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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student activism continues to be admirable

Published: October 31, 2014
Section: Opinions

Brandeis students are known for being very vocal in their complaints about the university. From dining services to the mailroom, students have created a dialogue around the improvements they feel are necessary. However, this semester, many students are raising the bar—in regard to the administration’s lack of attention to cases of sexual misconduct on campus. The Brandeis Hoot has already shown support for these concerns and would like to continue to praise Brandeis students for not giving up in their fight for justice. Sexual assault is not equivalent to a long mailroom line and demands more action and significant change. Brandeis students cannot be silenced, and we support that.

The latest movement was the “Carry That Weight Day of Action” on Wednesday, Oct. 29. This event was created in support of Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz, who is carrying her mattress around Columbia’s campus for as long as her accused assailant continues to attend the university. Students across the country made a unified statement by carrying mattresses and pillows around their campuses to showcase their support.

Brandeis student activists created a Brandeis-specific Facebook event, which was highlighted in an email sent out by Director of Athletics and Assistant Vice President for Health and Wellness Sheryl Sousa ’90. Students were encouraged to participate and, if not, to respect the students who were.

Far too often, powerful messages and ideas on campus are not heard due to a lack of outreach or support. The “Carry That Weight Day of Action,” however, was brought to the mind of every student, faculty and staff member as they watched mattresses travel the campus throughout the day.

Just after 1 p.m. this Wednesday, a host of Brandeis students marched from the Rabb Steps to the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center and pushed their way into a Board of Trustees meeting in progress. Angela Acevedo ’16, a member of Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence, spoke to the board about what students want to see from administration.

“We all think that we can be doing so much more to help support survivors, to help them carry the weight of burden of what it means to be a survivor,” Acevedo said in a video of her speech posted to the Facebook event. “And we’re here to ask you all for your support.” This kind of consistent bravery to speak up must be commended.

We at The Hoot praise the event as a statement by the collective student body as we continue to make our voices heard. On-campus sexual violence and its mishandling by the administration is a problem that needs to be continually brought up by students until it is properly addressed by the administration. This is true even if it means disrupting an art exhibition or a meeting of the Board of Trustees (to which some administrators and other members of the community have reacted negatively). But the fact that such action was needed to be taken so far points to a lack of a substantive response from the Brandeis administration.

In past editorials, news pieces and opinion articles, The Hoot has called on the administration to work with students in order to make Brandeis a safer and more inclusive place. Brandeis’ values of social justice makes this even more imperative. There is no excuse for sexual assault and violence, nor is there an excuse to downplay an issue that affects the community the administration exists to nurture, guide and protect. The Brandeis administration has made good first steps toward addressing the problem, but as student actions continue to show and student voices continue to demand, more must be done. It simply must, for the sake of creating a university environment of which we can all be proud.