of student voting by utilizing a ranking system that requires students to vote only once in the elections.Daniel Acheampong '11, J.V. Souffrant '13, Matt Kriegsman '11 and Sahar Massachi '11 are the candidates for Student Union president. Andy Hogan '11, the incumbent president, has decided not to run for re-election. In an e-mail to the Justice, Hogan explained, "I decided not to run because I wanted to dedicate my time to other things in my life next year," such as applying to law school and working on a thesis. Acheampong, the current Union Treasurer, defined the student body in an interview with the Justice as the "backbone of the University" and explained that one of his goals as president will be "to form a committee of students and administrators to work together on the renovation of [the Charles River Apartments]," as well as the Usen Castle. Kriegsman, in an interview with the Justice, said, "I want to leave Brandeis knowing that I changed something." He plans to make the Union more approachable and deal with campus overcrowding, Usen Castle renovations and connecting students with administrators.Souffrant is running to improve the relationship between the Student Union and the students, focusing on academic mentorship, BranVan use and improving the use of facilities. He explained in an interview with the Justice that "one of the first things" he would like to do as President is to "talk to Facilities [Services], see if they need anything from administrators, [and] tell the administrators what the . needs" are within facilities services.Massachi, who previously served on the Constitutional Review Committee, is campaigning to make issues within the Union more transparent. Senator for the Class of 2012 and Massachi-supporter Abby Kulawitz said in an interview with the Justice that Massachi hopes to "increase communication between administrators students and the Union." In an e-mail to the Justice, Massachi wrote, "I've fallen in love with the idea of Brandeis, and I've dedicated myself to pushing it toward its ideals. We are a school explicitly founded to fight against discrimination and bigotry, and to this day we talk about our strong commitment to social justice." Shirel Guez '12 and Senator for Ziv Quad Ryan Fanning '11 are running for vice president."I'm frustrated and disappointed with a lot of things at Brandeis," explained Guez in an e-mail to the Justice, also citing "unhealthy" dining halls, a lack of school spirit and overcrowding in dining halls as reasons for her frustration and disappointment. Fanning could not be reached for comment by press time. David Fisch '13, Sophie Riese '11 and Herbie Rosen '12 are campaigning for the position of secretary. Rosen, a 2010 orientation coordinator, defined the secretary position as "one of the links between the Student Union and student body" in an interview with the Justice.Running for the junior representative to the Board of Trustees are Nipun Mawaha '12, a former Union senator; Supreetha Gubbala '12, former Student Union Director of Academic Affairs; and Marla Merchut '12, a member of the Presidential Search Committee. "The main responsibility of this position is to bring a student's perspective to issues that come to the board," Merchut wrote in an e-mail to the Justice. Like other candidates running for office during this election season, Merchut has chosen to utilize social media in her campaigning. She said that she understands that students "are very available to mediums such as Facebook and Youtube for a campaign." Other students running for office are Akash Vadalia '12, member of the Finance Board who is running for treasurer. Savannah Pearlman '12 is running for representative to the Alumni Association. Students running for membership to the F-Board include Paul Sukijthamapan '13, Eitan Mosenkis '13, Gabriel Weingrod Nemzow '12, Sidak Pannu '12, Jessica Preis '13 and Makensley Lordeus '11. Currently, the F-Board is staffed by seven student members, including the member for racial minority students. Students running for the member of the F-Board for racial minority students include Adhip Sacheti '13 and Bo-Reum Lee '13.In his e-mail to the Justice, Andy Hogan wrote that "Although all of the candidates certainly have merit, I feel that Daniel Acheampong, the current Treasurer, has the connections, experience, and motivation necessary to successfully continue the initiatives that we started and bring the Student Union to higher levels."-Clare Churchill-Seder and Alana Abramson contributed reporting.

Acheampong wins presidency of the Student Union

(04/13/10 4:00am)

Daniel Acheampong '11 will serve as Student Union president for the 2010 to 2011 academic year after defeating opponents J.V. Souffrant '13, Matt Kriegsman '11 and Sahar Massachi '11 in the April 13 Student Union elections. Acheampong won in the first count with 908 votes, followed by Massachi with 388 votes, Kriegsman with 280 votes and Souffrant by 131."[The presidential candidates] all had great ideas. That is what really made this election special. . My whole campaign was about moving forward together, and I really want to bring the student body and the Student Union and the administration together to move our university forward," Acheampong said.This was the first election that implemented instant runoff voting, which eliminates the need for additional runoff rounds of voting. Students rank candidates in order of preference, and if no candidate wins a majority of votes after the first count, students whose first-choice candidate received the fewest votes have their second-place choice counted instead. Voting counts continue in this fashion until a majority winner is obtained.Shirel Guez '12 won the seat for vice president over current Senator for Ziv Quad Ryan Fanning '11. Herbie Rosen '12 will serve in the position of secretary after winning in the first count with 871 votes. Akash Vadalia '12, who will serve as treasurer, won in the first count with 1,105 votes. Supreetha Gubbala '12 won the most votes for the junior representative to the Board of Trustees, and Savannah Pearlman '12 for junior representative to the Alumni Association. Pearlman won in the first count with 939 votes. The seat for the representative to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee was not filled. Students who won seats on the Finance Board are Sidak Pannu '12, Jessica Preis '13, Makensley Lordeus '11. The fourth seat on F-Board, as well as the seat for racial minority students, has not been filled. The F-Board is staffed by seven students, including the representative for racial minority students.Positions for which the majority of voters abstained will be filled in the second round of elections. The second round will occur next Thursday along with the voting for senators for the Class of 2011, senators for the Class of 2012, senators for the Class of 2013, senators at large, racial minority senator and associate justices for the Student Judiciary. There was a 50.94-percent turnout in the elections for president. The lowest percentage turnout of 38.66 percent was for the representative to the Alumni Association. Kriegsman told the Justice, "I honestly hope that [Acheampong] takes all of our platforms seriously. I think that we all had very good ideas and we all actually drew in a lot of different communities on campus. So, with that in mind, . he should also consider our platforms and our communities, too." He added that although he was not sure about his next position in the Union, he will still try to remain involved. Commenting on the experience of campaigning, Massachi said, "Every student on the Brandeis campus secretly or not-so-secretly kicks ass. I've known this since my freshman year. I still see it today. Campaigning, you get to meet a lot of people, and that means you get to meet a lot of people who kick ass."Souffrant told the Justice, "Even though you don't win . you cant give up . so it's important that . I continue to fight for the rights of the students academically any way possible, so I don't need the Union to achieve my dreams."Guez said that she will "push for Greek life to be recognized by Brandeis" after receiving support from Greek life for her campaign. The University does not currently recognize Greek fraternities or sororities. She added that she will also work on improving residence hall conditions. Current Student Union President Andy Hogan '11 told the Justice that he is "very excited for [Acheampong] to take office. I think he will do a fantastic job as president. One thing that needs to be worked on will be issues surrounding overcrowding. I know he will bring his own issues to the table."Hogan said that he was "really surprised" at the voter turnout of 50 percent. Commenting on the instant runoff voting system, Hogan said that although the system worked well, some issues still need to be worked out. He elaborated that there should be more rules in the instant runoff system that are geared toward abstains and write-ins. Former Student Union President Jason Gray '10 said, "I think that [Acheampong has] got a great opportunity to do an incredible job next year, and he has my full confidence."-Hannah Kirsch, Harry Shipps, Brian Fromm, Alana Abramson and Fiona Lockyer contributed reporting.

EDITORIAL: Kriegsman for Union president

(04/13/10 4:00am)

At this crucial time in our university's history, the Brandeis student body needs a leader who will represent everyday student interests; connect students, club leaders and administrators; and establish a strong campuswide community. With this in mind, we endorse Matt Kriegsman '11 for Student Union president. Kriegsman's dedication to a unified student body and expanded opportunities for student involvement qualify him to lead the Student Union and make positive change.Kriegsman has experience in numerous leadership capacities. Thanks to his three-semester tenure as associate justice on the Student Judiciary, Kriegsman has familiarized himself with Union procedures while maintaining an outside perspective and open to new ideas for the Union. Furthermore, Kriegsman's position as president of Chabad has allowed him to plan large programs that benefit hundreds of students. In that role, Kriegsman spearheaded the first-ever Shabbat United, a dinner for the Brandeis Jewish community that over 400 students attended, and he has expressed his passion for establishing a similar event for the entire Brandeis community in the true spirit of sharing and embracing diversity.Kriegsman's platform seeks to improve student life in both the immediate and distant future. Kriegsman intends to combat the problem of overcrowding the University not only in the dining and residence halls but also, crucially, in classrooms in order to ensure the highest value for our respective degrees upon graduation. He plans to work with students to voice pressing issues facing the undergraduate experience to the administration and to work with the administration to effect positive change.Kriegsman has proposed several measures aimed at making the Union more accessible, including relocating the office hours of the president, senators and executive board members to the Shapiro Campus Center atrium for increased visibility. He will also encourage student leaders to establish relationships with senators, using the Senate as a resource to make the changes everyone wishes to see benefit our campus. Kriegsman also plans to reform Union expenditures, making more reasonable purchases in order to cultivate a relationship between the Brandeis community and the Union while also being more cost-efficient.While we endorse Kriegsman for president, we applaud all of the candidates for crafting excellent platforms and encourage the ultimate president-elect to seriously consider the merit of those ideas. For example, J.V. Souffrant '13 has suggested placing a new focus on students struggling academically; Daniel Acheampong '11 has cited improving the connection between students and administrators as a chief priority; and Sahar Massachi '11 has proposed applying community organization tactics to the Union and administration relationship to make change.All told, four talented individuals are participating in this year's presidential race. While we extend our best wishes to each, we encourage students to cast their votes in favor of Kriegsman, who will undoubtedly prove to be an effective student leader.

University reacts to MSA vandalism

(03/16/10 4:00am)

Brandeis students, faculty and administrators voiced their solidarity with the University's Muslim community at a vigil held last Friday after the March 5 vandalism of the Muslim Student Association's prayer suite in the Usdan Student Center. University President Jehuda Reinharz, Associate Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams and the four University chaplains also e-mailed a joint message of support to the Brandeis community last Wednesday. "We unite in solidarity with all our Muslim students and assure them that this kind of action will not be tolerated at Brandeis. Any act of vandalism, especially those that target a particular religious or cultural community, is deplorable," according to the e-mail. The statement was made as the vandalism was being reported by the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston and the Huffington Post.Last Friday, President of the MSA Neda Eid '11 and her father, Imam Talal Eid, discovered that the MSA suite had been vandalized only three weeks after $80,000 in renovations had been completed. The intruders had violated the privacy of the suite by unplugging electronics, bending silverware as they attempted to use it to open a sealed door and stealing the Imam Eid's Quran containing two years of notes and sermons. The vandals had also left their shoes on while in the prayer space, an act that desecrates a mosque. University Police are continuing their investigation on whether the act was prompted by animosity against Muslims. Innermost Parts founder Sahar Massachi '11 began to gather online signatures for an open letter expressing Brandeis' solidarity with the Muslim community. The letter reads, "We, the students, faculty, and staff of Brandeis University, love and support our dear Muslim friends and family. ... We reject this hateful and juvenile act. ... Know this-the vandalism does not reflect the sentiments of the Brandeis community or our values." Regarding his decision to intitiate the open letter, Massachi said, "I was feeling really angry and helpless." As of last night, 575 signatures were on the list.Massachi and MSA leaders organized the rally last Friday during the weekly peace vigil. In the presence of at least 50 attendees, Massachi presented Imam Eid with the open letter. The normally low-key weekly peace vigil was attended by University President Jehuda Reinharz, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan, the University chaplains and local media.Robert Mesike '12, who attended the vigil, praised the imam's speech for "condemning the acts rather than the [vandals] themselves and still wanting to keep the Brandeis community intact." In a March 12 interview for the Waltham newspaper The Daily News Tribune, Imam Eid said that the missing Quran "is what keeps me upset. . It is very difficult; I'm not able to pinpoint the reason for the vandalism." Innermost Parts blogger Hyder Kazmi '12, who is also an executive member of the MSA, echoed Imam Eid's sentiment in a March 12 post on the Web site. Kazmi wrote, "The stealing of a copy of the Qur'an indicates something more than just a prank or some ultimately-harmless mischief. . That's two years of dedication to faith and education and introspection lost. Having really thought about it, this was more than just disrespectful, it was-yes, I'll say it-a hateful thing to do."The Faculty Senate and the Student Union Senate passed resolutions this week condemning the vandalism. The Faculty Senate resolution reads, "Such actions simply have no place at Brandeis, and we urge those in charge to follow through on their promise of a full investigation into the incident." In a March 11 e-mail to the MSA listserv, Neda Eid wrote that she is working on "Peaceful Response," an intiative that aims to address the "larger issue of hate on university campuses." She told the Justice that a new card access system will be installed next week in response to the vandalism. -Alana Abramson and Harry Shipps contributed reporting.

Constitutional Review Committee almost complete

(11/03/09 5:00am)

The Constitutional Review Committee, a group composed of students and alumni to evaluate the Student Union Constitution, is in the process of being formed, according to Union Director of Communications Sydney Reuben '10. Most of the committee members have been selected, but last Friday's deadline, by which constituencies had to select their representatives for the committee, has been pushed back to give groups more time.Ryan Fanning '11 will represent the Senate, Jenna Brofsky '10 the Senate Executive Board and Julia Cohen '10 the Financial Board. Andrea Fineman '10 will represent secured media on the committee, Jessie Steinberg '10 secured nonmedia, Matthew Feinberg '10 religious organizations, Andrew Litwin '11 artistic and performance organizations, Benjy Cooper '11 club sports, Nipun Marwaha '12 nonsports competition organizations, Kenta Yamamoto '10 the intercultural community and Tamar Brown '12 community advisors. Sahar Massachi '11 and Alex Schneider '12 will represent the student body at large. The spots on the committee reserved for three alumni of the School of Arts and Sciences have yet to be filled. According to an e-mail from Reuben, "Many [alumni] have said they'd love to be a resource, but that they live too far away to be a rep." As a result, it has been difficult to find alumni to serve, she wrote.According to Article 13, Section 1 of the Student Union Constitution, "Every four years there shall be established an independent Constitutional Review Task Force charged with conducting a full review of all aspects of the Union, including the operation of clubs, Secured Organizations, and Union Government." "The task force shall not be subject to review or oversight by the President, Senate, or Finance Board. Disputes regarding the actions of the task force may be brought before the Union Judiciary," as stated in Article 13, Section 8 of the Constitution.Reuben said in an interview with the Justice that representatives from the Student Union met with leaders of the represented constituencies to explain the purpose of the Constitutional Review Committee. Those constituencies were then allowed to choose their representatives to the committee, and members of the Student Union interviewed candidates for the committee. "Everything will be finalized this week," Reuben said. She said that if any constituencies failed to choose representatives, the Union would appoint students for these groups. "I want to work with the other members of the committee to take a critical look at the constitution, see what's working [and] what's not working and try to improve on those areas if we can and try to get as much student input into the process as possible," said Brofsky about her goals for the committee. Massachi said his goals include "creating a constitution for the Union that is more accountable and democratic and . creating a Union constitution that structures the Union to be more effective." He continued, "We don't have a Student Union right now; we have a student government, and I've been exploring the idea of actually having a Student Union."Schneider said that as a member-at-large, "I am one of the representatives that represents the whole student body instead of a club." He was selected for the position after filling out an application sent to the student body and was interviewed by members of the Senate.Several of the committee members expressed interests in including student input in the review process. "Each month the committee must hold . an open forum that's open to the public. . I want to reach out to constituents, and I hope that other people on the committee do the same," said Brofsky. "One thing I'm interested in is using polls and other methods to get student input," said Schneider. Another one of his goals is to "finish the discussion about the Racial Minority Senator that was started last year at the Union Judiciary. . I think that the Union Judiciary trial last year was not the best way to deal with that issue." Massachi also discussed the role he envisioned students would have in the Union in the future, saying, "Some of the ideas that have been tossed around are running the Union more like a co-op or more like democratic government. I am really interested in the idea of, whenever something big goes down on campus, . we just call a general meeting, and everyone who shows up has a voice."Editor's note: Andrea Fineman is managing editor of the Justice.-Harry Shipps contributed reporting.