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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Letters to the Editor – Sustainability fund

Published: April 23, 2010
Section: Editorials

Irresponsible Journalism

To the editor,

I was shocked today when I opened my copy of the Hoot to see the article “Irresponsible Fees” by Alex Schneider. I scoured the article for a single warranted argument as to why this fee could be viewed as “irresponsible,” yet failed to find a single one. The Princeton wordnet defines “irresponsible” as “showing a lack of care for consequences.” Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “not answerable for conduct or actions; not liable to be called to account.” The fee certainly shows a concern for consequences; its creation has been deliberate and its purpose is to remedy the negative environmental consequences of our life at Brandeis.

The second component of responsibility is accountability, and the fee certainly meets that requirement. The Brandeis Sustainability Board, which would be created by the fund, is a completely separate institution from Students for Environmental Action. In fact, I personally suggested to the creators of the amendment that they include a representative from SEA on the Board, and was told they were not doing it for this very reason. The student component of the Board will consist of the SU Treasurer, the Chair of the Social Justice Committee, and then 2 independently elected student representatives. The election of these two representatives by the entire student body means that they are held accountable to the student body, a fact which distinguishes them from every student run club on campus. On top of that, the fee will also have external accountability: it includes members of the Brandeis faculty and staff, who have the benefit of years of experience and a different viewpoint, as well as independence from the student body, all of which will ensure that the funds are used in a responsible manner.

While the article fails to prove any sort of irresponsibility on the part of the Sustainability Fee, it does show a great deal of journalistic irresponsibility on the part of both Schneider and The Hoot’s editors. A brief list of the facts that Schneider got wrong, and that anyone reading either the publicly available documents or the writings in support of the fee on SEA’s website, facebook group, or in response to The Justice’s editorial last week could see are blatantly untrue:

1) The fund supports the club, Students for Environmental Action. This is false, SEA can’t touch the money, does not have a representative on the board, the board is accountable to the entire student body, anyone can submit a project, and it is specifically designed to accomplish projects that SEA is unable to handle.

2) The fee came about as a result of SEA losing the vote to be secured. Any attempt at fact checking would reveal that the club has been working on this amendment since the beginning of the Fall semester. This statement approaches libel.

3) That the fee is a circumvention of F-Board funding. The majority of student projects would be infrastructure changes which do not constitute “student activities,” such as electric vehicles for facilities workers, drought resistant landscaping, or LED lampposts.

Although it pains me to think of the damage caused by Schneider alone, the majority of the fault lies with the Hoot’s editors. Clearly a conscious decision was made not to fact check, which is irresponsible on the part of the organization and represents a failure of journalistic integrity. That, and not the fee, is the true irresponsibility.

– Matthew Schmidt

Be weary of mandatory fees

To the editor,

I recently read Alex Schneider’s column “Irresponsible Fees” (April 22nd, 2010) and truly enjoyed the piece. Indeed, I think his article was in line with the best traditions of opinion writing at the Brandeis Hoot, and also believe that his words conveyed a message that is important to the Brandeis community. Beyond the discussion of whether or not a $7.50 charge to support environmental projects is too much for needy students, and beyond whether or not you think that sustainability is important, there is one issue that should predominate conversations about this subject. This involves assessing whether or not imposing additional costs on Brandeis students takes away their freedom to support or oppose causes as they wish.

If this campus is truly committed to the fight against environmental derogation, if Brandeis students truly wanted to help increase sustainability, then they would voluntarily provide their donations to environmental initiatives. This could easily be accomplished by an online system, which would allow students to abstain, or opt into giving $7.50 of their own money to environmental causes. However, forcing these additional costs on the Brandeis community disallows people from making the conscious, voluntary, and responsible decision to support the environment. Indeed, this fee only demonstrates a lack of faith in Brandeis students, as the mandatory charge presupposes that students would not take measures on their own to increase environmental sustainability.

To many, this charge seems like a minor fee. However, it represents a restriction to the rights of students, and shouldn’t be allowed. If Brandeisians truly wanted to support the environment, they would donate voluntarily. Forcing them to do so against their will, however, counters fundamental notions of liberty and freedom, which our institution so adamantly supports. I therefore applaud Mr. Schneider for writing his article and augmenting the discussion about this initiative. In the end, students should consider many factors when deciding whether to establish this fee, and Mr. Schneider has illuminated several reasons why this charge would run counter to several fundamental principles of liberty and fairness.

– Jordan Rothman ’09

Hoot article flawed

To the editor,

I have always held The Hoot in higher esteem than the Justice; I’ve considered it more of a friend to us students than the administration-subsidized other. However, after reading last week’s Impressions article by Alex Schneider titled “Irresponsible Fees,” I was shocked and angered to see how irresponsible the Hoot’s board is. You failed the students, not to mention the Brandeis Sustainability Fund, by printing an article with so many factual errors.

I am not one of the students who have been working on this project for the past year or more, having countless meeting with administrators, other student groups, etc., but I wholeheartedly support them and their effort to actually make some truly meaningful, institutional change on this campus. Without a printed apology and an update to the
online version, I will never again be able read The Hoot in the same light of respect.

– Susan Paykin ’11