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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Conservative magazine bashes Brandeis TLCs

Published: October 6, 2006
Section: News

Last month, the conservative magazine the National Review Online (NRO) posted an online column denouncing themed housing at universities, specifically citing Brandeis Thematic Learning Communities (TLCs).

The column Live with Your Own Kind! was written by Anthony Paletta and originally appeared on Sept. 14 in a section of the NRO entitled Phi Beta Cons The Right Take On Higher Ed. It includes multiple quotes from Brandeis students residing in the Justice, Service and Change TLC that were originally printed in a Sept. 3 Boston Globe article that discussed the advantages of specialized housing.

The NRO column stated that specialized housing is a particularly noxious form of self-segregation at present universities, wherein minorities or other favored communities typically have the option of being ensconced only with their own kind. It then referred to the Justice, Service and Change TLC as the Social Justice Soviet and claimed that themed housing is one of the most unpleasant in recent college developments in place of putative experiences with persons and ideas of every variety, colleges are actively facilitating life in monochrome dorms.

Rosenthal Quad Director J.J. Oliver disagreed with the NROs assessment that TLCs encourage segregation. Nothing could be further from the truth, he said. What we do is try to get students interested in the same topic, but they by no means have the same viewpoint.

Laura Mandelberg 07, a resident of the Justice, Service and Change TLC who was quoted in the Globe article, echoed that sentiment, saying that I don't think TLCs are a form of self-segregation. They're about living with people who have a common interest, but those common interests are very broad. She added that within my TLC, each person cares about very different issues, and is coming at things from a different viewpoint. For example, [one students] main issue is the environment, whereas another girl in our suite's main concern is the genocide in Darfur.

Josh Zatcoff 08, another member of the Justice, Service and Change TLC, noted that I don't think I've ever met anyone with views that are exactly identical to mine, and I don't think I ever will. All of us focus on different areas under the broad, over-arching theme, as suits our own individual interests. Zatcoff also pointed out that only two members of his six-person suite are involved in the TLC, and that it would be a little bit impossible, I think, to be completely cut off from others.

According to the Department of Residence Life website, the purpose of the TLCs is to engage the participants in experiential learning. Oliver reiterated this, stating that part of the goal is also to blur the line between where youre supposed to learn and when youre supposed to learn.

Village Quad Director Lucas Malo agreed, saying that TLCs bring students together to support each otherand to meet faculty and staff that could support them.

Oliver added that there is a component of [students] educating themselves and educating the community. Malo and Oliver also cited a 1998 report in Change Magazine stating that learning communities foster supportive peer learning groups, greater student involvement in classroom learning, perceptions of more gains in academic learning, and a greater integration of students learning inside and outside the classroom.

Even though the TLC program is only two years old, Oliver expressed satisfaction with it and feels that Brandeis is ahead of the game. Mandelberg added that I am really looking forward to having the chance to make a difference with the people I live with. It's like a club or group, only on a whole new level.

One of the main benefits of the TLC is we get to take on people like the writer of that critique, said Zatcoff. I think we'll learn how much more productive we can be without the cynical attitudes of people like that.

The National Review Online could not be reached for comment.