It is 2020, which means elections, Olympics and last, but not least, that Brandeis University is now back in session! Hearing student tales of a less than optimal start to the semester, the Justice opted to highlight some of the issues that plague students. Some problems students face — faulty WiFi, for instance — may be unavoidable, while others could easily be mitigated by improved communication between students, faculty and administration.
On Tuesday Dec. 17, University President Ron Liebowitz announced that Brandeis would be adding caste to its non-discrimination and harassment policy, becoming the first private university to do so. The term “caste” refers to one’s designation within a rigid social stratification system. This statement from the president may have come as somewhat of a surprise, with many Brandeis students unaware that such discrimination happens in the United States where there is no explicit caste system. Banning caste discrimination is an important step toward protecting Brandeis community members from discrimination.
As the spring semester kicks off, many students have noticed Sodexo has raised the quality of options available for students in the dining halls and other retail locations. Previously, students complained on a daily basis about the food Sodexo has served. As Sodexo’s current contract comes to an end, this Board has seen improvement and hopes that the University’s future food vendor will continue with this upward trend. This board acknowledges the positive changes made by the University and Sodexo in order to satisfy the needs of students on campus.
Winter is coming, and with it, increased danger to the safety of the Brandeis community. In the past several weeks, Brandeis and its surrounding area have seen the signs of the season approaching, from the dropping temperatures to the snowy weather right after Thanksgiving break. This board appreciates the work the University — and especially the facilities department — does to keep the community safe, but sees clear areas of improvement regarding snow day procedures and shuttle tracking services.
This year’s Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook laid out new and more restrictive guidelines on student protests. The 2018-19 handbook had mandated that students notify the Dean of Students Office of upcoming protests — but for the first time this year, students must also gain pre-approval for protests with DOSO. Per a Nov. 15 email between University Director of Media Relations Julie Jette and the Justice, in which Jette cited Assistant Dean of Students Alexandra Rossett, students who fail to speak with DOSO would be liable for disciplinary consequences determined on a case-by-case basis. This board finds this restriction problematic ideologically and practically. It both contradicts the University’s social justice-oriented ideology and endangers vulnerable students seeking to make change or have their voices heard. This board calls on the University to revoke or clarify the policy, to remove case-by-case opportunities for subjectivity and bias and to reify their alleged belief in the importance of student action for change.
Throughout the last week or so, internet access through eduroam on campus has been intermittent. The spotty WiFi on campus has been an ongoing issue affecting students, faculty and staff. This has been a noticeable problem on campus for a while, but connection has been particularly unreliable as of late. Brandeis Information Technology Services had acknowledged the “intermittent connectivity issues” as early as the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 12, but this problem has persisted. These connectivity issues coincide with the completion of scheduled maintenance to the campus wireless network, which ended on Nov. 12. As of the time of this issue’s publication, no campus-wide communication about these internet lapses has been sent.
On Nov. 7, the Spring 2020 semester course registration reopened and will remain open through Jan. 27. Registration opened over a month earlier than it had in previous years and also opened earlier than it was initially planned for this year.
In February, Charles River Senator Oliver Price ’20 plans to introduce an amendment to the Union Constitution that would allow certain members of secured clubs to be paid. According to a Nov. 5 Justice article, the amendment would give secured clubs the opportunity to request a wage-eligible status. Wage-eligible clubs could then petition the Allocations Board, which would decide whether or not club members would be paid, which select members would be paid and how much those members would earn. Though this board sees both potential benefits and potential downsides to implementing this amendment, we do not approve of its passage as it stands.
Despite the existence of precise policies on paper, many University residents are still unclear about the Department of Community Living’s room inspections process in practice. This board calls on DCL to clearly convey their policies and to ensure that every DCL staff member understands and follows them. Without a uniform process, students are left in the dark about the current room check process and about any future changes.
On Oct. 24, University President Ron Liebowitz announced the formal implementation of his Springboard funding proposal, designed to achieve numerous goals of the President’s Framework for Our Future. The entire funding package itself is valued at $84.7 million, and is intended, according a University-wide email sent by the President, to “address gaps in University operations that must be filled before pursuing a major capital campaign.” This board commends this aspirational funding plan and the many aspects of University life it addresses.