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The Brandeis Bubble: Think globally, act locally

Published: November 18, 2005
Section: Opinions


This past Election Day, one of the best community initiatives in recent years passed in Waltham and Brandeis ashamedly had no part in it. Question one, or the Community Preservation Act, passed by a narrow 9-vote margin after previously failing by a 17.5% margin in 2001. This vote shows that a progressive base is growing in Waltham who are concerned about preserving open-space, supporting the low-income residents of the city, and maintaining the citys parks and playgrounds;

all causes that Brandeis students should be concerned about. However, Brandeis students concern regarding the ballot initiative was practically non-existent.

Election Day was actually depressing;

the lines of students that I saw during the president election were completely non-present. When I went to get my ballot, the elderly woman at the table seemed shocked to see a 21-year-old actually present and, from what I gathered from the sign-holders outside, not too many students had stopped by that day. There were no emails from the administration talking about an all-day BranVan running to the polls and no emails from the Student Union reminding us of the importance of voting.
Brandeis is obsessed with the nave notion that our actions can save the entire world;

from STAND to Fair Trade to RSA, Brandeisians love to mobilize around the greater good. However, we often forget how we can really make a difference for the people around us. Should we devote all our energy to crushing oil-producing dictatorships, or should vote to create affordable housing for the elderly at the Hardy School? Should we mobilize against the war in Iraq or protect Berry Farm and Sanderson Woods so future generations of Waltham residents can still go for a walk in the woods?

People tell me that Brandeis students do both already, as evident by the Waltham Group;

however, I see a veil of ignorance and indifference surrounding our campus. Most students do not know who Walthams mayor is (Jeannette McCarthy), including ranking editors of The Hoot, who should be especially aware of our community. Some students I have talked to in the Mountain Club did not know about Prospect Hill Park and rarely do I meet a Brandeisian that knows about the bikepath that networks itself all the way to Boston.
While it is the responsibility of the student body to actually care enough to vote and support Waltham, it is the administrations actions that are at the root of our ignorance. As evident by the empty Daily News Tribune rack that is reminiscent of a tumbleweed inside the Shapiro Atrium, the administration does not think having free access to Walthams city newspaper is important. When freshman arrive to campus, they are immediately taught how to run away from Waltham to Boston when they become bored of campus, instead of taking advantage of opportunities right here.

However, this issue does not need to persist. The majority of colleges in America have a first-year program that discusses issues on campus and in the surrounding community. I spent my freshman year at Bentley College where such a program existed. While the program could have used some minor reform, it provided students with the opportunity to learn about their surroundings, which was an exceptionally useful tool for someone who had never been in Metro-west Boston before. My seminars project was to gather donated computers, set up a computer lab in an elementary school, and teach young children how to use them. Inarguably, the experience taught me that my involvement in Waltham as a student was of the utmost importance.

While I am generally against having a structured education, a program such as this has some serious merit. Not only could it teach students about campus issues in a more structured environment than a dorm-storm, it would foster an interest in our community. It would serve to educate the student body about opportunities that Waltham has to offer and teach incoming students about community issues and how they effect us as a community. And if the Brandeis administrators continue to decide that building new science buildings is more important than investing in our community, I sincerely hope that students will take more initiative on their own. There is a world beyond South St. and I suspect you will love it.