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.
In Brandeis' mission statement, the University expresses hope that students graduate "deeply concerned about the welfare of others." Unfortunately, the University itself has failed to model that concern. A student-run advocacy group called Addressing Accessibility at Brandeis reached out to University President Ron Liebowitz in an open letter last Thursday, expressing that they are "baffled" at how Brandeis can be "so exclusive of those with disabilities." Addressing Advocacy at Brandeis requests that the University discuss accessibility at Brandeis through an open forum. This board commends these students' efforts, urges the University to hold the requested forum and has additional suggestions for improving accessibility on campus.
In an open forum on Monday, Oct. 29, University President, Ron Liebowitz shared his proposal for a “framework for Brandeis’ future.” These goals, reiterated in an email to the community sent out on Friday, Nov. 2, include a plan to revamp the housing system in order to promote a more positive social environment among members of the University community. This board agrees that much can be done to improve residence life on campus and urges the president to consider the following options.
Brandeis students can now be spotted riding bright green bikes around campus thanks to DeisBikesLimeBike, a bike-sharing program newly launched on campus by the Student Union and Director of Sustainability Programs Mary Fischer. According to an Oct. 27 email to the Justice from Senate Chief Strategist Aaron Finkel, bringing a bike-sharing program to campus has been a priority for “well over a year.” This board applauds the Union and sustainability groups on campus for their initiative and encourages students who are interested to utilize the new service.
Even after recent changes to the Branvan reservation system, significant issues remain with both the campus and Waltham Branvan service. This board has highlighted several problems with the program in the past, but few of these suggestions were implemented. Given how many students are reliant on the Waltham and campus BranVans on a daily basis, the continual issues with the BranVan services are hard to ignore.