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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student groups present gun petition to President Reinharz

Published: October 19, 2007
Section: News

Students Opposing the Decision to Arm (SODA) brought its petition to President Reinharzs office hours Thursday. SODA, composed of members of Democracy for America, the Brandeis Democrats, and Students for a Democratic Society (formally Radical Student Alliance) as well as other activists, sent 30 students to Reinharzs office hours to present their positions.

SODA organizer Ben Serby 10 explained that the group of 30 students met with Reinharz in groups of five and six to present their personal views regarding the decision to arm campus police. Before his meeting with Reinharz Serby said, Id like to leave [their message to Reinharz] up to the people themselves. They feel strongly for their own reasons.

SODA member Justin Backal-Balik 10 explained of his expectations, my only expectation is that [President Reinharz] will get a sense of how many students are upset…office hours are the first step.

Office hours arent the final pushwe dont think a hard, concrete result will come of that, remarked Serby.

After visiting Reinharz in his office hours, Backal-Balik said, [Reinharz said] I disagree with your assertion that the committee was not representative of the community at Brandeis. He just said, I disagree [but he] didnt provide any reasoning for why. Additionally, when Backal-Balik raised the issue of the potential psychological impact guns on campus might have on students, it was if it was a total surprise.

Serby commented, despite the fact that we kept harping on the way in which the decision [to arm] was reached, he consistently brought it back to why it was a good decision. He side-swept our concern about it being a very top-down, closed discussion.

He saw it as just a safety issue, Rivka Maizlish 10, another member of SODA, commented. He couldnt see it in terms of how it affects student life.

While Phil LaCombe 10 appreciated that Reinharz made sure that everyone who wanted to speak was heardI do no feel that he was at all affected by the argument that a diversity of opinions were not expressed at the committee hearings. He still believes that law enforcement and legal professions were sufficient.

Even so, LaCombe added, I feel that he came away from the meeting with a belief that at the very least the most strict review processes would have to be implemented [in the arming of officers].
I think that there were some very hopeful signs, Serby said, [Reinharz] did ask us in all seriousness to make a copy of the petitionit shows that he isnt going to write us off.

The next step is up for discussion, Serby added, We do have a number ofstrategies in mind, [including] an Activist Resource Center forum…we might be meeting with other members of the administration.

SODA members also intend to address the Student Union. The Student Union is saying focus on the implementation training, review committee [for instances where firearms are used against a student]. I feel annoyed by that argument, Serby said.

Backal-Balik agreed. Its not our responsibility to make sure its implemented safely….its not our job [as students] to check up on [the administration], he said.

Union Treasurer and member of the Firearms Advisory Committee Choon Woo Ha 08 said, I understand where [the students in SODA] are coming from butI know the decision will not be reversed.”

He added, I honestly believe that the administration didnt do this over the summer to hideI dont think they could have waited when they felt such urgency.

LaCombe explained the possibility of recourse through the Student Union via referendum or resolution. We have the signatures, he said.

We will want a statement on behalf of the student body, and a similar resolution passed through the faculty senate, Serby added, it would essentially be a codified form of the action we just took, expressing our concerns and our disapproval.

Ha commented, the fact that the President was willing to listen …really made me feel like Im at Brandeisits a beautiful sign of Brandeis that the administration didnt try to stop them.

Serby added, the Universitys value of social justice was a main reason why I was attracted to Brandeis. I feel let down by the decision because the manner in which it was conducteddoes not live up to the [standards] of a university that states as an aim to preserve the value of social justice.