On Oct. 2, University President Ron Liebowitz emailed the Brandeis community inviting students, faculty and staff to his open office hours on Oct. 10, Nov. 6 and Nov. 14. The President’s availability lasts for two hours on each day, and each individual can sign up for one 15 minute slot. More office hours will be available in the future, though specific dates are not mentioned in the email. As of press time, one time slot dedicated to students was available, and two slots for faculty are still available.
On Sept. 26, the Office of Sustainability, the Senate Sustainability Committee and the Brandeis Sustainability Ambassadors sponsored the State of Sustainability presentation. At this event, various new environmental initiatives were announced. Upcoming campus sustainability initiatives include the elimination of approximately 10,000 plastic bottles annually from many on-campus vendors, the addition of about 40 more compost bins around campus and the investment in renewable energy efforts around the country to compensate for Brandeis’ carbon footprint. These are outstanding steps toward making the University more sustainable.
In a Sept. 17 email, the Department of Community Living announced that fire drills would be occurring over the two-week period following the email. During these drills, the City of Waltham’s Fire Marshall will be asking DCL staff to enable them to “enter rooms at random,” and if any prohibited items are found, the items “will be confiscated at that time and a member of [DCL] staff will follow up,” the emails stated. But what does “random” mean? Will DCL staff also be entering rooms, or only accompany the Fire Marshall to the door? This board recommends that DCL make this process as transparent as possible — especially given recent controversy over DCL Health and Safety Inspections.
In the previous weeks, three illuminated exit signs on the third and fourth floors of Hassenfeld Residence Hall were damaged or stolen. On Sept. 9, the Department of Community Living sent an email to the residents of the first floor of Hassenfeld announcing that the cost of repairing the signs will be equally distributed among the residents of the building, as per section 9.6 of Rights and Responsibilities. This board condemns any kind of action that may endanger the safety of the residents on campus — however, this board also encourages DCL to reconsider its decision to charge all residents of the building, as it doesn’t necessarily punish those who caused the damage and won’t prevent it from happening again. Moreover, such an action will burden students who may not have the financial resources to pay an unexpected fee and who were likely not at fault.
Every summer, the University selects a book for incoming students to read and then participate in a discussion with the author(s) of that book. In past years, this conversation was only open to the first-year students arriving on campus in the fall, because the event was held before upperclassmen arrived on campus for the fall semester. As a result, the author would only come during what is now known as ’Deis Week.
Over the summer, the University transitioned to Workday, a portal that functions as a one-stop shop for students and other campus employees to log work hours, maintain a record of their financial transactions, view paychecks and have a seamless space for working multiple jobs. It can also be useful when requesting an absence, accessing work benefits and finding a job on campus. This board commends the University for its use of Workday and its attempt to provide employees and community members with a safe, reliable and easy-to-use interface for all things concerning on-campus jobs. However, Workday is plagued with numerous quality-of-life issues that make its use difficult and cumbersome to adjust to, especially for students who do not necessarily have time to devote to learning the nuances of the program.
In June 2020, the University’s contract with Sodexo is set to expire. In the meantime, the University will be developing a Request for Proposals, during which the University will compile a list of requests for the next contract that they make with any food vendor. Community input will be taken into account through town-hall-style forums in September and October. This board commends the University for seeking the Brandeis community’s opinions when choosing its next steps — whether it is improving our contract with Sodexo or choosing a new vendor — and has some suggestions for the University’s next contract.
Brandeis’ tradition of student protest continued last May when a group of #StillConcerned students—a callback to the Concerned Students 2015 group which led the Ford Hall sit-in—held a protest on the Rabb Steps, per a May 20, 2019 Justice article. These students argued that concerns relating to race on campus in 2015 had not been sufficiently addressed. Among other demands, they expressed a desire for collaboration between activists and offices such as Public Safety, the Department of Community Living, Escort Safety Services and the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, saying they “operate as policing forces that disproportionately impact the on-campus experiences” of marginalized students.
The end of the year is very bittersweet. As we finish finals and the semester, Commencement approaches, which means that we have to say goodbye to our graduating editors. We thank all of our seniors for their work over their time with the Justice. As much as we will miss them, we are confident that they will go on to do amazing things in the future.