This year’s ’DEIS Impact, Brandeis University’s annual social justice festival, featured 52 events. Unfortunately, this is the most impressive thing one can say about ’DEIS Impact. Though the festival’s name suggests that attendees should walk away with some sense of how Brandeis students can make an impact — either on the University itself or on society as a whole — the majority of its events provide little guidance to that end. This shortcoming, however, is only one of the reasons the festival as a whole is so poorly attended.
Any club that spends an entire semester bickering, obsessing over minute projects and abandoning mature communication in favor of publicly shaming and defenestrating its leadership could be expected to try operating humbly and productively the following semester. But the Student Union is no club — a point it’s attempting to impress upon the Judiciary, which is poised to decide whether the Senate and Executive Board will be rewarded for last semester’s shenanigans with more funding and no oversight.
Last Thursday, Boston experienced nearly record-breaking freezing temperatures, according to CBS Boston. On such a cold day, the BranVan really had a chance to shine: extra vans could have been chartered to handle the mass of students who did not want to walk outdoors in a 14 degrees Fahrenheit windchill, the reservations system could have been streamlined to enable impromptu rides, and space heaters or designated indoor waiting areas could have been utilized. Unfortunately, in typical BranVan fashion, no emergency plan was put in place and the vans ran as inefficiently as usual.
In response to an open letter addressed to President Ron Liebowitz concerning how Brandeis accommodates its students with disabilities, the University held a public forum with the intent of acknowledging, learning from and finding solutions to many of the struggles and inconveniences these community members face. Tuesday’s forum began with Provost Lisa Lynch and Senior Vice President Stewart Uretsky addressing an audience seated at round tables whereupon smaller and more intimate discussions were held. This board commends the University for its willingness to respond to widespread criticism of the quality of life for students with disabilities. However, while planned with good intentions, this meeting did little to directly address many of the concerns of students with disabilities, which extend far beyond wheelchair access to certain buildings and will likely do little in the long term to address the well-being of students with disabilities.
After 14 years of cutting-edge journalism, the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism closed last month, according to a Dec. 20 email from University Provost Lisa M. Lynch. Lynch explained that the funds necessary to support the Institute were “not forthcoming.” She expressed hope, however, that the University could “integrate… practical experience with journalism in our academic programs.” This board understands the financial reasons for closing the Institute, but calls on the University to revitalize its Journalism program, create new opportunities for undergraduate field experience and develop a curriculum relevant to the digital age.
On Dec. 4, a group of seven Brandeis students released the Branda app, a mobile application that “connects the students of Brandeis with essential campus services,” according to the app’s website. Its features include quick access to BrandeisNOW articles and the campus events calendar, a Branvan tracker, a laundry tracker, a campus map and an updated list of which dining locations are open at any given moment.
Final exams are always a stressful time for college students, as it never seems like there is enough time to adequately prepare. This semester, finals begin on Dec. 13 and classes end on Dec. 11, giving students only one day to prepare for exams. This is worse than the fall 2017 semester, when classes ended on Dec. 8 and Finals began on Dec. 12. Even though there was only one official “study day,” students still had time during the weekend between classes ending and Final exams to study. Now, students who have an assignment or final paper due right before the scheduled start of the final examination period have no real opportunity to dedicate their time solely toward preparing for their final assessment. Other schools, such as Yale University, have a week-long study period. Similarly, Columbia University and Cornell University both have four days dedicated to studying, something that has been consistent throughout past academic years. Anything is better than the one day that Brandeis offers. This board suggests that the University give students at least four days — which can include weekends — to study so that students have time to properly prepare for their finals.
On Wednesday, University President Ron Liebowitz shared an update from the Board of Trustees on the University’s policies and actions regarding fossil fuel divestment. This board commends the Trustees and President Liebowitz for this positive, prudent and practical approach to address the concerns of community members.
The second portion of the independent investigators’ report, commissioned after Brian Meehan’s dismissal last spring, was released on Thursday. While the first half of the report, issued in September, focused on the specifics of the Meehan case, this half focused on the state of Brandeis’ campus culture. After reading the report, this board concludes that despite the University’s claims to being a school centered around social justice, Brandeis’ student body cares far more about diversity as an educational value than its faculty and trustees do. Until this discrepancy is addressed, Brandeis’ campus will continue to be a less-than-ideal environment for students of color.
Class of 2020 Senator Aaron Finkel has drafted two amendments to the Student Union Constitution that would strip the Allocations Board of final authority over all allocation decisions and policies and distribute it between the Senate and Union president. The justification for the amendments states that they would “ensure maximum accountability and fairness,” but this board believes the actual amendments do not effectively address either issue. To properly institute oversight of A-Board without adversely disrupting the balance of power in the Union, both amendments will need to be significantly altered.