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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Administration’s history shows it won’t listen

Published: October 9, 2014
Section: Opinions

Students at Brandeis often try to get their voices heard in many different ways. Be it through art around campus, protests or Facebook events, one of the most intrinsic characteristics of students here is to try and enact change. And it usually happens, more or less. Yet the students need to realize that they aren’t at the top of the priority list for the administration.

In 2013, Brandeis released the culmination of a two-year project, the Strategic Plan, which laid out the outline for the direction the university would take in the upcoming years. Focusing on improving the academic institution through investing in faculty, programs and the overall community, the Strategic Plan was formulated from a number of different contingencies. With input from students, faculty, staff and alumni, this capstone project has a large influence on the current state of affairs.

While the initiatives it plans to carry out are helpful and will make the university better, the process through which they were chosen was staggering. A student committee was chosen to represent the entire body when the Strategic Plan was still being drafted over the 2011-2012 academic year and they presented the desires of the population. An interesting read to say the least, to discover the problems of a few years ago, the most notable issues brought forth were based on campus facilities and housing. Other concerns were mentioned, some of which have certainly been addressed, such as striving for a more environmentally sustainable campus; others have not and were not even addressed in the Strategic Plan.

Looking at the student session summaries, it’s evident that the most important area of concern for the students was a general inferiority of facilities and housing. The committee mentioned being upset about housing is not guaranteed all four years and about poor classroom facilities throughout different buildings, as well as numerous other problems.

Not only have these problems, and more importantly student concerns, not been amended, but they were barely mentioned in 2013’s Strategic Plan. In the sixth initiative of the Strategic Plan, the admission is made of the importance of continuing to update campus facilities and improving in aspects of technology and sustainability, using lofty language expressing how vital it is to have the quality of the physical classroom match the quality of the education that takes place there. While this addressed part of the concern from the student committee, no mention was made on the importance of improving housing and not laying the burden on students to find off-campus housing.

In the actions section, where specific operations are laid out, the plan mentions vague goals of renewing older residence halls and establishing graduate student housing. That was all that the administration had to say about a major student concern. Although it would be a fairly expensive one to address by building new residence halls to house each undergraduate, the student session summaries point out other areas that could be addressed. It mentions providing more technological help at different areas around campus, not just in the library. Also the disabilities services pertaining to making buildings more accessible was mentioned as a potential improvement. Both of these fairly smaller projects were not even brought up once with the Strategic Plan, highlighting a major problem with the administration. They do not take student concerns all that seriously, and this strategic plan is just one example of the lack of response to the student body.

The administration, however, has made numerous efforts to address student concerns over handling cases of sexual misconduct and with the dining services. Whether or not they have been effective is a different matter; at least they are continuing to make the attempt.

Yet in the cases where students were asked to give their input on a matter before it was decided, typically in a way that will not garner much attention, their voices are silenced. Student concerns are briefly identified and are hardly addressed. The Strategic Plan might have been a bit dull to challenge and might not have garnered much attention, but it is still going to affect numerous aspects of student life at Brandeis over the next few years. And this lays the focus on the undeniable fact that the administration does not take student concerns all that seriously.

If there is any chance for fall out over a decision or policy change, the administration fails to realize this time and time again and waits until after the backlash to then start listening to student concerns, which is a major problem and showcases the lack of aptitude within the administration, if they cannot identify the problems that will be significant and will elicit an outcry.

So while it is encouraged for students to stand up for what they believe in and try to enact change, one shouldn’t be surprised when the administration eventually puts you down. Because it’s already been done numerous times before.