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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Know your rights before you fight

Published: October 3, 2008
Section: Opinions

In the wake of on-campus controversies from the Gravity Magazine incident to the Mamoon Darwish case, it seems that the rights of Brandeis students have become increasingly unclear. Each incident raises new questions about the boundaries of free speech, safety, due process and more. The recent creation of the Student Union Office of Student Rights and Advocacy will hopefully be one step towards clearing up these lingering questions.

The fact that this office will be composed completely of students will make it especially effective, because it will give students a more relatable source of advice on their rights. The current Rights and Responsibilities document is overloaded with administrative jargon that does not resonate with students, and without the OSRA, administrators are the only human resource for students with questions. By contrast, the OSRA will enable students to sit down with informed peers who can better understand where a student is coming from. This is an invaluable service that the OSRA will provide. The Student Union has ensured that the committee will be well-informed by appointing Laura Cohen ‘09 to the position of director. Cohen’s role as a adviser to Darwish in the trial and subsequent appeals proceedings has provided her with a wealth of experience upon which to draw when talking to students.

The distribution of “Know Your Rights” info cards will hopefully be a more effective way of reaching out to the general student body, in addition to those students who actively seek knowledge of their rights. While Rights and Responsibilities is printed in the free student planner we receive every fall, it is unlikely that many students take the time to read it and rather flip past it to find student holidays. An info card will be much less intimidating than pages upon pages of fine print, making it more accessible for students.

Brandeis has offices and committees that handle everything from issues of social justice to cafeteria hours. It is only appropriate that we have a Student Union office handling something as important and pertinent as the rights of our study body.