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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Union Senate passes Senate Money Resolution for Prospect Hill

Published: October 24, 2008
Section: News

On Oct. 12, the Union Senate unanimously passed a Senate Money Resolution to donate $500 to benefit Prospect Hill Terrace Community Learning Center. Despite these funds, the center, which promotes literacy through a series of after-school programs, is still suffering financially.

As “a last resort,” project coordinator Anne Hodges ’11 approached the Social Justice Committee to ask for funding for a teen program at the Community Learning Center.

In an e-mail to The Hoot, Hodges wrote, “Due to the massive budget cuts [caused by the university’s $10 million budget shortfall], we were unable to receive the money that was promised to us through the Anthropology Department. We asked for donations from many other local Waltham stores, but many of the stores had helped us in previous events, and were unwilling to do so again.”

Director of the Community Engaged Learning Program, Prof. Mark Auslander (ANTH), in an e-mail, expressed gratitude to the Student Union for their help and stressed that the Community Center is still in need of funds.

He wrote, “The Community Center project is actually in quite a difficult financial situation. Our funding from last year is almost entirely gone, and we are actively searching for support. In this economic climate, that is particularly challenging.” He added that perhaps Brandeis students could help by organizing a fundraiser.

Hodges also emphasized that the program is having problems financially. “We are still in dire need for more money. We have a variety of programs, and many more lessons planned [that] we cannot execute with sufficient funds. Currently we are in the process of becoming a charter[ed club] in order to receive F-board money, [but] this will not happen until next semester,” she wrote.

Hodges wrote that she requested aide from the Justice Committee because the “program maintains Brandeis’ legacy of upholding social justice in the local community.”

The center, which opened in January 2008, is the product of the combined efforts of the Brandeis University Community Engaged Learning Program, the Prospect Hill Tenants’ Association, the Waltham Housing Authority, and the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing. It offers programs, through a collaboration with Brandeis students, that teach leadership skills, creative expression, and computer skills, with the ultimate goal of empowering families through literacy.

After hearing Hodges’ appeal, the head of the Social Justice Committee, Senator for the Class of 2011 Lev Hirschorn, proposed that he would sponsor a SMR for the project. Only Union Officers, University Committees, and Senate Committees are allowed to submit SMRs for consideration.

Hirschorn cited Brandeis’ long history of student involvement in Prospect Hill Terrace as part of his reasoning in supporting the SMR. “It’s important that there’s a strong working relationship between the two, and there has been, but in recent memory there has not been much collaboration between the Student Union, the voice of the student body, and Prospect Hill Terrace. This is really the first time the Student Union has gotten involved in this issue.”

Hirschorn then contacted other senators to help cosponsor the resolution and the SMR listed seven senators in total.

The $500 will help fund a barbeque to make teens aware of new programming being offered at the Learning Center. Hodges wrote, “A majority of programs are catered towards a younger crowd, mostly elementary school aged. We saw a need to address the other youth.”

According to the Office of the Treasury website, last semester the Senate passed SMRs that mainly help fund social events including an ice cream social, the Sophomore Royal Ball, and a Senior/Alumni event. During the spring semester, however, the Senate also allocated $800 to a benefit concert at Somerville High School, which Brandeis students organized.

Senator-at-large and cosponsor of the resolution, Justin Sulsky ’09 explained in an e-mail, the criteria he bears in mind when deciding whether or not to pass an SMR. “I ask myself, ‘Would most of my 3,200 constituents feel comfortable with their money going to this particular cause or organization?’ I also want to make sure that the people receiving the money show they are competent, dedicated and organized, so that I can feel comfortable providing them with student money. The SMR should benefit diverse members of the student body and the Brandeis campus,” he wrote.

Additionally, Sulsky said that he saw the involvement of Brandeis students in the community center as a valuable experience for students and as a way for the students to connect with the community. “I believe that interacting with Prospect Hill residents will elucidate on real civic issues so much more than a textbook possibly could…this SMR shows the local community that Brandeis students are willing to take initiative to provide generous support.”