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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Board of Trustees must improve transparency

Published: November 20, 2014
Section: Front Page

This week’s issue of The Brandeis Hoot features a news article outlining an email update on the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, sent out by the two Student Union representatives to the board. The email informed Brandeis students about the representatives’ efforts to make the Board of Trustees more aware of student concerns, including diversity on campus and the ongoing issue of sexual assault. According to the representatives, the fact that members of the Brandeis community were so passionate about many issues elicited surprised reactions from members of the board. This reveals a massive disconnect between the board and Brandeis students, especially in light of recent events—such as when student activists disrupted a board meeting to advocate for stronger response to sexual assault.

We at The Hoot call on the Brandeis administration to work toward a more transparent relationship between students and the Board of Trustees. This board is an entity that only a fraction of Brandeis students will have access to during their time here. Yet it is one that influences many major issues that affect the student body, including tuition raises and distribution of resources. That the board has such power while operating on the aforementioned disconnect from the student body is concerning, as well as antithetical to Brandeis’ public image of a close-knit community.

Though we praise the actions and hard work of the Student Union representatives, they are not able to surmise the effects of their interactions with the board because of the confidential nature of board meetings. This is disheartening, simply because students want to know more and need their voices to be heard. This is particularly true for student activists. Their lack of a direct line to the most major shareholders and decision makers at Brandeis can make it feel like they are shouting their messages at a brick wall. And if the board truly represents the best interests of the students, helping students reach the board members more easily is a simple necessity.

As we at The Hoot have written many times in our editorials and opinion pieces, the students of Brandeis are more than willing and ready to work with the administration to improve the situation at Brandeis. The brave actions of activists during the “Carry That Weight” protest prove that this willingness does not stop at a door marked “confidential.” Students will not accept being told to just trust the actions of the board and the administration, nor should they. Upholding the values and ideals held by the university requires accountability as well as action, and transparency between the board and students would improve this.

Currently, the student body is living and working in a town at the bottom of a hill, and the board is in a gated community on the top. This elite community also has the power to decide the operations of the bottom town. The citizens in these two locations struggle to communicate, even though the two towns rely on one another. The passionate and driven students of Brandeis are willing to walk further than halfway up the hill to meet with the board, but the board must at least acknowledge our existence if they expect us to trust them with our college experience.