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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: With hurricane impact, a time for social justice

Published: November 16, 2012
Section: Editorials

We applaud the students and staff who assumed leadership roles and launched relief projects for victims of Hurricane Sandy. While the Brandeis campus suffered minimal physical damage, many students and their families continue to suffer greatly from the effects of the storm in New York and New Jersey. From benefit concerts at Chum’s to volunteer work for the elderly in New York City this weekend, students deserve great credit for stepping back from hectic weeks of midterms and recognizing the need to serve their community when needed most.

Yet we cannot ignore the fact, that for a campus built on the principle of social justice and a university strategic plan aiming to make social justice, our differentiating factor among peer schools, response to the hurricane could have happened much quicker and been far larger than it has.

Communication from the dean’s office and the president addressed the fact that many students have been impacted by the storm, including disrupted Thanksgiving plans and extensive home damage, but such communication could have been sent immediately following the storm.

Director of Student Activities Stephanie Grimes has attempted to centralize planning from different clubs by coordinating their relief efforts and organizing meetings among different student leaders. Yet, still, relief efforts need even more organization.

Brandeis students have shown impressive responses to natural disasters across the globe, raising thousands of dollars for victims whose homes have been destroyed by flooding, earthquakes and other storms. One of the challenges on a small campus is that too many clubs advocating for fundraising relief can limit the impact of one organization rallying students to support the cause. Competition among multiple athletic teams, singing groups and newspapers has many benefits. But when it comes to fundraising for community service, the more united the program, the more effective it will be.

The Student Union has taken steps to coordinate service-oriented clubs, launching a new social justice committee for club leaders. This work should continue. An effort for collaboration among service clubs is best led by student leaders from outside organizations such as the Union or from staff in student activities, such as Stephanie Grimes.

We do not mean to criticize those students, faculty and staff working around the clock to organize fundraising campaigns and volunteer opportunities. But times of urgency create the need to evaluate how effective our efforts have been.

In an email to the student body on Wednesday, Union President Todd Kirkland wrote: “Many residents (especially elderly and disabled) are homebound and still without electricity. They could really benefit from your warmth to raise their spirits.”

For a school dedicated to social justice, students and administrators alike need remember they can only show their commitment to service, not by words in a strategic plan, but by actions when they are needed most.