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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students organize for budget transparency

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Front Page

BUDGET: Sahar Massachi ‘11 leads members of the newly formed Brandeis Budget Cuts Committee in a meeting in Castle commons Monday night.<br /><i>PHOTO BY Amira Mintz-Morganthau/The Hoot</i>

BUDGET: Sahar Massachi ‘11 leads members of the newly formed Brandeis Budget Cuts Committee in a meeting in Castle commons Monday night.
PHOTO BY Amira Mintz-Morganthau/The Hoot

Three days after students protested their exclusion from a faculty meeting about budget cuts, and just hours after university President Jehuda Reinharz announced the closing of the Rose Art Museum via e-mail, fifty students gathered in Castle Commons Monday night to discuss their hopes for a role in the process. They call themselves the Brandeis Budget Cut Coalition and communicate avidly via listserv.

“The BBCC came out of [Students for a Democratic Society] radical film nights,” Carrie Mills ’12, a member of both organizations, explained. Following last semester’s announcement that the number of foreign language sections would be decreased, members of this original group spoke at a Student Union Senate meeting and attended a small, invitation-only forum with Reinharz in December.

The group dispersed as finals stole most students’ time and energy and picked up again in force with last Thursday’s demonstration against a closed faculty meeting, Mills said.

At a BBCC meeting Monday evening, BBCC member Jon Sussman ’11 explained that students want “knowledge, participation, and consent” as the university evaluates proposals to address its building deficit. “It’s vital that we’re included in this conversation,” he said.

“We are upset about the lack of process,” BBCC member and founder and writer Sahar Massachi said in an interview. “The real aim of the BBCC is process reform.”

Thus, Massachi and the BBCC intend to advocate for student input as the administration moves forward to address the financial problems the university faces.

“We want a voice so our proposals [can be] heard – not just a voice for the sake of a voice.” Massachi said.

BBCC members spent the majority of their meeting considering outreach to the administration, outreach to students, and outreach to media, deciding to make the student blog their main mouthpiece. Two members of the BBCC, Carrie Mills ’12 and Alex Melman ’11, have already been quoted in the Boston Globe in relation to their involvement in the group.

“It’s amazing to see such an outpouring of student support for this issue,” Mills commented.

In response to the attention the BBCC received by the faculty and administration following their protest, Massachi commented at the BBCC’s Monday night meeting, “we demanded a voice. We have it,” he continued, “now we’re being tested to use it responsibly.”

Members of the BBCC stressed the importance of sharing information. In order to avoid the “paranoia and rumor-mongering,” Sussman stressed that the “flood gates of information” must be open. The BBCC wants to ensure, Sussman explained, that the “pathways for student involvement are open and now and in the future.”

And while Sussman and other members of the BBCC want to increase student participation and increased communication, “we need to really get across that we’re not trying to dictate to the Board of Trustees and Jehuda any requirements or demands.”

“We really feel that the administration is trying to cope with the circumstances,” he added.