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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

More than active minds: social justice demanded by Brandeis community

Published: October 17, 2014
Section: Opinions

Social justice: It’s a concept so very prevalent on our campus. It’s the idea that our university’s namesake lived by. It’s the theory that drives many of Brandeis’ students and faculty. It’s the notion that incoming students even have a special pre-orientation program dedicated to. Social justice is something you see all over our campus, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Brandeis, the place overflowing with social justice, has a noticeable amount of activism.

In the last year, Brandeis has been mentioned in news outlets larger than The Hoot or The Justice. Students have made grumbles loud enough for the world outside the Brandeis bubble to hear. Last semester, it was the protest over a proposed honorary degree recipient, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Throughout this and past semesters, there has been a lot of attention on sexual misconduct and the school’s response to it. We’ve all seen it, the articles calling for more action on sexual misconduct due to Title IX investigations and the responses to the “Take Back the Light” protest.

Incoming parents and students ask about these subjects and may even vocalize second thoughts about Brandeis because of them. Nevertheless, this publicity is only another reason to be on the Brandeis campus. Brandeis isn’t the only school with pending Title IX investigations, and it is definitely not the only school that has protested an honorary degree recipient. The reason you hear about these things happening at Brandeis, though, is that people here are active. They make noise and go out of their way to get the issues seen.

Almost everyone on campus can attest to this fact. Just this semester, the Mandel Quad and Rabb Steps have been settings to a variety of activism. There’s been a large banner over the steps, questioning President Lawrence’s comments regarding sexual assault. Most recently, black cutouts lined our path from Usdan, up the steps and around the humanities quad to raise awareness about immigration. Chalk outlines were drawn on the same walkways to bring attention to black victims of violence. The world is far from a perfect place, and here at Brandeis, you are going to be reminded of that.

As college students, many of us may be idealistic and doe-eyed, but there’s nothing wrong with that. How could there be anything wrong with wanting to save the world or be a force that brings about positive changes? Students may not be saving the world yet, but at least they’re not ignoring the world and all the problems in it. Brandeis’ special interest in social justice allows members of its community to speak freely and passionately about those issues. Moreso, they are allowed to exhibit the issues. The chalk outline associated with a murder scene makes you pause. Then, to have a name and age of a real person, it’s not something people can ignore. The same goes for the cutouts. They seemed like shadows from afar, but once people got a closer look, they could see a story.

Our education at Brandeis is something that is not limited to the classroom. That’s what I’m reminded of when I see something like the chalk outlines or cutouts by Rabb. There wouldn’t be anything for me to learn if these activists didn’t say anything. If Brandeis wasn’t a place that encouraged social justice, people may not feel free to express these issues. Thankfully, it is. So when people in the outside world associate our school with a protest, it’s not a bad thing, far from it. It means that people are being heard, and that means there’s a little less ignorance.

Sure, I came to college for higher education, and that’s what I’m getting. Even if I don’t have anything to say, I want to hear from those who do. I applaud all of those who are more than active minds, students and participants in the classroom. I appreciate those who are active in our communities, small and big. For those who happen to be outside the Brandeis bubble, there is still a lot to be learned from Brandeisians. Brandeis is known for its social justice for a reason, and I don’t think I am mistaken when I say there are more than a few people embracing that fact.