Author: Sahar

Posted on: September 2nd, 2015

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Category: State of the Union

Hi there.

This site hosted a particularly strong student/activist blog that ran from late 2007 – 2011 at Brandeis University.

It was founded by Sahar Massachi and Alex Melman, and then run for most of its life by Sahar Massachi, with assists by Adam Hughes, Elly Kalfus, Nathan Robinson, and a large cast of contributors.

Please feel free to peruse the archives.

You can reach Sahar here.

Author: elly

Posted on: June 25th, 2013

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Category: holidays, reflections from a brandeis student

The VP of HR at Brandeis sent out an e-mail Monday to Brandeis Staff saying that President Lawrence has decided to close offices on Thursday and Friday for July 4th, giving workers "an extended weekend for relaxation and enjoyment with family and friends." (E-mail printed below)

While I appreciate the good will behind this move, and I believe this in common in many workplaces, do employers realize how giving extended holidays impacts hourly wage workers? As a temporary summer employee working at Brandeis for the summer for an hourly wage, I don't get paid when the school is closed, since I can't come in. That means that rather than enjoying the relaxing weekend, I worry about how to pay my rent with 2 less days – i.e. 14 hours less pay – for the month. 

I spoke with a friend and fellow Brandeis alumnus about this today, and zhe informed me that when zhe worked at Brandeis as a student, zhe would very frequently lose hourly wages because of the Brandeis Mondays and other irregular schedules. As a student, I worked very few hours a week and never considered the impact this policy had on workers, but as an employee working 2 part time jobs, I realize how frustrating magnanimous gestures such as this can be. 

Can't holidays be optional (if not otherwise compensated for)?!


Good afternoon,
As a reminder, President Lawrence has directed that Brandeis University offices will be closed beginning at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3rd with staff returning to work on Monday, July 8th.

His hope is that staff members will be able to use the extended weekend for relaxation and enjoyment with family and friends.


Scot Bemis

Vice President for Human Resources

Author: elly

Posted on: June 20th, 2013


Category: Brandeis Dining

This e-mail re new Brandeis Dining Service partner Sodexo was sent to Brandeis Staff and Faculty earlier today (Thursday June the 20th)

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Brandeis University is pleased to announce that we have selected Sodexo as our new campus dining partner. Beginning July 1, 2013, Sodexo will begin managing and operating Dining Services on campus.  

Sodexo’s commitment to excellent customer service, customer satisfaction, local & sustainable foods, and food-forward innovation make them a welcome addition to our campus. Their culinary team will bring a passion for fresh food and catering excellence to campus. Some of the new offerings you will see on campus will include: Starbucks, Russo’s Market, and the first Guy Fieri on Campus located in New England.

Over the coming weeks, Sodexo and Brandeis will share more specific information about meal plans, dining hours, new food formats, events and other information. 

Please join me in welcoming our new Resident District Manager of Dining Services, Jay Degioia. You can reach Jay at ext. 64276 or email

If you have other questions or would like additional information, please contact Mark Collins at 64435 or

Thank you,

Ellen de Graffenreid

Senior Vice President for Communications


So, this is huge! Students have been criticizing and campaigning against Aramark for years (decades?) because of the quality of their food as well as their ideological stances (human rights vi, underpaid employees, etc). Does anyone out there have opinions on/knowledge of Sodexo? Do we know what's going to be happening to the Aramark workers?

I will be researching them, feel free to comment or e-mail in tips (tips @ For now, here's the "Controversies" section of their Wikipedia page:

"There have been at least nine boycotts of Sodexo, for varying reasons: at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, at the American University in Washington D.C., and at Université Laval in Quebec City, at Binghamton University in New York, and Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, at DePauw University in Indiana, Hollins University in Roanoke, VirginiaEmory University in Atlanta, Georgia,[13][14][15] at Nordea banks in Finland, at the University of Tampere, Finland and at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.[16] At DePauw University the students protested against Sodexo's alleged low pay, former investment in private prison businesses, and the lack of local food options.[17]

At the Nordea banks the issue was a cut in wages after Sodexo took over the bank's workplace food services.[18][19] After a successful boycott, the wages were raised.[20]

In 2009, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched a United States nationwide campaign against Sodexo with their stated objective of improving wage and job standards. In 2010, the SEIU recruited students at many U.S. colleges to support strikes and demonstrations in protest of Sodexo's alleged unfair labor practices including anti-union behavior and paying low wages. [21][22] Although one series of strikes at the University of Pittsburgh led to the negotiation of higher wages and lower cost health insurance plans for the cafeteria workers,[23][24][25] none of the Sodexo accounts targeted by the SEIU have unionized or even requested an election vote. According to a statement from Sodexo, the SEIU engaged in a smear campaign in an effort to drive out rival labor unions that have traditionally operated in the foodservice industry as well as for general publicity.[26]

Sodexo filed a lawsuit in March 2011 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act accusing the SEIU of "engaging in illegal tactics in its effort to unionize workers".[27] During the trial, it was revealed that the SEIU had written and distributed a manual to its staff detailing how “outside pressure can involve jeopardizing relationships between the employer and lenders, investors, stockholders, customers, clients, patients, tenants, politicians, or others on whom the employer depends for funds.” Tactics recommended include references to blackmail, extortion, accusations of racism and sexism, and targeting the homes and neighborhoods of business leaders for demonstrations.[28] Following the court discovery of this document, SEIU agreed to terminate their public campaign focused on Sodexo and the charges against SEIU were dropped.[29]

In May 2011, 27 University of Washington students were arrested during a sit in at the University's administrative offices for protesting the University's concessions contract with Sodexo.[30]Shortly after, on May 19, another 13 students were arrested under similar circumstances.[31]

All of the frozen beef products used by Sodexo in the UK were withdrawn on 22 February 2013 following the discovery of horse DNA in a sample.[32] The company supplies 2,300 institutions, including schools, old-age people homes, prisons and branches of the armed forces within the UK.[32]"

Author: elly

Posted on: January 29th, 2013

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Category: State of the Union

Currently watching the 2013 New York State of the State, which took place January 9, 2013. Here are some key moments and ideas:

  • Minute 12-17:15 Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman makes an introductory speech and blessing. She was installed in March of 2012 as President of the New York Board of Rabbis and is the first woman in the 131-year-history of the organization to hold this position. Rabbi Goodman supports women’s reproductive rights and health care, and advocated for marriage equality in New York State, and key line in her speech "Women are still not equal"

Author: elly

Posted on: January 26th, 2013

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Category: prison reform

The BBC ran an article last week, "Johnny Cash and his prison reform campaign," about country singer Johnny Cash's advocacy work on behalf of prisoners. Cash toured many prisons, performing live for inmates, and gave evidence at a US Senate subcommittee on prison reform in 1972, speaking of the abuses prisoners he talked to had suffered.

Explaining why Cash was effective in his cries for prison reform, Danny Robbins writes "Cash successfully humanised the prison population and gave them a voice. He had a unique ability to get inside the heads of these forgotten and ignored men and understand the problems facing them – the roar from the inmate audience that can be heard on Live at San Quentin when he launches into the provocative angry title track is testimony to this." (A 30-second audio clip of Cash onstage at San Quentin is available to listen to next to the article.)

I think we need more of this overlap between arts and activism. Cash was able to bring hope to prisoners and relat their stories to people living on the outside, a necessary bridge if we are going to address the problems caused by mass incarceration and develop better, more empathic approaches to dealing with people who commit crimes.