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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Administration failing to meet students halfway

Published: March 21, 2014
Section: Editorials, Opinions

The Student Union sponsored a round-table discussion Thursday, March 21 to try to address the numerous concerns being put forth by students over the past year. Attempting to reply to questions concerning executive pay, future dining services and tuition costs, the Student Union and Administration came together to make university policies more transparent to students. The Hoot applauds this effort on the surface. It is excellent that administration wishes to communicate with students face to face, yet, as what happens all too often with these sorts of events, it degenerated into Andrew Flagel, senior vice president of students and enrollment, and Ellen de Graffenreid, senior vice president of communications, offering the same manufactured statements.

As time wore on, the promising event began to go downhill, as administration members gave opaque answers. While the administration brought up the large overhaul renovations and other, unnamed big changes to the dining service within the next two years, the representatives failed to provide any qualitative answers. This turned this promising event turned into a long talk without substance. Attempting to shallowly placate students’ concerns without offering any real solutions is unfair to the student body that these representatives claim to desire the best for. While the average Brandeis student’s postgraduate debt may be lower than students’ from most other colleges, that excuse does not address the fact that many students will be leaving Brandeis with up to $200,000 in debt.

Neither does this response in any way relate to the issue of Brandeis’ “Executive Compensation” policy. During the forum, de Graffenreid offered the familiar argument that new levels of transparency in the policy was a good thing, again comparing Brandeis’ stance on the issue to that of other schools. This misses the point of complaints against the policy. Brandeis undergraduates did not brave a winter storm to physically protest a lack of transparency. They and like-minded students who started online petitions and spoke to administrators about the issue wanted a justification for the substantial payments given to executives, both current and former. They wanted to know how a school dedicated to social justice could continue such a policy while simultaneously raising tuition.

Brandeis’ administration has consistently failed to provide a satisfactory answer to all of these questions. As seen in Thursday’s forum, representatives of the administration dedicated to the satisfaction of students apparently only have one way to respond. If it is not already clear, The Brandeis Hoot does not believe that this response is acceptable. The university must take substantive action to meet its own mottos of fairness and social justice, and it must work with students to do so. While students are able to reach the administration through the Student Union and other representatives such as Andrew Flagel and Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams, many students desire a more direct way to make their voices heard. Students have the ability and the will to create proposals to the Board that will address their concerns, but that ability is hampered if the university is only willing to meet at a point they designate, rather than halfway. Brandeis students know what they want. All they need is an administration willing to look them in the eye as equals.