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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

EDITORIAL: Students have the right to complain. They have the responsibility to complain wisely

Published: April 15, 2005
Section: Opinions

Think of Brian Snyders 05 complaints about life at Brandeis what you will, what no one can deny is a simple fact that may have gone overlooked in the controversy Jehuda Reinharz reads his own email. The president of this university, a man tasked with keeping a corporation with a $250 million yearly operating budget running smoothly while spending the majority of his time on the road fundraising, reads his email. And takes it seriously. And replies.

While many students enjoy complaining about all of the real or perceived problems with the Brandeis community, what most do not seem to realize is that we, as students, have been explicitly granted the privilege of complaining. Why? Because people are there listening.

Is it not amazing that a student would feel perfectly comfortable bitching out the University president in a letter directly to him, and then expect a courteous, non-flip reply? What does it say about Brandeis that we have such access to senior administrators? And what does it say about us that we are so willing to abuse that privilege?

There is much to complain about at Brandeis. More so than at other schools? Having not gone to other schools but instead come here, we can only speculate. But it seems that sometimes there is a viciousness to complaining at Brandeis that is out of place. Students willingness to launch into personal attacks against staff and administrators who have chosen to devote themselves to the field of higher education and to Brandeis in particular, quite possibly foregoing higher pay and more recognition in the process, is simply uncalled for, petty, and wrong.

Snyders community, Brandeis sucks, Alwina swallows, which riffs at great length on a much-beloved assistant dean, is in such incredibly poor taste that it is difficult to take anything else he says seriously.

What is it that provokes such bitterness? Why would someone who is so unhappy choose to stay here for a full four years and pay a full tuition of $120,000 or more? This question boggles the mind.
But perhaps a more pertinent question is asking what, precisely, Snyder hoped to accomplish through his letter to the president.

It appears based on his actions that what he really wanted to do was stir up controversy and attempt to embarrass the Brandeis administration, both within our community and outside of it in the news media. What Snyder may forget is that his actions reflect badly on our entire community, and actions that sully the Brandeis name also decrease the value of the diplomas we receive. The value of a University is in its reputation, and it seems some of the emissaries Brandeis sends into the world do not have much good to say about it. Is this a reflection on Brandeis, or a reflection on some of those who choose, willingly, to come here?

For every student who claims to have hated their Brandeis experience, there is another who has loved it completely. And for each of those, there are a dozen students who feel something in between. We find ourselves in that last category, but leaning much more towards satisfied than not. The opportunities and experiences we have found at Brandeis over the last four years were worth it. The parts that are good outweigh the parts that are bad. And we believe that Brian Snyder agrees. If he did not, he wouldnt be here.

So perhaps we, as students, need to step back for a moment and look at this world that we have created for ourselves, look at the opportunities we have, and look at what we are doing to make Brandeis a better place. If we are to claim that this is our school and we deseve a say in how it is run, then perhaps we need to first step up to the plate and start RUNNING it. It is easy to talk the talk, but are we ready to walk the walk?

Cliches aside, it is fundamentally true that Brandeis can only be as good as we choose to make it become. Students are granted the privilege to complain and to be taken seriously. It is an amazing privilege, one not often granted, and perhaps we should yield that power with a bit more discretion, a bit more precision, and a bit more respect.