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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Community benefits from student-staff interactions

Published: November 13, 2014
Section: Editorials

This past Thursday, Nov. 13, the Student Union organized an ice cream social in collaboration with the Department of Public Safety, inviting students to mix and mingle with officers who are responsible for ensuring the safety of the Brandeis community. As part of the itinerary for Brandeis Kindness Day, the ice cream social signifies a significant step on behalf of Public Safety to foster positive relationships with the student body.

In the past, students have vocalized feelings of dissatisfaction and discomfort when interacting with members of the Brandeis Police. Remedying this stigma is critical to ensuring that students feel comfortable with, and inclined to contact, Public Safety—particularly in the case of emergencies.

Armed with the task of protecting the student body, officers interact with students on a regular basis, although primarily in cases of distress, where authority plays a critical role. Lacking the contrived nature of empty promises designed to dismiss student concerns, the event instead demonstrated a genuine initiative on behalf of the officers to get to know members of the student body. Creating a relationship outside of the typical student-officer interaction could prove key to establishing feelings of mutual respect.

We support the Student Union’s initiative to establish positive relations between the student body and Brandeis Police officers, and recognize the potential to extend this strategy to various others departments across campus.

In fact, another recent event hosted as part of Brandeis Kindness Day sought to express gratitude to the custodial staff. Hosted by the Department of Community Living, the event entailed a lunch held in Ridgewood Commons. Students were invited to donate a meal swipe to make this event possible.

Although often overlooked, the custodial staff here at Brandeis works diligently on a daily basis to keep our residence halls clean. Dining workers and other staff members are all part of our Brandeis community and truly shape the student experience here. Many of our dining and facilities employees participate in the English Language Learning Initiative, receiving tutoring services from students. However, establishing connections between staff and students does not have to be limited solely to organized programs but can extend to everyday interactions as well.

In the future, we suggest the implementation of similar events to foster positive ties with other departments on campus that provide critical services to the student body, such as the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC). As a center that also has suffered from negative student experiences and societal stigmas surrounding mental health care, the PCC nevertheless provides a critical and necessary service to students coping with psychological stress. Creating an event where counselors can meet undergraduate students on a more casual and personal level could be key to remedying this relationship and demonstrating an initiative on behalf of the PCC to foster positive relations with the student body. Those students suffering from trauma, coping with mental health disorders such as depression, combatting eating disorders or recovering from incidents of sexual assault may feel more comfortable taking advantage of the services offered by the PCC after meeting counselors in a casual environment.

The university is a collaboration of countless departments working across campus to ensure the safety and well being of students. Rather than dismissing student concerns or offering empty administrative promises, events such as the ice cream social with Public Safety offer the opportunity to develop genuine connections between staff members and the student body. The Brandeis Hoot supports the initiative of the Student Union to foster positive ties among students, university officials and staff members and urges for this practice to be extended to several other departments across campus.