As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough, California is literally on fire. Wildfires have engulfed millions of acres of land across California, Oregon and Washington. These wildfires are the worst that California has seen in over 18 years, and it has been reported that San Francisco, Portland and Seattle have the worst air quality in the entire world. Oregon’s air quality is so poor that it has surpassed the state’s Air Quality Index scale, which is a tool used by the government to measure the level of pollution in the air. On this scale, the highest possible score an area can receive is 500 and is considered to be the most hazardous. The city of Sisters, Oregon, recently scored a 582. Back in August, major cities in Oregon were scoring an 11. I could continue to list depressing facts about this crisis. I could even mention how a firefighter lost their life to the El Dorado wildfire that began as a gender reveal party. No matter how many news organizations cover the horrors of the wildfires or middle-aged moms post a picture on Facebook “sending their prayers,” the only people who have the power to enact lasting change are our government officials.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, college students and professors have experienced a start to the academic school year that differs from those in previous years. At Brandeis, the beginning of the fall 2020 semester was met with virtual classrooms, club meetings and campus activities. For some, the fall semester is taking place off-campus or at home. Has the shift to online learning changed your relationship to the Brandeis community? If so, in what ways? Additionally, for those participating in the community remotely, whether that be off-campus or at home, do you still feel connected to those living on-campus? And for individuals either living or participating on-campus, do you feel connected to the virtual community being created?
On Sept. 8, the DOJ announced that it was taking over from Trump’s lawyers in a defamation lawsuit brought against Trump by E. Jean Carroll. Carroll is an American journalist who claimed in her memoir, “What do we need Men For?,” that Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store sometime between 1995 and 1996. Trump denied her claims, stating, “I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who's also accused other men of things, as you know. It is a totally false accusation." Based on this denial, Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump.
It is no secret that online learning is drastically different from the traditional classroom-based education we took for granted in a pre-COVID-19 world. Although lectures and discussion sections can be approximated with Zoom calls and breakout rooms, many have worried about how to recreate a classroom testing environment remotely, with many colleges and universities turning to online proctor services as the solution. However, these online proctor services — such as Proctorio, ProctorU and Honorlock — violate student privacy and exacerbate existing systems of oppression. This board is grateful that Brandeis has not instituted the use of these proctor services in response to the pandemic, and we call on all educational institutions, including our own, to take a bold stance against these services.
In the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, awareness of climate change and environmental concerns seemed to be at an all-time high. Unfortunately, since COVID-19 took over our lives, many people are wrongly treating the pandemic and environmental degradation as two separate emergencies. Some claim that environmental action should be put on the backburner in favor of dealing with the effects of the pandemic, while others have celebrated “wins” for the climate as our harmful activity slows due to quarantines and social distancing. In reality, the pandemic is not in the best interest of the planet. Many of the causes of the outbreak and its subsequent effects only highlight our harmful relationship with the environment and the necessity of taking action.
On Sept. 18, 2019, Congressman Joe Kennedy III announced that he would be running against Senator Ed Markey in the Democratic primary in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. When I became aware of this news, I asked myself why. Why would Kennedy forfeit his secure congressional seat to run against an incumbent who has helped pass many laws that have benefited the commonwealth? As I sat to fill out my mail-in ballot after almost a year of his campaign, I remained confused by Kennedy’s motives to run for office.
Last fall, out of curiosity, I created a TikTok account. Many of my other social media platforms were getting old and boring. I grew tired of reading the diatribes on Facebook. Twitter doesn’t have enough characters for me to fully express my opinions, and I wasn’t a fan of the image link. And while Instagram had the text in line with the images, it became so commercialized. Plus, it was owned by Facebook and I was trying to diversify my social media presence. I had been on Snapchat but their videos were too short and not enough people I knew used it — network effects. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit I craved creative outlets that didn’t spew incendiary politics, and TikTok seemed to be the best option. I saw videos depicting everything from cats to parents trying to bond with their children. I also saw first responders reminding me to wear a mask and explaining how they got into medical school while still being devastatingly handsome. Admittedly, I enjoyed many of the videos, the lyrics to Interior Crocodile Alligator by Chip Tha Ripper being one of my favorites.
EDITORIAL: Brandeis’ early success with curbing the spread of COVID-19 should be met with cautious optimism
Fall 2020 at Brandeis has been and will continue to be a semester like no other in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure the safety of community members while continuing day-to-day operations during this challenging time, the University has adopted a comprehensive list of safety measures. These protocols include but are not limited to hosting most classes and events remotely, building a large-scale, well-maintained frequent testing and daily online health assessment system for everyone on campus, mandatory mask-wearing and physical social distancing.
EDITORIAL: Transparency and oversight needed regarding consequences of violating COVID-19 regulations
Since the University announced its reopening plans on June 30, several on-campus offices and departments, including the Department of Community Living, the Office of Student Affairs, the COVID-19 Task Force and the Dean of Students Office, have collaborated to implement a number of mandatory policies to ensure the health and safety of Brandeis students, faculty and staff. The measures—which include social distancing, mask wearing outdoors and indoors, limitations on gatherings, completion of daily health assessments and frequent testing—apply to all members of the community engaging in any type of activity on-campus. While the University has emphasized that violations of these policies will “result in loss of on-campus privileges and may also result in disciplinary action,” it remains unclear what exactly this disciplinary action will entail. This board worries that such lack of specificity from both the administration and the various offices that will enforce the policies could lead to discriminatory practices against students of color in the Brandeis community.
An open letter to the Division of Science: About one month before the world changed, still in the midst of my final semester as a student and as the Division’s first Lead Undergraduate Departmental Representative, an associate dean had emailed me in regards to a workshop she attended about efforts to reform undergraduate STEM education, hosted by the Association of American Universities. The initiative is driven by a mission to improve the quality of instruction in science courses and to enhance student retention in STEM fields. Drawing experts from the many niches of higher education, the workshop saw educators from a Midwestern flagship university present the results of an exercise in which students responded to the following prompt: Take some time to reflect on some of the concerns you may have about taking [introductory biology]. What do you think will be difficult or challenging for you? These concerns may be about course content, navigating resources, working in groups, interacting with your TA or professor, and so on.
COVID-19 has upended the lives of millions of people around the world. The effects of the pandemic — whether financial, physical, emotional or mental — have impacted each individual in one way or another. How has the COVID-19 pandemic transformed your life? How would you describe your quarantine experience? Has the pandemic changed your way of thinking or worldview, led you to acquire new skills or revealed anything else during your time in quarantine?
EDITORIAL: Standing with Brandeis’ Black and Brown communities amidst police violence and civil unrest
In recent weeks, people all over the United States and around the world have been using their voices in a renewed call for racial justice. This board condemns anti-Black racism, as highlighted by recent incidents of police brutality, and is implementing concrete ways that we can address systemic racial inequity in our own organization.
On May 25, a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, killed Minneapolis resident George Floyd by pressing his knees into Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. On June 3, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Floyd’s death has sparked protests all across America and the world. While the majority of protests have been peaceful, violence on both sides of the protests has only exacerbated the tensions between the police and the Black community. With protests taking place all over the nation, and people of all races speaking out against the racial injustices experienced by the Black community, do you believe that this time real change will occur to prevent future deaths by police brutality? Now that race has become part of a national conversation regarding injustices towards Black Americans, what steps can non-Black people take to address the prejudices they may hold? Are these conversations regarding race just a trendy hashtag, or are they here to stay?
Over the past few days, I have been debating whether or not to say something regarding the protests, the riots, the murders, all of it. I have been donating and sharing resources with my peers, which surely counts for something. However, I have some sentiments I feel the need to express that simply won't fit on my Instagram story or in a text.
The end of this year has brought countless unexpected obstacles, making it especially difficult to say goodbye to our seniors. Each of them has brought something special to the Justice, and we know they will bring their same strengths and passions to whatever it is they choose to pursue. Thank you to our seniors for all of your creative and thoughtful contributions to the Justice over the years.
In the last few weeks, life for the Brandeis community has abruptly and significantly changed as the University responds to the developing COVID-19 pandemic. This board hopes that students, faculty, staff, administrators and their families are staying safe and healthy amid the chaos, and we commend the efforts that the entire community has devoted to protecting and supporting each other during this time.
Dear Brandeis Community, The past few days have been hectic, and full of change and uncertainty. Just like you, we’re devastated that the semester and our terms are ending like this. This past week, however, has shown the strength of our community. Whether it has been contributing flight points, donating laptops, or helping one another pack and giving rides, you have proven what the core values of Brandeis are about. For this, we can’t thank you all enough.
I was 11 years old on Nov. 6th, 2012, and I still remember my parents letting me stay up to watch the news that night. It truly was a historic night as Elizabeth Warren, in beating the Republican incumbent Scott Brown, became my senator and the first woman senator from the state of Massachusetts. I became interested in politics at the age of six or seven by listening to National Public Radio in the backseat of my mom’s car. During the 2008 primary, I was proud to campaign for Hillary Clinton. It made no sense to me then—and I guess still today— that there had never been a woman in the White House. Although the Senate is not the White House, I was extremely proud to have Warren be the first woman to represent my state.
This is my surprise last article ever for the Justice. It’s been a pleasure to serve as your annoying columnist for the past four years. After all, everything else isn’t exactly hunky-dory in all walks of American life right now, and our usual refuge of sports is unfortunately no different. The NBA is suspended, March Madness is canceled, the MLB delayed and the NFL is in no man's land. But that doesn’t mean we’re wholly bereft of sports content.
As of a March 11 email from University President Ron Liebowitz, Brandeis has made the decision to suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the semester starting March 20 and told students to leave campus by March 25 if they are able. Spring break dates have changed to account for this shift, giving students time to make both travel and storage arrangements. What are your thoughts on Brandeis’ decision? How can Brandeis best accommodate students, faculty and staff during this difficult time?