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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

’DEIS Impact to celebrate social justice next week

Published: January 31, 2014
Section: Front Page, News

The third annual ’DEIS Impact will begin on Friday, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. in the Shapiro Campus Center Atrium. ’DEIS Impact is a weeklong festival of social justice that celebrates one of the university’s four founding pillars. It is put together through a collaboration between the Student Union and the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, and it is supported by the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice. Through exploring the meaning of social justice in the Brandeis community and around the world, ’DEIS Impact questions where social justice began and how it has evolved into society today.

The weeklong festival is comprised of 52 events over the course of 10 days, including events sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center, the Department of Community Service, Brandeis Television, student clubs, departments and more. It includes a series of talks, workshops, performances and exhibitions organized by students, faculty, clubs and academic departments. A new addition this year is the option to attend one of 10 featured “open” classes that all explore social justice from the point of view of a particular discipline. These classes are open to the community to explore how the syllabus of a business, psychology, history, economics or sociology class aligns with social justice values.

This year’s keynote speakers are Kweku Mandela Amuah and Ndaba Mandela, grandsons of the late Nelson Mandela, who will deliver the address at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Another speech sponsored by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism will happen at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6 and will feature Sister Helen Prejean, death penalty opponent and author of the best-selling book “Dead Man Walking.”

As a member of the staff at the Ethics Center and a chair on the steering committee, Marci McPhee calls this a “uniquely Brandeisian event.” She believes there is no other event at Brandeis that has created a partnership between students, faculty and staff the way ’DEIS Impact has.

“Very often, students are in one world, and faculty and staff are in another world. We have co-created something with the students, and it has been remarkable to capitalize on the energy the students have for a variety of causes,” McPhee said.

She says that there is a true benefit of having this event on a college campus in that it is an opportunity to give college students multiple interpretations of the meaning of social justice.

McPhee stated, “Not only are we seeking to actualize social justice, we are interrogating it and what it means. And particularly at a university, it’s a question of how we can actually achieve this, and what can a college student do to make greater strides?”

McPhee recalled the various speakers, conferences and symposia that the Ethics Center has brought to campus since the center’s establishment in 1998. It was not until a few years ago that she decided to approach the Student Union president at the time to say that there needed to be more student involvement.

“It dawned on me that there was so much energy here on campus, but we were only inviting the students to these events, not actually involving them. I thought that we needed to create something together and do this event in more of a community organizing style fashion,” McPhee said.

’DEIS Impact now has a core committee of eight students, called the ’DEIS Impacters, in addition to many other students working in collaboration with faculty and staff on various subcommittees to help make the event run smoothly.

’DEIS Impact student chair, Avishek Neupane ’14, believes this event is unique because of its diversity in topics and people that come together.

“We have a wide range of events, including topics in labor, culture, race, genocide and prisons,” Neupane said. “We work with students, faculty and staff that all add a different value to this campus but are all passionate about Brandeis and its commitment to social justice.”

’DEIS Impact committee members are selected in September, but Neupane said that the collaboration starts over the summer.

“We interview every applicant because we want to give them an opportunity to share their passion for social justice. This event is so beautiful because it is a true testament of showing Brandeis’ values first-hand,” Neupane said.

’DEIS Impact will conclude on Monday, Feb. 10 in Hassenfeld Conference Center at 5:30 p.m. with the third annual Brandeis SoJust Leadership Forum, featuring Brandeis alumni who will share how social justice has been incorporated into their careers.