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Brandeis University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1949 | Waltham, MA

EDITORIAL: University is falling down on its social justice mission

 This year’s ’DEIS Impact, Brandeis University’s annual social justice festival, featured 52 events. Unfortunately, this is the most impressive thing one can say about ’DEIS Impact. Though the festival’s name suggests that attendees should walk away with some sense of how Brandeis students can make an impact — either on the University itself or on society as a whole — the majority of its events provide little guidance to that end. This shortcoming, however, is only one of the reasons the festival as a whole is so poorly attended. 


Views on the News: Virginia Governor Controversy

 This past week, a photo from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s page in his medical school yearbook emerged depicting an unidentified student wearing blackface makeup and another wearing the garb of a Ku Klux Klan member during what appeared to be a costume party. Governor Northam initially apologized for being in the photo, only to backtrack the next day and claim he was not in it. Instead, he referenced another “mistake” from his past: wearing blackface for a Michael Jackson impression at a dance competition. Many politicians are calling for Governor Northam to resign. Do you think he should resign, and why or why not? 


Yemen famine crisis is an untold, preventable tragedy

 Reading the news gives me a feeling of being stuck. I feel stuck being a college student, especially in a world that has so many problems. Often I sit on the floor and feel powerless. I want to save the world, but I have classes and the T runs to Boston, not Yemen. Thus, too often my solution to big problems is to not think about them at all. How Brandesian. There is a famine in Yemen right now. Millions of pounds of grain earmarked to relieve the widespread famine are rotting in storehouses, according to the New York Times. Doctors Without Borders says the medical health system has effectively collapsed and the country is a hairbreadth away from an outbreak of measles, cholera and diphtheria.  


Enacting social justice requires personal responsibility

 As part of the University’s festival of social justice, DEIS Impact, the Brandeis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine invited Phyllis Bennis to discuss the complex situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Bennis, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace’s Board of Trustees, has spent decades discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She has served on various United Nations committees, spoken at universities across the nation and written nine books. Most of the pro-Israel community at Brandeis lament the rise of Students for Justice in Palestine, along with figures such as Bennis, simply because the opposition and ideas that run contrary to those at a historically Zionist university seems uncomfortable. Undoubtedly, Bennis’ visit brings a new discussion of Israel to the Brandeis campus. However, the most consequential impact of this new movement is the abandonment of personal responsibility.  


The BranVan’s problems are unacceptable and easily fixable

 There’s a lot to dislike about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Aside from generally being an unpleasant person, he invented modern fascism, killed thousands of dissidents in horrible ways and fought on Hitler’s side in World War II. Nonetheless, it’s widely stated that he made the trains in Italy run on time, which apparently makes up for all of that. 


Superbowl ads are emotionally manipulative

 The Super Bowl is a celebration of all things American: snack foods, big crowds, boundless passion, nefariously concealed concussion scandals and colossal amounts of money. Perhaps its most American feature is the widespread concept of “watching for the ads.” Across this great nation of ours, countless individuals — myself included — passively watch a sports game they’re not terribly invested in, in order to enjoy being marketed to.  


Views on the News: China's social credit system

 As part of its developing “social credit” system, the People’s Republic of China has created software capable of detecting people nearby who are in debt. This system is one of several tactics designed to publicly shame debtors into paying off the money they owe. In addition to having one’s financial struggles on public display, an individual can also be barred from flying or purchasing train tickets due to this low “social credit score.” How do you view this system in terms of China’s politics and treatment of its citizens? Do you think there are any alternatives to encouraging Chinese citizens to pay off their debts in a timely manner? 


EDITORIAL: Students gain nothing from Union's Judiciary case

 Any club that spends an entire semester bickering, obsessing over minute projects and abandoning mature communication in favor of publicly shaming and defenestrating its leadership could be expected to try operating humbly and productively the following semester. But the Student Union is no club — a point it’s attempting to impress upon the Judiciary, which is poised to decide whether the Senate and Executive Board will be rewarded for last semester’s shenanigans with more funding and no oversight.  


EDITORIAL: Can this be the last BranVan editorial?

 Last Thursday, Boston experienced nearly record-breaking freezing temperatures, according to CBS Boston. On such a cold day, the BranVan really had a chance to shine: extra vans could have been chartered to handle the mass of students who did not want to walk outdoors in a 14 degrees Fahrenheit windchill, the reservations system could have been streamlined to enable impromptu rides, and space heaters or designated indoor waiting areas could have been utilized. Unfortunately, in typical BranVan fashion, no emergency plan was put in place and the vans ran as inefficiently as usual.  


On the Gillette ad controversy: doing good is doing good

 I watch significantly more YouTube videos than I should. In the heaps of media that I consume on a daily basis, very seldom do I pay attention to advertisements. More often than not, I see adverts as an obstacle; if I am not watching the yellow line creep right toward my next video, I watch ads with the reservation of a jaded consumer. It is only when an advertisement oversteps its role as a distant annoyance that I lean in to show even a minor amount of interest.  


Women's March has become a political laughing stock

 As current United States citizens, we live in Thomas Jefferson’s state of Civic Republicanism. This Jeffersonian idea claims that we have a civic duty to not only our fellow man, but our community. As active citizens, we have an obligation to participate in civic affairs. Besides  voting, we are expected to march, organize sit-ins and employ other methods of protest to ensure our voices are heard. Through this sacrifice of time and other responsibilities, we become the catalysts for the changes we seek.  


Letter to the Editor: In opposition to Angela Davis

 That the Department of African and African American Studies has chosen to include Angela Davis ’65 among the participants in the events commemorating its 50th anniversary later this month is disgraceful. 


What everyone seems to get wrong about climate change

 Last Thanksgiving, I got up at four o’clock in the morning to go to Logan International Airport in Boston. When I left, it was freezing cold; my flight was briefly delayed on account of the snow. As I watched it fall through the terminal window, I remember thinking how happy I would be to be back in California, where my hometown’s last snowfall was in the 1960s. 


Understanding economic unicorns

 Growing up, many are made aware of the mythical creature known as the one-horned horse: the unicorn. It is an elegant creature, in fact, as far as we know, nonexistent. Similarly, in the world of business, very large companies valued at $1 billion  or more are labeled “unicorns.” They are few and rare (at least once upon a time) and last year was predicted to be the biggest year of unicorn discovery in United States history. What was once deemed a mythical creature has been brought to life. 


EDITORIAL: Accessibility forum failed to address needs

In response to an open letter addressed to President Ron Liebowitz concerning how Brandeis accommodates its students with disabilities, the University held a public forum with the intent of acknowledging, learning from and finding solutions to many of the struggles and inconveniences these community members face. Tuesday’s forum began with Provost Lisa Lynch and Senior Vice President Stewart Uretsky addressing an audience seated at round tables whereupon smaller and more intimate discussions were held. This board commends the University for its willingness to respond to widespread criticism of the quality of life for students with disabilities. However, while planned with good intentions, this meeting did little to directly address many of the concerns of students with disabilities, which extend far beyond wheelchair access to certain buildings and will likely do little in the long term to address the well-being of students with disabilities.


Views on the News: Academy Awards Nominees

This past weekend, the nominees for the 2019 Academy awards were revealed. Traditionally, nominations and awards for coveted titles such as “Best Picture” and “Best Actor” have been given to more drama-oriented, realistic and predominantly white-casted films. This awards season, however, sees action blockbusters such as Black Panther — which is set in the fictional country of the popular Marvel superhero with a predominantly Black cast — and fan-favorite remake A Star is Born — a more musically oriented film with pop singer Lady Gaga in a lead role — with best picture nominations, two films that might have garnered little recognition in previous years. To many film critics, these nominations are seen as a step in the right direction for the Academy, which usually recognizes year-end drama releases instead. What are your thoughts on the state of the Academy, and how do you view these nominations in the context of previous awards shows?


Schuster Institute's closing leaves behind experiental learning

Brandeis University’s closure of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism leaves a blind spot in the school’s commitment to social justice. For the past 14 years, the Institute has given students and professional researchers alike a structured avenue to practice what Brandeis preaches in terms of social change — allowing them to learn directly from professional researchers how to use their knowledge and skill sets for the good of others. According to its mission statement, Brandeis “affirms the importance of a broad and critical education in enriching the lives of students and preparing them for full participation in a changing society, capable of promoting their own welfare, yet remaining deeply concerned about the welfare of others.” The Schuster Institute, and specifically the Justice Brandeis Law Project, embodied this philosophy better perhaps than any other university. In their absence, Brandeis must create new opportunities for students to apply the rule of law to real-world cases. 


Trump's steel tariffs do more harm than good to U.S. companies

Trade and the economy were two of the major cornerstones of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In an appeal to voters of the rust belt states, many of which also happen to be swing states, Trump asserted that he would fix the “disastrous” trade deals imposed by the previous administration in a bid to bring back manufacturing jobs that were outsourced overseas. The main way Trump plans to fix these trade deals is through tariffs. A tariff is a tax on an imported good, and a 15-percent tariff, for example, would indicate that for every dollar of that good a company buys, the company would have to pay the United States government 15 cents. The effect of this tariff is a higher price for the good for both consumers and producers alike, as producers inexorably due to an increase in manufacturing costs. After less than two years into his first term in office, one of the products that Trump has implemented tariffs on is steel. This has produced a wide range of reactions from across the political spectrum. Unsurprisingly, Trump has doubled down and defended his policies even as some of his top economic advisors, such as former National Security Advisor Gary Cohn, have resigned in opposition. In reaction to these new tariffs, there have been those who argue that Trump’s policies hurt the economy more than they help it, but there have been others who have supported them, most notably the domestic manufacturers of these items. A survey of leading economists from the Initiative of Global Markets indicated that although the tariffs would benefit some companies, the net economic losses as a result would outweigh the net economic gains. The organizations who would benefit from these tariffs are the domestic producers of these products, while the companies that would be undermined are those that utilize these raw materials for their manufacturing plants that in turn would be hurt by the rising costs. 


Students with disabilities can speak for themselves

Section 504 of the United States Rehabilitation Act states, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States… shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” This law, passed in 1973, forever changed how Americans with disabilities are treated. This clause has always applied to universities that receive federal funding. But unfortunately, in almost every institution of higher learning in this country, the vast majority of students with disabilities still face discrimination and inaccessibility all the time. Brandeis is, unfortunately, no exception.


Media should own up to fumbling covington story

For those of you living under a rock, let’s briefly go over what happened last week in Washington, D.C. After a pair of marches there, a group of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky were approached by a small number of Black Hebrew Israelites who proceeded to shout racial epithets and homophobic slurs at them. To defuse this, a group of Native American marchers led by veteran Nathan Phillips stood between the Covington students and the Israelites, playing their drums and chanting.


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