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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Protest valiant effort, but requires better organization

Published: February 14, 2014
Section: Editorials

As touted by every tour guide on campus, Brandeis is known as a university that fights for social justice, a school that is inspired by greats such as Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Anita Hill, people who dedicate their lives to making lasting changes. Brandeis’ history is interwoven with the struggle for civil rights, and we are proud of the protests, takeovers and media movements in the past that have truly voiced student opinions and changed the university for the better.

In 1969, Brandeis students staged a takeover of Ford Hall (which is now the Shapiro Campus Center). Over 70 students sat holed up behind its walls, making buttons and pins that labeled Brandeis as “Malcolm X University.” These students brought up negotiations that would improve the circumstances of minorities on campus. Most of their demands came to fruition, as the university heeded these student voices.

Given this vibrant history, the protest staged on Thursday against excessive executive compensation just continues a trend. It argues, as alumni have before us have, that a school should be first and foremost a place for students.

Angered by the pay scale given to former Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz, the protesters chanted calls to action such as, “Fair pay today!” and “Freeze tuition!”

“What is education? A right. What isn’t education? A privilege,” others chanted.

“It is completely ridiculous to give so much money to someone who is barely here after [the university] voted to raise tuition by [a proposed] four percent,” said Aaren Weiner ’16, one of the organizers of the protest.

While the event was the first protest in recent memory, and for a worthy cause, it was poorly executed. Due to uncontrollable situations, such as the weather and the imminence of vacation, many students who may have attended were not present. While the Facebook event garnered 80 people who said they were attending, the actual turnout was only around 15 people. The protest was scheduled to be held from 12 to 2 p.m., but since Brandeis called a snow-day at 1:30 p.m., students ended the protest early, as many administration members had left the building to head home and may not have witnessed the protest.

The protest was held in front of the administration building, but the vast majority of administration offices do not look into that courtyard. Therefore, the message of the protesters may also have been missed, or at least been less bothersome to administrators, as most administration members would not even see it as they sat at their desks.

The Hoot applauds these students for their efforts and their desire to voice what many in the student body are thinking. Last semester, an alumni-generated petition against the executive compensation policy garnered over 1,600 signatures, signifying that this is a topic many on this campus are concerned about. These protesters are continuing what alumni have done before them, fighting for social justice and the opinions of the student body.

The protesters state that they will continue this movement after the February break. The Hoot believes and hopes that in the future, if the protests were organized better and had more student involvement, these students could truly make a difference.