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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Administration hides problems behind curtain

Published: February 14, 2014
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

When I walked to the bathroom one recent morning to take a shower, I was greeted with something new. I had been told that it would be here eventually, but was not expecting it so soon. As it came across my field of vision, it woke me out of my morning fog and alerted me to its presence, which is quite impressive since it was simply a plain, white shower curtain.

After repeated instances of a Peeping Tom lurking through the halls of East, peering at women in the showers and managing to escape both identification and prosecution, the appropriate departments have taken action to remedy the problem. The departments of Public Safety, Community Living and Facilities agreed to make some changes, which included installing new shower curtains in all of the shower stalls. The perceived usefulness from these shower curtains is that they will cover the stall better since they are much larger than the previous models.

While the other solution now in place—having the bathroom doors locked at certain times and requiring a room key to be able to unlock the door—is more tedious than just dealing with a larger shower curtain, it makes perfect sense in order to quell these perverted acts. There would never have been a reason to keep bathroom doors locked before this started happening last semester. Yet the change in shower curtains seems a bit odd when compared to the addition of locks.

I admit that larger shower curtains will be more suitable for covering the entrance to the stalls so that no one can simply peer through a gap in order to get a view, though the question arises as to why exactly the original curtains were not large enough to cover the stalls. I am not asking this as a Monday morning quarterback, claiming that these incidents could have been prevented if only the shower curtains were large enough. Rather, these small shower curtains had caused problems unrelated with voyeurism since the first week of the fall semester, and only under the guise of a somewhat related event is the mistake admitted and the proper solution acknowledged.

East Quad was renovated over the summer. There is new furniture in the rooms, new carpet in the halls and the bathrooms were updated recently as well. The too-small shower curtains were a part of this process. After the first time I took a shower, I noticed this problem and saw that these curtains were not particularly useful. My greatest fear, and this could simply be a result of paranoia, was that someone would inadvertently glance through the gap and see me in my birthday suit. I wasn’t scared of being seen, but I feared that the other person would have to be witness to me in all my natural beauty. It would just create an awkward situation, and no one would leave happy from that.

Happenchance glances were not the main downside to these shower curtains; the flooding of the bathroom floor after every shower was the main offender. While East bathrooms do not have great drainage, a shower curtain that cannot be closed completely certainly does not help alleviate the problem. Puddles of sitting water would accumulate over the weekend while the facilities staff was off, creating an abhorrent environment that needed to be fixed.

I had relayed this problem to my CA early last semester, and other people have noticed and complained about it as well, yet nothing was done. The fact that these curtains had just been bought over the summer probably prohibited the purchase of new, larger shower curtains within the year. Only when a matter of public safety provoked an investigation into ways to prevent further Peeping Tom incidents was it acceptable to admit to the mistake in purchasing shower curtains that didn’t fit the shower stall.

This sort of practice is not just exemplary of bathroom decor, however; the administration has far too often not provided solutions to problems immediately and does not recognize its initial mistakes, whether it involves community living or something that runs all the way to the board of trustees.

The accident on South Street last week after numerous calls to improve the visibility of the area and to try to impede the speed of drivers comes to mind. That was not the first time car had struck a student trying to cross the street to the Mods or Gosman, and it won’t be the last. Yet there is a stunning lack of responsibility within the administration to actively try to find a better solution, instead of choosing to simply remind the community of the proper habits of looking both ways before crossing the street.

President Emeritus Reinharz’s enormous salary for working not even part-time hours after retirement brings up an even more stark example. The university had the gall, after the figures were reported, to defend the compensation by claiming that it was a competitive wage for other retired presidents at comparable universities and left it at that. The community was outraged, and still is after senior staff members were offered a buyout to retire—a buyout that was peanuts when measured against Reinharz’s salary, and staff who contribute more to a student’s education compared to Reinharz’s involvement.

Does the administration have no shame? Is there no one inside those meetings that takes the populist stand? Sure, there needs to be a rule of law when it comes to university procedures, and not every wish can be granted, but there needs to be some sort of response to the thoughts of the community at large.

The desire remains within the administration to appear completely in control and never let someone beneath it be proven right. Mistakes are rarely admitted, with every new policy or program hailed as a step in the right direction. The Brandeis community would much rather be shown the respect we deserve and have a truly honest dialogue with those in charge, and not just have the solutions to embarrassing mistakes be swept under the rug, or should I say curtain?