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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘DEIS Impact to educate on true meaning of social justice

Published: January 16, 2015
Section: News

Friday, Jan. 30 marks the start of Brandeis’ annual ’DEIS Impact, a week-long festival celebrating social justice. Brandeis students, faculty, administrators and members of the Waltham community will frequent free discussions, presentations, exhibits and performances throughout the week. Brandeis, a university that prides itself on its social justice ideals, hopes to inspire students to not only learn about social justice within the Brandeis community, but around the world.

Founded four years ago on the basis of truly understanding “social justice,” ’DEIS Impact has grown immensely from the initial five Core Committee students (or rather, ’DEIS Impacters) and four members of the Steering Committee. This year, over 27 students and 32 faculty members have been involved in organizing the festival.

’DEIS Impact is hosted by the Student Union, the International Center for Ethics and the Brandeis community, with help from the Louis D. Brandeis Legacy Fund for Social Justice. As Sneha Walia ’15, president of Student Union and member of the Steering Committee, explains, “It’s a really amazing way for all parts of campus to get involved in one another, but also involved in social justice, because it’s almost entirely Brandeis community member-run events.”

Starting in September, ’DEIS Impacters connected with club leaders, academic departments and religious groups about holding ’DEIS Impact events. They encouraged groups to propose as many events as possible and assisted in their coordination. “They’re the power behind ’DEIS Impact,” said Marci McPhee, associate director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis University, as well as a member of the Steering Committee, explained. “It’s been thrilling to see the hardworking undergraduate ’DEIS Impacters reaching out into the community.”

McPhee has been a leader in ’DEIS Impact since its founding in 2011. As associate director of the Ethics Center, she helps bring the keynote speaker to campus, as well as coordinate, package and publicize other events that are being held.

This year, Alan Khazei, cofounder of City Year and founder of Be The Change Inc., is the keynote speaker. He is also the author of “Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America.” In regards to Khazei, Walia said, “The intersection between service and social justice is really interesting and compelling … and I think he [Khazei] can drive home and reinforce a lot of values of, ‘OK, you learn all these things, now go enact them. Give up yourself in service.’” Walia also noted that, “because Khazei is so closely affiliated with the Siegel Fellowship, a robust program at Brandeis, it’s another compelling reason to have him.” The speech will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Levin Ballroom, Usdan Student Center.

In addition to the keynote speaker, Walia is especially looking forward to Brandeis Unites in Service, a three-day series of service projects put on by the Student Union. “This year we are spending three days at the Prospect Hill Center, before Prospect Hill was supposed to open!” Over the course of the three days, volunteers will work with the children at Prospect Hill to create crafts, read and partake in other fun activities.

While all events have been scheduled, ’DEIS Impacters are still busy distributing flyers, posters and booklets. Throughout the festival, ’DEIS Impacters will wear their ’DEIS Impact sweatshirts, guide people to events and assure all event organizers have the things they need.

The schedule for all festival events can be found in booklets around campus in addition to the ’DEIS Impact online site. As McPhee said, “We’re thrilled that clubs, individual students and departments all come together during this week to think about what social justice means from the point of view of their discipline, their passion, their interest.”