Have you ever been “canceled?” If not canceled, how about rejected or shunned for a particular view or belief? People have been shunned or excluded for exhibiting misogynistic, rasist or homophobic beliefs. However, “canceling'' individuals for their beliefs, regardless whether they are problematic, bleeds into a larger phenomenon known as “cancel culture.” Cancel culture is a form of withholding and withdrawing support for an individual, as well as boycotting their work in social and professional circles. This toxic phenomenon rejects the democratic ideals of free speech and discourse, creating one-sided thought and a desire to ruin the lives of those who might disagree.
“In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent member of the progressive Wing of the Democratic Party recently said about the stark difference between Democrats. There is massive division within the parties, and it is not just politicians who are frustrated by this. According to an NBC News/WSJ Poll, around 40% of Americans want a third party. If such a large number of Americans want a third party, and individuals within the parties see themselves as fractured, why is America still operating under a seemingly fixed strangle of the two-party system?
University professors have been working hard to adjust their class structures and systems this semester due to COVID-19. This board appreciates the time and effort that faculty has put into adapting their courses, expectations and communication on behalf of their students. Many instructors have gone above and beyond in ensuring that their students feel supported and are learning effectively. However, there have been discrepancies in students’ experiences and struggles with different classes that need to be addressed.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on the first night of Rosh Hashana. Having no access to technology because of my religious observance, a friend notified me of her passing by a friend at a socially distanced service Saturday afternoon. It was not until Sunday morning — still with no access to technology — that I was able to read the full story from the newspapers my aunt and uncle brought me. It is very possible that I would not have been aware of the passing of one of my heroes until two days afterward.
Just eight days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to fill Justice Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat. Make no mistake, Judge Barrett poses a serious threat to the Constitution.
Entering the fall 2020 semester, the University made many changes to ensure the safety of individuals coming to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those changes was the addition of the Bite app. According to the Bite by Sodexo website, this app is a way to avoid lines, see what is available to eat, make a reservation for a time/table and allow for on-the-go ordering. This board would like to critique the app and its use as well as state where changes can be made.
As Brandeis prepared to open for an unprecedented fall 2020 semester, the University took significant measures to limit the number of students, staff and faculty who contract COVID-19. These measures include rapid frequency testing, daily health assessments and the installment of food ordering apps such as Bite and GET. However, while Brandeis has proved capable of containing the spread of COVID-19 on its campus, there is an area upon which the University and its community can improve — sustainability.
Everybody keeps talking about how divided America is. I agree. Since it’s so broken, maybe it’s time for a break up. If the states “consciously uncouple,” we might have a chance to be good North American neighbors.
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.