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

The North American Free Trade Agreement: In Memoriam

 After a 25-year lifespan in which is helped define the economic relationship between the United States, Canada and Mexico for the start of the 21st century, the North American Free Trade Agreement, better known as NAFTA, has finally been replaced. Its successor, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, contains most of NAFTA’s provisions, with a few updates that help bridge its shortcomings. President Donald Trump, who was sharply critical of the old agreement, helped to negotiate the USMCA, alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  

Texas curriculum changes threaten to whitewash history

  Throughout nearly all of U.S. history, the state of Texas has generated its fair share of controversy. Recently, the state has come under a great degree of scrutiny due to numerous and significant changes implemented by the Texas Board of Education regarding the curriculum arrangement and standards of elementary, middle and high school U.S. history classes. 

Skyline construction highlights missed opportunities

 The University is evidently proud of Skyline, the new, environmentally-friendly replacement for Usen Castle. The Castle was no longer suitable for student living, and this Board supports the construction of additional on-campus housing. Unfortunately, the layout and cost of Skyline raise concerns about the University’s decision-making during the construction process, and this board cannot fully support the final product.  

Chaplain' Corner: The Importance of Change

 This past semester, my third as a Brandeis chaplain, I have had the honor of teaching “First Year Experience: Spirit, Mind, and Body,” a class that supports first-year students as they begin their first semesters of college. In our second class session, this group of driven and thoughtful first-years shared with one another their experiences of transitioning to college. They talked about learning to share space with roommates, missing home, balancing their and their families’ expectations, the pressure to perform and, of course, how to do all this while getting their homework done! I was reminded during our conversation that this fall season, a season of endings and beginnings, is a chaotic one, not only for first-years, but for all students, and for staff and faculty as well.  

Views on the News: Texas History Changes

  On Sept. 14, the Dallas Morning News reported that the Texas Board of Education had enacted sweeping changes to the state’s history curriculum. Of particular note were the decisions to highlight America’s supposed “Christian heritage” and “civic leaders” like Rev. Billy Graham and Andrew Carnegie and to remove Hellen Keller and Hillary Clinton from the curriculum entirely. Supporters argue that the changes better reflect Texan values and priorities, while opponents argue that they serve to put Christianity and conservatism on a pedestal. Was the board correct in making these changes, and what effect could similar changes in other states have on national education? 

United States of Kekistan: The Alt-Right's Military Presence

 A United States private military contractor stationed in Afghanistan was recently discharged for wearing white supremacist memorabilia on the battlefield, according to a Sept. 25 Huffington Post article. His version of white supremacy was a new brand, at least to me. Abdicating the organization’s hoods, tiki torches and chants of “blood and soil,” he instead brandished a green-colored ‘Kekistan’ flag for Pepe the Frog. A quick overview: Kekistan is a fictional country born in 4chan chat rooms and its flag is a symbol of unity for misogynists, white supremacists and many alt-right thinkers. Though this contractor did not act in a vacuum, his actions were an expression of a subversive culture within the U.S. which speaks to an underlying untruth in our characterization of the troops. 

Editorial: Mailroom Improvements

  When students arrived on campus at the start of the fall 2018 semester and began flocking to the mail room, they found that a new system had been put in place for package distribution. This board applauds the University for crafting a more efficient system for distributing mail, one that saves students — and those who work in the mailroom — both time and energy.

Louis CK: Bound and Gagged?

 ne would be hard pressed to find a comedian as well-known and formerly beloved as Louis CK. The dark, raunchy, guilty-pleasure comedy that oozed out of every special Mr. CK delivered spoke to a dark pit in the collective imagination of the audience — it was exciting. In this sense, it is difficult to confront the fact that the crimes he was accused of had already been hiding in his comedy under the guise of benign humor. 

The Thin Greek Line: Pratfalls of Fraternity Life

Fraternities aren’t for me, I thought, as bundles of blankets spilled out of my overstuffed Samsonite onto my first-year double. One orientation week and four perspiration-filled basement parties later, I sang a different tune and signed my bid, hands shaking. Through “brotherhood,” I have met some of my closest friends and grown into my own college skin, but I have also sometimes felt like I did not belong to the identity that it promulgated. First-years come to college seeking a group with which they can form a common identity. Fraternity life connects sociable people with high aspirations, and sparks fly. But sometimes, instead of sparking the creation of Facebook, what the New York Times called aggressive, hypersexualized “bro culture,” sexually attacks and harasses women, as Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter at Yale infamously did. Fraternities offer lessons in leadership and teamwork, but they limit themselves by not using their resources for nobler goals such as philanthropy and diversity. If fraternities want a house to live in, they need to stand for more than crushing beer cans and upholding the patriarchy.

Views on the News: FEMA Trouble

 Amid the relief efforts during Hurricane Florence, FEMA chief Brock Long is under criminal investigation for misuse of Homeland Security funds and equipment, as reported in a Sept. 18 Washington Post story. Despite spending most of his time fighting off investigation, Long continues to remain head of the relief operation, and the Trump administration shows no signs of replacing him. Should an official currently under investigation for misuse of funds be allowed to run an agency during a humanitarian crisis, and does Long’s conduct hamstring his agency's relief efforts in the Carolinas?  

70th Emmys descend further into white mediocrity

If you watched the Emmy Awards last weekend, congratulations! You probably don’t exist. The award show — perennially denied the coveted “least relevant” spot by the god-awful Grammys — limped into its 70th showing in typical fashion and was rewarded with the lowest Nielsen ratings in its history. Questionable choices abounded in hosting, nominations and award selection. 

Carefully analyze how Kavanaugh situation unravels

 With this in mind, there should be little debate over the necessity of an investigation into the allegations. To delay the nomination is not ideal, but it would be infinitely worse to ignore them altogether and rush to confirm him, only to find out they were true later. Given that Supreme Court Justices serve for life, the last thing the Court needs is an undisputed sex criminal deciding the legal fate of this country for some 30-odd years. The Senate realizes this, and as of this writing, Dr. Ford has agreed to testify before the Judiciary Committee about the matter. An FBI investigation, which she also insisted upon, is likely to follow shortly 

Editorial: Yom Kippur Break Fast

 Community members gathered on the Great Lawn on Wednesday night for the annual Break Fast — known as “Break the Fast” in the pastprevious years — where the University provided free food and drinks. As in previous years, people who had not fasted for Yom Kippur were invited as well, but this year, the event started earlier, around the time that the fast ended. This led to long lines and limited seating, as fasting students arrived around the same time as non-fasting students. This board urges the University to assess this year’s event and take steps to ensure that, in the future, the entire Brandeis community can participate in Break Fast without inconveniencing students who have been fasting for 25 hours. 

Vaping could put teens on a path to lifelong addiction

 Smoking isn’t supposed to be attractive or glamorous. It is a life-threatening vice that turns into an addiction with continued use. Rebranding it to make it more cool or socially acceptable only gives teens the idea that it isn’t as detrimental — or obnoxious — as it actually is. Before we know it, the smoking rooms of the 1950s may soon be revived as vaping rooms.  

Enviromental film prompts tough questions on divestment

 Mr. Koplow seems to relegate the burden of initiative to the individual, but it’s our country’s institutions that point the way. We live in a society that is unfortunately heavily influenced by funding provided by these institutions, so any divestment would be a push in the right direction. There were some in the theater who argued that we are too far gone to prompt significant change. This sentiment is why we are in this mess in the first place. Though our climate trajectory for the coming decades is not optimistic, we can still take strides toward minimizing the inevitable damage. Mr. Koplow insists that the Board has “taken a look at the rosters of universities out there” and  that “there are really not a lot of U.S. universities that have gone ahead and divested.” Just because other institutions have not does not mean Brandeis should not.  

The stakes of Brett Kavanaugh's SCOTUS nomination

 Not many college students are avid C-SPAN viewers. This makes a lot of sense; even the quietest campus offers more exciting Friday night options than watching the nuts and bolts of our nation’s political process. But anyone who was watching C-SPAN from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7 would have seen the initial screening of the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. 

Editorial: Consider the University's attempts to curb abuse

 On Sept. 4, University President Ron Liebowitz sent an email to the Brandeis community with an update on the independent investigation into the abusive environment created within the University’s basketball program. While the initiatives the University has set out on to curtail the behavior that allowed for such gross misconduct are a good start, more should be done to make sure that this kind of abuse is not repeated.  

EU's draconian directive puts memes on the chopping block

 On Sept. 12, the European Parliament, the elected legislature that represents all 28 member states of the European Union, passed a suite of laws under the name “Copyright Directive.” This new set of regulations and statutes pertains to the use of unique content in internet-related publications such as videos, news articles and, much to the discontent of young people, memes. Though this piece of legislation is quite wordy, as all laws tend to be, two sub-articles within this directive have attracted quite a bit of controversy.  

What in the world is going on with Elon Musk?

 At one point in time, no name generated quite as much enthusiasm and reverence in business or engineering as Elon Musk’s. The sharp-witted and eccentric founder and CEO of Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company was the rock star of Silicon Valley, a spark of excitement amid a wave of Harvard dropouts in matching gray hoodies. Musk’s promised innovations were straight out of the Isaac Asimov novels that he once quoted regularly. 

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