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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Self Shelf: Exploring the sunny side of Brandeis

Published: April 15, 2011
Section: Opinions

Today I found myself walking in the spring sun, fresh off finishing my final class before break. I was walking out of the library and I found myself immersed in a gigantic tour group led by none other than Herbie Rosen. My usual reaction to tour groups is a mixture between curiosity and vague consternation as I’m often hurrying off somewhere or other. I was in a good mood, though, and so rather than fight my way through the crowd, I walked with them. As it happened, they were heading in the same direction as I was so I ended up walking with them for a good five minutes. While walking with them, I struck up a conversation about Brandeis with the father of a prospective student. My personal beliefs are that Brandeis’ academics are the school’s greatest strength but what was more interesting to me was the man’s perceptions of the school. He talked about how he had heard that the school’s academic scene seemed amazing to him and how he was leaning towards sending his daughter here instead of schools like Swarthmore, Carnegie Mellon and Bryn Mawr. We had a short but enjoyable conversation that was essentially about how wonderful Brandeis is as an institution.

I realized at that moment, once again, how lucky I was to be attending Brandeis. For all of the optimism that will follow in this article, I admit that I, along with many of my peers, have a tendency to complain about problems with the school. Dining services, run-down housing and the ever present ire about Rabb Steps are just some of the issues that annoy Brandeis students on a daily basis. Many of these issues have graced the editorial pages of this paper during my tenure at Brandeis. Thus, my intention here is to write about some of the reasons Brandeis is such a wonderful institution, despite all of its shortcomings.

The first reason that Brandeis is a wonderful institution is its students. Brandeis students tend to be idiosyncratic and it is this uniqueness that brings the school vibrancy and social culture that is different from any institution of which I have been a part. At my high school, there were maybe five to 10 clubs that people could join. Brandeis, on the other hand, has a seemingly infinite amount of social groups, from the Mock Trial team to the Quidditch Club to the Justice League. These hundreds of clubs present every student with an option that is tailored to their interests. If you’re interested in debate, you join the debate society. If you’re interested in trivia contests, you join Quiz Bowl. If you’re interested in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you join the Brazillian Jiu Jitsu Club. Thus, everyone can find a niche to suit their wishes here. Furthermore, this diverse club scene allows nearly everyone to find a group of similarly minded people they can associate with. I found many of my best friends in my clubs.

Additionally, I think it is this culture of variety which leads to Brandeis students’ general good nature. Having attended Brandeis for two years, I have honestly not come across a single student I dislike. It seems that everyone goes out of their way to make people feel welcome or at the very least not to make anyone feel unwelcome. Above all, Brandeis students are not only a student body but a student community where each person looks out for another. Another strength of Brandeis students is their commitment to social justice, something which was actually brought up by the man I walked with in the tour. Few other institutions have a student body that is more attuned to promoting humanitarian causes in America and across the globe. An example of this took place last year when the campus raised $30 thousand for Haiti after earthquake there and is still continuing its efforts to support the country. Thus students not only care about themselves but about the rest of the world as well.

Another main strength of Brandeis, however, is the academic atmosphere. First of all, I must admit that I speak from my own experience but I have thoroughly enjoyed nearly every class I have taken at Brandeis. In my first world history class, I learned more in an hour than I had through a year of the same subject in my high school. The professors are knowledgeable and they are willing to take time out of their schedules to talk to you. Despite the fact that they are brilliant people with myriad students, most professors are still willing to take the time and effort to help you with a paper or go over an exam with you. Furthermore, the small class size allows you to engage with subjects on a more personal level, which is incredibly effective in helping you to internalize the information. For example, I have one class that feels more like a family member telling a story than a history seminar.

Finally, I wish to talk about the dreaded Brandeis campus. Out of all the aspects of Brandeis, it seems that it is the landscape and architecture that is the pincushion for the most barbs. Yet while running a week ago, I realized that the Brandeis campus is like a city on a hill. It is an entirely insulated, self-sufficient community where almost all students are within a five-minute walk of each other. Thus, despite the hills, the campus is more interconnected than it might have been had it been more spread out in a flatter area. Additionally, while many decry the isolation of the campus from more developed areas such as the ones at Boston University, it is this isolation which brings the community together. On a morning walk to Einsteins from my dorm room in the castle, I can run into several of my friends and acquaintances on a regular basis. In regards to the architecture, I have one sentence in response. We have a castle on a hillock overlooking the entrance. With this and other unique buildings like the Student Campus Center and the Mandel Center, Brandeis is, at the very least, a unique-looking school with a campus that stands out (especially when you’re running towards it from miles off).

Thus, the next time you’re feeling bad about the lack of soap in your dorm or the prospects of a Sherman dinner, take a moment and think about all the strengths of Brandeis. Perhaps you’ll find yourself joining a tour group soon.