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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A responsibility to the community

Published: October 10, 2014
Section: Opinions

Every community is built upon a set of rules. Brandeis is no different. As members of the community who follow these rules, we are granted certain privileges. In fact, all of our rules and privileges are listed for us in a book aptly named “Rights and Responsibilities.” Every year, we get an updated version of these rules and privileges. For now, it can only be found online.

Last month, all members of the Brandeis community were notified via email that the latest “Rights and Responsibilities” was on its way. A final version seemed to take its time to show up. It makes me wonder, why? We are all aware of the concerns about sexual misconduct swirling around in the campus atmosphere. The concerns that have been explicitly expressed by the students seemed to have been addressed. I cannot think of a better explanation for the latest edition of “Rights and Responsibilities” to be delayed.

The truth is that this is a concern sweeping through the community of not just our campus, but on campuses across the country. Brandeis is not the only school where students have been protesting, or taking a stand for something that seems utterly and without a doubt obviously right. Sometimes, we just have to wait for the rules to catch up with what is right, and sometimes, individuals of the community are able to encourage that catching up.

Students just want to hear the institution, the place they have chosen to call home, is going to deliver justice. They want to hear that such misconduct will not be tolerated. They want to know that any such misconduct will be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

This year’s “Rights and Responsibilities” shows that the administration is trying to make an attempt to do just that. Nevertheless, there is more happening behind closed doors than people know. Before the final draft can become official, certain people in authority have to approve of it. This fact is the most plausible explanation for why it took a little longer than usual for “Rights and Responsibilities” to come out to the public. It’s the most realistic reason. Some individuals in the administration not only hesitated to give their okay, but still question how to deal with this topic.

The administration does not live on the same campus as the students do. Physically, yes, it’s the same place. Yet, most administrators have a home off-campus. These people who make the rules and who we expect to figure out ways to deal with these incidents are not in our dorms or at our parties. Maybe they really don’t understand, and maybe that is why they might just not know how to handle it. Their chosen tactic, then, makes me wonder about another facet of an established community.

“Rights and Responsibilities” is a great reference to what the institution as a whole expects from its population. It’s made up of carefully chosen words and purposeful sentence structures. The “Rights and Responsibilities” is just one example of how the administration tries to respond to issues such of that as sexual misconduct. This year, they used this publication as an opportunity to show that they are going to at least try to address the concern of the community.

Brandeis constantly makes changes to the handbook, or at least edits it every year. A pessimistic side of me considers that this year’s specific addressing of the sexual misconduct issues may be a tad political. It wouldn’t be the first time people were told what they wanted to hear. On the other hand, an optimistic side of me hopes it is the rules finally catching up to what is right. “Rights and Responsibilities” has more than just listed expectations this year. Brandeis has expressed a responsibility to its community and what its community has long determined to be right.