On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 in Bucklew v. Precythe to allow the state of Missouri to execute a man whose rare medical condition will cause him excruciating pain when given a lethal injection. Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the court, asserting that the defendant, Russell Bucklew, had taken too long to object to the method of execution. He argues that the Eighth Amendment’s clause barring cruel and unusual punishment does not guarantee a painless death, and that for a punishment to be cruel it must be intended to inflict pain and so be “more than the mere extinguishing of a life.” He also says that “courts should police carefully against attempts to use such challenges as tools to interpose unjustified delay.” Finally, he says that it is the defendant’s responsibility to find a proven alternative method which would substantially reduce the risk of pain as the court held in a previous case, Glossip v. Gross. Despite the precedent set by apparently similar decisions in Glossip and also in Baze v. Rees, Gorsuch’s arguments are not constitutionally sound and this execution violates the Eighth Amendment.
In an April 2 interview with Science News, Nobel laureate David Baltimore, Ph.D., argued that putting a temporary ban on human gene editing, meant to improve the technology and foster a better understanding of the science and its ethical questions, would not work. Baltimore argues that the ban would fail to adapt to new discoveries and would not allow for any continued discussions of the ethics of gene editing. He instead calls for a registry of all gene-related procedures and events. What are your thoughts on Baltimore’s view? Do you think there are any alternatives to a moratorium on gene editing that would take Baltimore’s concerns into account?
On March 31, the Student Union passed a bylaw requiring all secured clubs to select a club consultant from the University’s faculty or administration. According to the bylaw, the consultant, while not a voting member of the club, will be required to meet with the club’s treasurer at least twice a semester. The consultant can also be sought out for advice on other issues the club faces, such as “leadership or membership issues which arise.” The bylaw was passed despite the strong and clear objection of the University’s secured independent media organizations — the Justice, WBRS and BTV — and this board opposes both the content of the bylaw and the process by which the bylaw was passed.
I spent last weekend in Washington, D.C. at the much-maligned and mostly-misunderstood American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, an annual convention in which legions of citizen lobbyists descend on the nation’s capital to hear from policy makers, discuss developments in Middle Eastern politics and meet with representatives to make the case for “pro-Israel” legislation. It was my first time at the policy conference — I was raised in a theoretically, but not aggressively, Zionist home, and the year I spent in Israel before transferring to Brandeis from my small liberal arts college in Minnesota involved more protesting of the current Israeli government than lobbying in support of its American policy agenda. But then, controversy ensued when my old object of admiration in Minnesota, now-Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, called out AIPAC by name as buying American politicians. This triggered a collective heart attack in the Jewish community, as well as a spate of purportedly philo-semitic Islamophobia from Omar’s political opponents, and then a problematic conflation of that bile with the good-faith criticism that preceded it. Obsessed with this story to the point of being unable to talk about much else, I felt compelled this year to see for myself what this “Israel lobby” thing was all about.
“We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results.” Now, your first thought upon reading this quote may be that someone is stealing candy from our children's hands to develop a machine to bring dinosaurs back from the dead, find the last number of pi or discover the Fountain of Youth. I wish that this was actually the case. Instead, this was said by Betsy DeVos, the head of the United States Department of Education, in a prepared testimony before a House subcommittee considering the Department of Education’s budget request for the next fiscal year in regards to the usefulness of special-needs programs. Her new plan entails creating a tax cut for individuals and companies to encourage them to donate to private school scholarships and adding an additional $60 million to charter school funding. Aside from the obscene elitism behind this addition, the real disgust is that she is eliminating $18 million of funding from the Special Olympics.
Another year, another month of students complaining about the University’s housing lottery. The limited amount of housing creates a situation by which many students are left without housing, and there will always be dissatisfaction until more housing is built — a priority this board urges the University to act on. Until then, we have to work within the system that currently exists. The Department of Community Living has made some improvements in the past few years, but there is still more that can be made.
Since January, the Student Union has pursued countless new campus-wide initiatives and has committed itself to reforming its internal policies to streamline governance and improve accountability procedures. The Union is poised to continue this semester’s success into the 2019-2020 academic year.
On Sunday, Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, released his final report stating that no collusion between President Trump’s campaign and the Russian government had occurred, but did not reach a conclusion on the issue of obstruction of justice, instead allowing Attorney General William Barr to do so. Barr concluded that the President did not obstruct justice, and Democrats are calling for Muller’s full report to be released to the public. What do you think this means for the country, and how should the Democrats handle this situation?
My eleven-year-old brother, Sebastian, wakes up as soon as the sun’s light turns the sky pastel. When he bounces his way to the kitchen table, there is already a bowl of yogurt and a plate of freshly cut fruit arranged in a smiley face, mirroring his own energetic grin. The books that he had inevitably strewn around the house the night before have “magically” relocated to his backpack along with his lunch.
This past week, I took a break from my schoolwork to attend the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, DC.
In the discussion that occurs within the United States over the tragic humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, recent talk has been about whether the United States will intervene militarily and overthrow the dictator Nicolas Maduro, whose reign has contributed more than anything to the widespread starvation, thirst and disease being most Venezuelans are experiencing. When considering the plight of the Venezuelan people, who have been deprived of many things people in bordering countries deem commonplace, an interesting scenario arises. One can ask, what would happen if the people in another country, say the United States, were deprived of this vital infrastructure?
Modern-day voters may have trouble believing that a Republican president signed the suite of environmental regulations that we rely on today into law. “Clean air, clean water, open spaces. These should be the birthright of every American. If we act now, they can be,” declared President Richard Nixon in his January 1970 State of the Union address. And act he did, by approving and funding the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. President Nixon approved the implementation of more stringent emissions standards with the Clean Air Act that same year, as well as regulations concerning watershed pollution with the Clean Water Act in 1972. Finally, among other bills, he signed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, which has since protected not only threatened animals but also the habitats they occupy.
Law enforcement recovered a stockpile of 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hanson’s home on Feb. 15. He was allegedly planning a terrorist attack. We shouldn’t worry, though. According to Hanson’s attorney, his collection is “modest at best” in a country with an estimated 363 million guns. His attorney's statements distract from the real issue — Handson’s firearm and ammunition stockpile was not the reason law enforcement found him. There is no way for law enforcement to know if someone’s firearm collection is growing from “modest” to whatever amount is big enough to be concerning.
Here are some interesting statistics: according to NPR, the regular admission rate to Harvard University is 5.9 percent. If one of your parents went to Harvard, it’s nearly 34 percent. In 2017, one-third of incoming class members were children of alumni.
On March 12, federal prosecutors released the names of dozens of celebrities and social media influencers who illegally arranged to have their children admitted to several elite colleges and universities. Many commentators have pointed to this scandal as evidence of a false meritocracy, and that college admissions is more of a pay-to-play system than one based on hard work. Do you think the college admissions system should be reformed, and how do you think this scandal reflects on college admissions as a whole?
One of the wonderful things about going to a university like Brandeis is being able to hear intellectual leaders, change-makers and industry powerhouses speak about their work. Clubs, organizations, institutes and departments all work to bring important individuals to campus so that members of the Brandeis community can learn directly from their personal experiences and scholarship. Recently, the University has hosted a wide range of influential speakers.
When the Department of Community Living posted housing lottery numbers, it advertised a plan to make laundry “free” starting next school year, based on the results of its SkyFactor survey. On March 13, each student enrolled in the housing lottery received an email informing them that their number had been posted and that use of the laundry facilities would be free from Fall 2019 on, an initiative this board commends.
In a March 11 interview with the Washington Post, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — currently the most powerful Democrat in office — stated that she would not support the impeachment of President Trump because it would be “too divisive” for the country,” while adding that she believes Trump is not “fit to be President of the United States.” Do you agree or disagree with Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment, and why? What effect do you think impeaching Trump would have on the country?