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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Club plans civic week

Published: September 12, 2008
Section: Front Page

Citizenship week, sponsored by the year-old club Gen Ed Now, will begin Sept. 21, bringing opportunities for civic engagement to Brandeis. The event features keynote speaker Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America, who will discuss inequality in education.

“We wanted to hit the ground running, so all summer we’ve been planning this event,” co-president Ari Jadwin ’10 said.

The weeklong event will also feature community service opportunities, chances to meet with various representatives of volunteer groups, and chances to learn more about the upcoming election. Co-president Jonah Seligman ’10 explained that these topics were chosen by Gen Ed Now “based on our personal interests” and in keeping with “one of the pillars of Brandeis: social justice.”

As explained in its club constitution, “The purpose of Gen Ed Now is to fulfill the growing demand for speakers on campus.” The club is modeled after Gen Ed S (General Education Senior), an early Brandeis club that arranged for talks by interesting speakers. These speakers included such famous intellectuals as E.E. Cummings, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

When organizing the new Gen Ed Now, the club founders reached out to alumni to learn about what Gen Ed S meant to them.

Sample responses included, “What? There’s no Gen Ed S! What is the world coming to?” as well as, “We learned how to take apart an idea, how not to believe everything that we heard.”

By reviving, or – as the club constitution puts it – “resurrecting” Gen Ed S, the challenge is to once again bring speakers and programs to campus to elevate discussion on “contemporary issues that are or should be at the fore of the national and global consciousness.”

“[The goal is to] foster dialogue on these pressing issues that aren’t getting talked about,” Seligman said. Along with Citizenship Week, Gen Ed Now is also preparing for a Global Affairs Round Table to hold “discussions to promote understanding,” according to sophomore and Gen Ed Now Vice President for International Affairs Ben Gorelick ’11.

The goal of this program, according to Gorelick, is “to have people leaving a discussion feeling as though they read a good article.”

The topics, he adds, are ones which are little discussed at Brandeis: “For all the dialogue on the Middle East, there’s not much on the rest of the world.” For this reason, Gorelick hopes that these Global Affairs Round Tables will be more than just lectures – they will jumpstart a wider “discussion” of these issues.

Jadwin adds, “We are trying to get students engaged intellectually and also in a practical sense… not just [for discussions] at Brandeis, but after Brandeis.”