Another articulation of the division Oren causes our community

Many people unfamiliar with the Brandeis community view us as a strictly Jewish institution, when in fact we are a very diverse community.  We have members from a wide spectrum of Jewish backgrounds, from the many faiths of the world, and from no faith.  For a great number of our students, faculty, and staff, the issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict bring out very passionate, and sometimes personal, opinions and experiences.  Michael Oren, as a spokesperson for just one view of the many on this extremely contentious issue, causes the members of our community to divide themselves in relation to their deep-seeded feelings on the views he espouses.  Instead of uniting our community around the principles of peace, justice, and coexistence we seek to uphold during our time here and after we graduate, the selection of Oren divides us emotionally and ideologically.  The selection of Oren brings the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the most sensitive topic at Brandeis University, into our most sacred ceremony–commencement.  We believe that commencement should be a time of culminating unity, when the members of our graduating class prepare to set off into the world in solidarity.  The selection of Michael Oren as commencement speaker instead tears our graduating class and campus community apart.

In peace,
Phil LaCombe (’10)


To the Brandeis Community:

The Brandeis administration’s choice of Michael Oren as this year’s commencement speaker has brought division to what should be a unifying event.  If you are upset about this choice and would like an opportunity to voice your opinion, come to a demonstration against campus division tomorrow beginning at 4:45 p.m between Spingold and the Rose near Pollack.  The demonstration will coincide with the opening ceremony of the Festival of the Arts, but is not intended to disrupt the event.

The Source/ReSource project was created by artist in residence Michael Dowling in order to speak to “the continuing cycle of generations who come to Brandeis– the source– and return to the world as a resource for vision, justice, creativity, and social change.”  Dowling realizes the unity of the Brandeis community and its beauty.  Unfortunately, our administration has chosen to divide our community through its selection of Michael Oren as the speaker for our most sacred ceremony–commencement.

This demonstration is not against Michael Oren as a speaker or individual; it is against the administration’s choice to bring him to commencement and fuel the deep political divisions of the community.

In the event of rain, we will be meeting at the same time in the atrium of Shapiro Campus Center.

Sahar: An Accomplished Candidate

Sahar is a blogger who has constantly worked for real-world change. He believes in changing the underlying structures and the dynamics of student government in order to empower and protect student and help Brandeis live up to its mission.  He turns great ideas into practical proposals and real change.

Sahar co-founded the Committee on Endowment Ethics and Responsibility to ensure the endowment is invested responsibly.

During the 2008 election, Sahar helped run the Brandeis Votes challenge that mobilized our clubs to register students to vote.

When Brandeis was in crisis as a result of the budget cuts Spring 2009, Sahar successfully organized a student movement to oppose the administration’s unilateral decision-making.  The budget cut coalition worked to inform students, contact the media, create a proposal for transparency and student participation, and place a student on the CARS Committee.

On the Constitutional Review Committee as an at-large member, Sahar fought for successful reforms: instant runoff voting in Student Union elections and public defenders in the Union Judiciary.

After the Muslim Students’ Association Lounge was vandalized, Sahar brought together students of Muslim, Jewish, other faiths and no faith to stand up for the Muslim community and our values of tolerance and coexistence.  Sahar created an open letter to the Brandeis Muslim community that gathered 600 signatures and arranged a peace rally that attracted 80 people and widespread media attention.  Sahar knows the true character of our university and our community, and will speak for it when it comes under threat.

Vote Sahar Massachi for Student Union President April 15th.

Want to learn more? Check out our website or facebook.

Dr. Dean!

Just a reminder we’re going to have a progressive champion coming to campus soon…

Dr. Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont, presidential candidate and chair of the Democratic National Committee will be coming to campus on April 15th to talk to the Brandeis community about his career, current political debates, and youth participation in the political process. The event will consist of a speech followed by an extensive conversation with the audience via Q and A.

The event is open to members of the Brandeis community only.

Seating is first come first serve, Doors open 7:15pm and Brandeis ID is Required.

Soldiers of Peace Film Screening

Last week I stepped out of my usual network of activists and attended a Student Peace Alliance meeting.  It was an enjoyable experience–SPA does some cool things and has some great people.  I noticed some similarities with DFA in its meeting style, reminding me that we share common roots.  Both groups were founded on the Brandeis campus by Aaron Voldman, an amazing activist and all-around awesome guy who graduated in 2009 and now leads the National Student Peace Alliance organization.  I encourage you to reach outside your comfort zone every once in a while and visit the meeting of a group you don’t know so well.

SPA has a cool event tonight.  They’re screening the film “Soldiers of Peace.” Member Etta King was kind enough to send along this blurb:

Movie starts @: 7:30 in Pearlman Lounge! Bring snacks/dinner and friends!

“We assume that war is human nature. That there’s an epidemic of war and it’s only getting worse. That it’s too profitable for some businesses to be stopped. And too effective for some governments to give up. That war will be with us forever. None of these things is true. The world is changing. We are changing.”

Join Student Peace Alliance for a FREE movie screening of the documentary Soldiers of Peace. Afterward we will share our reactions to the movie and discuss some new, awesome initiatives SPA is working on to effectively address youth violence in the United States. This movie chronicles stories from 14 countries around the world where ordinary people are doing what is necessary to end war and violence in their communities. AND the movie is narrated by Michael Douglas!

You can watch the trailer here:

Howard Dean Coming to Brandeis

A collaborative effort of Brandeis clubs including Democracy for America, the College Democrats, the Activist Resource Center, and Gen Ed Now has successfully secured a deal to bring Howard Dean to campus.  He will speak on April 15 at 8pm in Levin Ballroom.  The event will be open to the Brandeis community.

Howard Dean, a physician and former Governor of Vermont, is well-known for his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004.  He built significant opposition to the Iraq War and other policies of the Bush presidency, as well as created a very successful model for internet fundraising.  From 2005-2009 he served as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, where he created the “50 State Strategy” that made Democrats competitive in normally “solid red” Republican districts, which led to the Democrats taking back Congress in 2006.  Since leaving the DNC, Dean has been working on pushing for healthcare reform, especially for a public option to private insurance plans.

New Tool for Getting Around Boston

Have you ever felt it difficult to get from Point A to Point B in the Boston area without going through downtown? Say you want to get from Harvard Square to Coolidge Corner in Brookline. You don’t need to go in to Park Street Station on the Red Line and then out again on the Green Line, just take the 66 bus–no transfer. How about if you’re in the Back Bay and want to check out Jamaica Plain (a wicked cool neighborhood)? Just take the 39 bus. What if you were supposed to meet your friend at the Harvard Square shuttle stop but you screwed up and went to Beacon & Mass Ave? Just take the 1 bus.

The MBTA has recently created a new map that has the familiar “T” subway (red, blue, orange), light rail (green, M-line red), and bus rapid transit lines (silver) and adds 12 key bus routes.

You can find it here in a nice printable PDF.

Print it out and put it in your backpack or purse.  When you know that special way to get someplace, all your friends will be wildly impressed.

Building Blunders of Brandeis, Part IV: Disposable Architecture

This post is part of a series that addresses the physical aspects of our campus, specifically the history and the current state of Brandeis University architecture and planning.

One of society’s ongoing problems is what to do with old buildings.  Do we demolish them and build something new?  Do we renovate and re-purpose them?  If they’re particularly special, we might even restore them to their original state.  Brandeis is no more immune to this problem than any city or town.  In fact, college campuses may feel the pressures to demolish old buildings stronger than any other communities.  Colleges depend on large donors to renew their facilities, and large donors want their names on fashionable new buildings.

Demolition of the Friedland Life Science Building
Demolition of the Friedland Life Science Building

For several weeks now, crews have been working at demolishing the Friedland Life Science building and the Kalman Pre-Medical Building.  To my best knowledge, no one has made a fuss.  I’m not a science student, but I’ve visited both of these buildings.  Friedland was actually pretty quirky and interesting, with large white panels covering much of the exterior and short windows at the top of each floor, creating glass divisions between its five stories.  I believe it was designed by firm of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott, which had some very famous founders.

Friedland Life Science Building. Architects: Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott. Built 1956-58.
Friedland Life Science Building. Architects: Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott. Built 1956-58.

Should we really treat buildings such as Friedland as disposable?  I don’t think so.  Sure, they’re not very much in style today, but someday we may come to regret losing them.  Harvard’s now-loved Memorial Hall once faced the wrecking ball because 50-or-so years late it had fallen out of style.  Sure, Friedland isn’t so grand, nor was it probably constructed so well, but it’s so… well, modern.  It was of the era of the Space Race, and in my opinion it showed it.

Friedland isn’t the only building with a funky, modern style.  Goldman-Schwartz?  East?  Spingold?  Schwartz and Brown?  All of these buildings have been deeply neglected over the years.  Under the right conditions, any of these buildings could receive its death sentence.  At Brandeis, we take the attitude that after a building goes up, it’s okay to leave it to decay forever.  I urge Brandeis to treat its buildings with greater respect.

If you need reinforcement for what our ’50s and ’60s-era buildings could look like, visit the lobby of Gryzmish across from the campus center.  Without  daily wear from students, the interior has stayed fairly well preserved.  Really, take a look.  Once the examples of that style are destroyed, they will never come back in quite the same form.

Winter Sun Sets Over Friedland
Winter Sun Sets Over Friedland

Critical Mass

Cross-posted from my blog.

This past Friday evening I participated in an event called Critical Mass, with the purpose to celebrate cycling and assert cyclists’ right to the road.  In Boston, bicyclists hold a ride on a last Friday of every month, starting at Copley Square in the Back Bay.  There are no organizers.  I heard about the event from some fellow Brandeisians through Facebook.  I’d never done any real urban riding before, so naturally I felt anxious as I sat with my Schwinn on the Commuter Rail, waiting to arrive in Boston.  Since I work at WalkBoston Fridays, I rode the bike over to Old City Hall and locked it up outside the office.  Making it from North Station without incident felt like quite an accomplishment!

After work when it came time to ride over to Copley, I realized how disoriented I felt bicycling rather than walking around the city.  Suddenly I had to deal with a bunch of one-way streets and I lacked the time to think about my direction at each intersection.  When I arrived at Copley Square there were already a number of cyclists, many with single-gear or fixie bikes, others with modified road cycles, and a whole bunch of people in costume for Halloween.  I felt silly with my mountain bike.  I ran into a fellow I met at the HONK!Fest and we chatted for a bit.  Again, no one was in charge, so we just had to wait until someone started riding and then follow.

With over 100 cyclists, we took over the streets of downtown Boston.  It was simply amazing and brought a huge grin to my face.  Instead of being pushed to the margins, we owned the road.  Collective action gave us the right to ride in freedom.  Instead of thinking about the car behind me or the intersection ahead, I could actually take in the sights and lights of the city.  And the pavement–so smooth!  The automobiles have it so good.  We blew through the red lights, with people physically blocking the cars along the way.  It was brilliant, and sooo satisfying to stick it to the faceless, polluting cars.  Still, the whole thing was rather self-indulgent.  We made it nearly impossible for pedestrians to cross the streets, and that brought on a little guilt.  While it’s not right to act as the automobile drivers do and selfishly take up the entire street, I don’t think it really hurts anyone to do it for an hour or two once a month.  I’ll be sure to participate again.

Jehuda Reinharz: A Retrospective

For better or for worse, Jehuda Reinharz’s actions as University President have helped shape my experience at Brandeis.  After hearing about his imminent resignation, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect upon some events of his term.

My oldest memory is of a controversy surrounding a display of Palestinian art on campus.  It was before I arrived as a student on campus, but it was still fresh on the minds of many in the community when I arrived in the fall of 2006.  The exhibit was called ‘Voices of Palestine’ and featured drawings and paintings by Palestinian teenagers living in a refugee camp near Bethlehem.  After four days on display, his administration removed the pieces of artwork.  Coming to Brandeis as a non-Jew, this was slightly worrying.  I wanted to live and study in an environment where people could express their views, even if they were disliked by strong supporters of Israel.

In the fall of 2007, my second semester at Brandeis, Reinharz sought to prevent President Carter from visiting campus and giving a lecture to the community.  The issue was over Carter’s book, entitled “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”.  Reinharz was worried about the potential reactions of the wealthy Jewish donors that sponsor our university.  It was the second big battle I witnessed concerning one Brandeis pillar versus the other, with Jewish sponsorship on one side and social justice on the other.  Some motivated students pushed hard to get Carter to come, offering to put on the event themselves.  Reinharz tried to force Carter to change the event from a lecture to a debate with lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a staunch defender of Israel’s political and military policy.  The issue created some bad press for the university, mostly through the Boston Globe, who brought it to the nation’s attention.  In the end Carter was allowed to come, with an optional Dershowitz event afterward.  As I remember, Reinharz did not attend the former president’s lecture.

President Reinharz’s decision that impacted me most was to allow the campus police to carry guns.  He composed a committee in the summer of 2007 to advise him on the issue following the Virginia Tech tragedy.  The two students serving on the committee were hand picked by the administration with no input from the greater student body.  I still stand by the opinion that our campus is better off without the deadly weapons that are firearms.  Someday we’re going to have an issue with one of the guns wielded or fired improperly.  I helped organize a group called SODA, Students Opposing the Decision to Arm, which collected over 800 student signatures for our cause.  We delivered the signatures to President Reinharz and spoke with him for around 30 minutes with at least 20 students.  He didn’t really care about student opinion, he was moving ahead with his decision regardless, and he wasn’t going to open up debate on the issue on campus.

Most recently, Reinharz has become mired in controversy over the closure of the Rose Art Museum and the sale of its works of art.  I’ve only visited the museum a couple of times while at Brandeis, but I’ve always believed that it adds something special to our community.  His decision was never clear.  He equivocated over the closure and the sale under the pressure, only bringing the university more bad press.  I praised my friends’ posting of a large sign on the front of the Rose reading “ATM”.  While I was abroad, my peers went to work debating with the administration over budget cuts.  The financial crisis hit our university hard.  Reinharz should be praised for raising record amounts of money, but criticized for overspending.  I love all of the new buildings, upgrades, and programs, but our expansion just wasn’t sustainable.

President Reinharz made me proud when he signed the University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to tackle global warming, and when he advocated for the elimination of water bottles from the dining halls.  Reinharz is a business man.  Late in his tenure he realized that Brandeis was going to have to “go green” in order to attract today’s students.  For him, sustainability is part of the marketing strategy.  That’s fine, I care less about the motivations than the actions.  Next week’s big sustainability announcement may not come from him, but I can say with reasonable certainty that it will have to do with some of his behind-the-scenes efforts.

Earlier tonight I broke the news of Reinharz’s resignation to one of my friends.  He replied jokingly, ” Do you think there will be looting?”  I laughed, but his comment made recall the name of the building where President Reinharz’s office resides–The Irving Presidential Enclave.  How indicative of the way he ran the university’s administration, so close to the hub of students’ activity, but so distant in its decision-making.

Insightful Points from an Inspired Protagonist

Tonight Brandeis hosted a lecture and Q&A session with Jeffrey Hollender, the founder and Chief Inspired Protagonist of Seventh Generation, which a leader in sustainable business.  Perhaps you’ve seen their dish soap, cleaners, paper towels, or other products at the store.  I didn’t originally intend to write about the event, but it was so great that I felt I needed to share it with all of our readers.  Here are the major points he made on the changes we need for a sustainable economy, in bullet form for easy reading:

  • Changes in ownership structure – issue stock to employees, even if they don’t want it.
  • Corporate bylaws – change responsibility to shareholders to responsibility to all stakeholders, including labor and the environment.
  • Corporate charters – in order to receive permission to operate as a business, you must meet certain standards (e.g. issue a corporate responsibility report).
  • Full cost accounting – include all externalities in the prices of goods so that the better goods cost less.
  • Doing good – currently, our idea of doing good is doing less bad (e.g. 100% recycled, non-chlorine bleached paper towels).  Tonight’s event is an example of doing good.  In becoming the first company to use sustainably harvested palm oil, they’re doing good.
  • Quality over quantity – we just plain consume too much stuff, need to consume less.
  • Education – teach the systemic thinking, the connections between things, from the very youngest ages.
  • Capital availability – small businesses are starved of money, even though they create the most jobs.  Also see the point on sustainable growth.
  • Working less – people don’t have enough time to participate in their democracies.  You’re not necessarily more productive working 60 hours a work, so employees that work less should still be able to compete.
  • Family businesses – they more often do the right thing.  Johnson & Johnson were the first to give employees paid vacation.
  • Long-term thinking – businesses have a very hard time thinking long-term.  Immediately when things go bad, they lay people off, even though it’s expensive.
  • Day trading – these types of investors offer nothing to companies.  We need extremely high capital gains taxes to discourage these types of behavior.  Long-term investing should have no capital gains tax.
  • Mortgage deductions – these tax incentives benefit the people who need it least, like people who own two homes.
  • Charitable giving – the poorer you are, the more you give away as a percentage of your income.
  • Salary limitations – place limits on how many times more the highest-paid employee can make in relation to the lowest-paid employee.  If you pay someone over $500,000 a year, you shouldn’t be able to deduct it as a business expense.
  • Seventh Generation – the name comes from the Iroquois principle that in every deliberation, we need to consider its impact on the next seven generations.
  • Failure – Seventh Generation employees work too much, are too stressed out, but a month ago he finished a book about working less and hope to make changes.  They chose palm oil instinctively over petroleum, but really it turned out to be worse.
  • Habit – humans generally replicate the same patterns over and over.  At Seventh Generation, they make an effort to be more conscious about their actions.
  • Sustainable growth – complicated, because capital often isn’t available for those who want sustainable growth.  One bank in the Netherlands believes 20% is destructive and their companies who grow more slowly have done better in the financial crisis.  He’s still somewhat obsessed with growth because he gets more influence and shows more proof his model works.
  • Political advocacy – you can’t necessarily publicly endorse a political candidate as the company that provides someone’s toilet paper.  You need to lay the proper groundwork for communicating with your customers before you do that.
  • Charity – thinking about the circulation of money is important.  Oftentimes when money is given away, it’s gone forever.  Social entrepreneurship benefits immensely from the support behind it today, with micro-lending, awareness, etc.
  • Starting Seventh Generation – when they started small their products were twice as expensive and half as good.  It was a bad fomula.
  • Target – the store has helped Seventh Generation become their best-selling dish liquid because they priced Seventh Generation’s product at parity with Palmolive, Dawn, etc.

Thanks to the Brandeis Sustainability Initiative and Net Impact for helping bring Jeffrey to campus!

On a side note, a big announcement is coming for campus sustainability.  Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, our campus sustainability coordinator, was grinning as she told me about next Wednesday’s event (Shapiro Science Center, 5:30pm).  She looked like she could hardly contain the secret, so it must be big!

Campus Traffic: Chief Callahan’s Response

Great news!  Campus Safety Chief Ed Callahan responded thoughtfully to my email just two hours after I sent it last night.  If you’re not familiar with the issue, see my previous post.  I’ve obtained permission from him to post his reply.

Thank you for your comments relative to pedestrian safety and vehicles on campus. We do try to balance all of the needs of pedestrians and vehicle operators who traverse our campus roads on a daily basis.
I must say that from a Public Safety perspective on a good day it is a daunting task. One which is compounded by illegally parked student vehicles which accrue hundreds of dollars in parking citations per year.

I would also like to see a car free campus at some point. A campus which is served by a multi level garage structure which would alleviate a good percentage of cars from the Main campus. Perhaps you would like to discuss this point and the long term North Academic Quad matter with Daniel Feldman, Vice President of Capital Projects.

Please understand that vehicular traffic at the Rabb intersection is also a concern which often creates traffic problems all the way down the length of the East Quad Road. We do balance both needs and attempt to expedite vehicle movement which sometimes impacts the response of Emergency vehicles to our campus. In addition a good percentage of the vehicles in question are operated by Faculty who are arriving to teach class, students both undergrads and grad who drive onto campus as well as Bran vans and buses which are deployed to transport students to class.

As a long term employee and Director of the Department of Public Safety I share your safety related concerns.

Best Regards,
Edward M. Callahan
Director of Public Safety

It’s great to hear that Ed Callahan supports a car-free campus.  I intend to further pursue this issue with Daniel Feldman, as he suggests.

To be continued…

Value People Before Cars

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Brandeis Campus Police have been directing traffic at the crosswalks between the Rabb Steps and Usdan, and that they’re letting vehicle traffic move through while students walking must wait.  Well, my friend Matt told me he was writing an email to Ed Callahan, chief of police, so I wrote one too.  Here it is:

Dear Chief Callahan,

I am writing you in response to an observation I made recently where an officer was giving priority to automobiles over pedestrians at Rabb Steps.  I believe strongly that the presence of automobiles negatively effects the quality of life on campus, and a policy of prioritizing vehicle traffic before pedestrians contributes to this problem.  Making driving on campus more convenient encourages more students to use their automobiles rather than walk and bike, which are much healthier options.  I have also observed police vehicles idling in the area at Rabb Steps, which with passing and idling vehicle traffic emit harmful emissions in an area with a high volume of pedestrian traffic.  I would like to remind you that unnecessary idling over five minutes is prohibited by Massachusetts law and by MassDEP regulations.

The current Brandeis Master Plan, established in 2001, calls for reduced vehicular traffic.  The document defining the plan’s scope lists “Reduction of vehicular encroachment into pedestrian areas” and “Separation of pedestrian and vehicular circulation” as major goals and objectives.  The plan itself envisions closing the area between Usdan and the North (Mandel) Academic Quad to vehicular thru traffic.  While the University has improved conditions for pedestrians on South Campus with a new link in the Brandeis Walk, policies toward traffic at Rabb Steps work against the goals of a healthier, more beautiful, and more sustainable campus.  I urge you to put people first, supporting safe and efficient traffic flow at Rabb Steps by prioritizing pedestrian traffic when an officer is present in the short-term and advocating for pedestrianization of the Brandeis Loop at Rabb steps in the mid- to long-term.

I appreciate your attention in this matter.

Most Sincerely,

Philip LaCombe

I can understand why the police have set up camp there.  Traffic can get backed up pretty far during the 10 minutes between classes.  There’s even a lot of idling caused because of it.  Really, neither the status quo nor the traffic direction works.  Both are harmful for the environment.  The thing is, we shouldn’t be encouraging more driving.  It’s bad enough that we have so many cars on campus, and that some people drive to class even with the inconvenience at that crossing.  What’s the alternative?  Pedestrianization.  Cut the loop road so that the furthest you can get is to the parking lot behind North Quad.  Here’s a drawing from the campus master plan of what it might look like:

Nice, huh?  Imagine the possibilities…  that portion of the loop road could become a plaza for all sorts of activities.  Hanging out, tabling, eating, people-watching…  it would be a great public space, free of pollution and cars.  Emergency vehicles would still be able to get through, but it would be a place for people, not cars.

My Gas Tax

Do you think America needs better public transportation? Me too, but our local, state, and federal governments lack the vision to plan it and the political will to fund it. I’m not talking about maintaining current service levels during the recession, nor am I referring to a 10 or 20 percent increase in funding. I’m talking about investment in the system we need for our future. Currently the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents, a figure which hasn’t risen since 1993. Massachusetts adds an additional 41.9 cents. In Europe, taxes can amount to over 70% of the cost of fuel, but in America they make up only around 25% of the cost. Unless we pay more at the pump, we cannot reduce the collective miles we drive, nor can we afford bicycle lanes, trams, trolley buses, or trains.

In light of my representatives’ inaction, I have created my own gas tax. For every gallon of gasoline I buy, I will contribute 50 cents–nearly doubling the taxes I currently pay–to an organization that promotes more sustainable transportation options. I haven’t chosen the group yet, but I am thinking of Reconnecting America, the National Complete Streets Coalition, and the LivableStreets Alliance. I invite you to join me in my small effort towards creating a more sustainable and liveable America.

Swap, Drop & Go!

Going abroad? Too much stuff? Need cheap presents? You can swap clothing, shoes, and small household items at Swap, Drop, and Go. Anything not swapped will be donated to local groups on Dec. 19.

Each quad, except the Mods, has a donation location. Any questions?

Ask your Eco-Rep!

There are other food donation programs going on, so please do not put food in the Swap, Drop and Go donation locations. This event is more limited in the items we can accept than in the spring. If moving out, please find a way to reuse your larger items with friends instead of throwing away. You can arrange on your own with local charities to accept large items. At the end of the spring semester we will accept larger items and food for the Move Out Donation Drive!

December 11-19th in your quad.

Electricity isn’t just something that comes from a socket in the wall

Ever wonder where your power comes from?

Today, I and the other Eco-Reps tabled in the Shapiro Atrium to educate the Brandeis community about our energy consumption.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “the grid” tossed around in talk about energy use or energy independence.  The grid is our electrical infrastructure, composed of sources of generation, transmission, and consumption.  A non-profit coalition called ISO New England (located in my home of Western Mass!) manages New England’s electricity grid.  Because the grid is entirely inter-connected, the electricity you use at Brandeis comes from a variety of sources from all over the region.  The pie chart below describes how your electricity is generated.

(source: New England Wind Fund)

As you can see, the biggest sources (natural gas, nuclear, coal, and oil) are not the greenest.  In fact, in Massachusetts over 80% of power is generated from fossil fuels and nuclear material.

The top 10 electricity generators in New England are as follows:

  1. Seabrook Station – Seabrook, NH (Nuclear)
  2. Millstone Point Station – Watertown, CT (Nuclear)
  3. Fore River Station – North Weymouth, MA (Natural Gas/Diesel)
  4. Mystic Station – Everett, MA (Natural Gas/Oil)
  5. Pilgrim Station – Plymouth, MA (Nuclear)
  6. Granite Ridge Energy – Londonderry, NH (Natural Gas)
  7. Brayton Point Station – Somerset, MA (Coal) [one of the Conservation Law Foundation’s “Filthy Five” and the largest source of air pollution in New England.  In 2000, the plant emitted: 44,586 tons of Sulfur Dioxide (acid rain), 13,636 tons of Nitrogen Oxide (smog), 7,925,715 tons of Carbon Dioxide (global warming), 240 lbs mercury (enough to poison 120 million pounds of fish).]
  8. Vermont Yankee Station – Vernon, VT (Nuclear)
  9. Wyman Station – Yarmouth, ME (Oil)
  10. Mirant Canal Generating Plant – Sandwich, MA (Oil)

OK, so the mix isn’t so good.  Is there something you can do about it?  The answer is yes.

I have to give some credit to Brandeis.  Our university purchases 15% of its power from wind by using renewable energy certificates (RECs).  Since the grid is all inter-connected, you can buy renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro) from a source such as Maine Interfaith Power and Light.  The amount you buy creates greater demand from that renewable source, generates the green electricity, and replaces dirtier electricity that otherwise would have to have been generated to provide you with power.  I bought 1 “Wind Watt” before the semester began for just $20 and my roommate and I still haven’t used all of it in our Charles River Apartment.  For this semester, my apartment has been powered 100% by wind.

If you have any more questions about power generation or related topics, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

The Castles of Brandeis: Part III – East Quad

In the third part of my series on how Brandeis’ beloved Usen Castle has influenced some of the modern buildings on campus, I’d like to share my thoughts on East Quad.  Home to around 400 sophomores, East Quad was constructed in 1964 in the Modernist style.  East consists of three buildings: Hassenfeld Hall, which houses around 250 students, Pomerantz Hall, which houses around 150 students, and the Swig Student Center, once a dining hall but now home to the Brandeis Intercultural Center (ICC).

Hassenfeld and Pomerantz are technically composed of six “houses”: Hassenfeld, Krivoff, Shapiro, Pomerantz, and Rubenstein.  Once arranged in suites, each of these “houses” had its own entrance, staircase, and multiple floors of suites.  If you live in one of the East singles with a wall of windows, your room was once the lounge of a six-person suite.  Interestingly, in the conversion to single and double rooms in corridors, the “house” names other than Hassenfeld and Pomerantz lost their cultural significance and are no longer used.

Bird's-Eye View of East Quad
Bird's Eye View of East Quad

Continue reading “The Castles of Brandeis: Part III – East Quad”

In Reflection on Tom Friedman’s Remarks

I just attended a wonderful event on campus at Spingold Theater.  Tom Friedman, New York Times colmnist and Pullitzer Prize winner, spoke about his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America. He explained how America has “lost its groove” since 9/11, how the environmental crisis affects us, and how these two issues are linked.

I could relate to one part of his speech in particular.  He contrasted the “green party,” the phenomenon of the everyone-can-go-green craze we’re experiencing now, with a real green revolution.  Friedman explained that while it’s great that he and all his neighbors have switched to hybrid cars, they’re not making real change.  A green revolution can only come from the leaders–the people who make the rules in government and the people who lead America’s economy.  In a real revolution, he explained, “people get hurt.”  No, not in the physical sense, but hurt such that if you don’t out-green the competition then you will fail.  If our government does not respond to the environmental crises, then our generation will have “zero chance,” as Friedman says, to enjoy the same standards of living as our parents.  While changing our habits is valuable, it’s more important to change the rules so that others must change their habits.

Last spring, Brandeis had a Student Union referendum on the question of what to do with our Student Activities Fund roll-over money, amounting to over $100,000.  A proposal to invest in solar panels on campus lost to refurbishing the weight room.  After the upsetting result, I decided that I would make a difference where Brandeis student body had not.  I found some instructions on how to make a solar charger for my iPod.  If students wouldn’t support renewable energy, I would go it alone.  Unfortunately I’m not a professional, and I have little work tinkering with thin film panels, voltage regulators, and the science of solar power.  My charger worked… sort of.  The truth was that as just one person, it was difficult to make a change in renewable energy.

Only when we mobilize our peers, confront our leaders, and make change as a group force, with the help of all types of laymen and professionals, can we make a change.  We must make changes at higher levels by, as Friedman puts it, “getting in peoples’ faces.”  Brandeis wants to put up a meteorlogical tower in Sachar Woods to find out whether putting a wind turbine on campus is a feasible idea.  Waltham isn’t letting it happen–they don’t want a tower in their back yard.  We as Brandeis students need to “get in the faces” of the Waltham city government and force them to permit our renewable energy study.

I’d take clean, reliable, renewable energy coming from wind turbine in Sachar Woods over a half-working solar iPod charger hanging in my window any day.

The Castles of Brandeis: Part II – Rosenstiel Science Center

For the second part in my mini-series on Usen Castles’ influence on Brandeis University architecture, I’d like to feature the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center.  You can find Rosenstiel directly on the loop road, visible from South Street.  With the new Carl J. Shapiro Science Center being built alongside it, Rosenstiel has had a little more attention lately.  So how is Rosenstiel influenced by the Castle?

Rosentiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center
Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center

Continue reading “The Castles of Brandeis: Part II – Rosenstiel Science Center”

The Castles of Brandeis: Part I – Spingold Theater

It’s been a while since I’ve written about campus architecture.  You might remember my short series entitled “Blunders of Brandeis” about the buildings and planning of Brandeis University.  This time I’m not so cynical.  I’d like to share with you some of the ways in which our most beloved building, Usen Castle, has influenced the modern pieces of architecture on campus.  Since I keep discovering more as I investigate the campus, this will be the first piece in a mini-series.

The first building I’d like to feature is Spingold Theater.  It has at least three castle-like characteristics.  Let’s start with the entrance, which reminds me of an open castle gate.  The large canopy above the doors is about the same size as the entrance, making it appear like it has been lifted up to welcome visitors.

Spingold "Gate"

Continue reading “The Castles of Brandeis: Part I – Spingold Theater”

A Great Day for Brandeis Progressives

It’s a great day for the Progressive Party (if you can call it that).  Adam Hughes will be in charge of setting the tone and moderating the debate in the Senate, which is great.  We’ll also have him to participate and report on executive board happenings.  Personally, there are two operational reforms I think the Senate needs.  First, in debate there should not be any “neutral” speakers allowed.  In my time testifying before the Senate, I witnessed a number of senators take unfair advantage of the rule that speakers for, neutral, and against all receive equal speaking time in turn.  Senators against a proposal in principle spoke as “neutral” and used negative language to destroy the proposal in question.   Secondly, there should not be closed-doors executive board meetings.   Of all the Student Union meetings held, the ones with only the executive board are often the most important, and the student body needs to be informed of their discussion.

By my count, the Progressive Party holds five of the nine Senate seats currently occupied.  We have Noam as Senator-at-Large, Paul as Senator for the Class of 2010, Alex and Lev for the Class of 2011, and Kamerin for Racial Minority Students.  Add Adam to that and I’d say we’re doing pretty well!  Also, I can’t go without mentioning Jason Gray.  He’s with the progressive agenda, but unlike some of our other candidates who unfortunately caused greater divides in their campaigns, Jason is a real consensus President.

A good Progressive is always looking ahead.  Even though we can celebrate Adam’s victory tonight, we must remember that the regularly-scheduled fall elections are still to come, and that those seats will determine control of the Senate.

Less than an hour left to vote!

As the title says, there’s less than one hour left to vote in the Student Union Vice President Special Election.

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first of Adam’s run for VP.  I suppose I didn’t really know him that well.  All I knew was that he was Sahar’s friend and he was a big blog junkie.  Lately I’ve come to know Adam in a much different light.  When speaking with him in person, I notice his strong eagerness to serve the student body and continue where the great Mike Kerns left off.   He really cares about making Brandeis a more progressive place.  He’s got the right positions on the top issues: campus sustainability, gun control, and equal housing.   The Vice President of the Union (quite literally) sets the debate by governing parliamentary procedure during Senate meetings.   From what I’ve learned about Adam, he knows in which direction he wants to take this University.   Adam Hughes is the progressive choice.  Adam Hughes is my choice for Student Union Vice President.

How I Greened My Lifestyle–and How You Can Too!

Technical Support Help Desk Analyst at GE Healthcare.  Sounds thrilling and rewarding, doesn’t it?  Forced into working for “the man” out of financial necessity, that was my title this summer at my job back in Western Mass.  I admit that I needed a break from politics and working for my values after many months of hard-fought campaigns at Brandeis, but something was missing.  It was hard to live without living my values daily, so I took the opportunity this summer to look inward to reform my own habits and lifestyle choices.  Looking back at all of my accomplishments, I feel pretty confident that I made my lifestyle significantly greener.  Interested in how I did it?  Follow the jump.

Continue reading “How I Greened My Lifestyle–and How You Can Too!”

It’s Now Easier to Recycle than Ever

Did you know that Brandeis introduced a new recycling program this year?  It’s a part of Brandeis’ efforts to become a more environmentally sustainable campus.  If you didn’t know, it’s called “Single Stream Recycling” and it’s designed to both increase recycling rates and decrease costs for the university.  In this new process, all sorting is done at the recycling facility.  For you this means that you no longer have to sort paper, metal, plastic, and glass.  You can now place all recyclable materials together.

As a reminder, these are the materials you can place in any of the blue bins on campus:

All Papers


Plastics Numbered 1-7



Please do NOT place the following materials in the recycling bins:


Unnumbered Plastic

To Go Containers

Food & Liquids

Please spread the word about the new Single Stream Recycling system and remember to recycle whenever possible!

The Selfishness of Brandeis Students

When I heard that despite all the efforts to spend the money from the SAF this semester, we still had $100,000 more in rollover than we did at the beginning of the semester, I saw a great opportunity.   That rollover told me that after all of the great events on campus, all of which were free this semester, we still had more money than we needed.  I hoped that we could recognize the very comfortable material conditions we enjoy on this campus and use the money towards a cause more important than ourselves.  My initial proposal was that we could use the funds to sponsor one African per undergraduate student for a whole year.  We could do so through the UN Millennium Village project.

The Millennium Villages seek to end extreme poverty by working with the poorest of the poor, village by village throughout Africa, in partnership with governments and other committed stakeholders, providing affordable and science-based solutions to help people lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

I’m not a member of Positive Foundations, the group on campus working towards the cause of achieving the Millennium Development Goals, but I emailed their group leaders with my idea.  They liked it, but said that they were focusing on getting funding for a trip to Rwanda.  A noble idea as well, I believe, but the trip would only benefit 10 Brandeis students and the trip’s impact on either Rwandans or Brandeis students would be limited, in my belief.  In the end, I decided not to submit my proposal because I wanted to respect the plans of Positive Foundations.

A few days ago I heard that SEA had drafted a plan to provide solar power to the campus.  They went through the work to consult campus administrators to come up with a realistic proposal and advertised it over Facebook.  While such a plan would mostly help Brandeis lower its energy bill, it would also teach students the importance of renewable energy, tell the greater community that Brandeis values sustainability, and help to (however small) alleviate the problems of climate change.  I backed the proposal wholeheartedly.

It’s now been voted upon, and Brandeis students have chosen to refurbish the weight room.  Last time we choose to build a game room in Usdan.  I would say that our record is pretty poor–Brandeis students care very little about making change in the world and care way too much about themselves.

Detailed Preliminary Results for the Final Round of Elections

Here are the numbers for the statistics-lovers out there.  Congratulations to all the winners.  I’ll leave the interpretation and commenting up to you.  Enjoy!

Dear Candidates,
The winners of the Associate Justice of the Union Judiciary race are as follows:
Judah Marans, Danielle Shmuelly, Julia Sferlazzo, and Rachel Graham Kagan.
The winners of the Senator-at-Large race are as follows:
Noam Shouster and Justin Sulsky
The winner of the Senator for the Class of 2009 race:
Eric Alterman
The winners of the Senator for the Class of 2011 race:
Lev Hirschhorn and Alex Melman

Thanks to all candidates who participated.  Please contact for questions or contact if you wish to appeal any decisions that the commission has made in the decision making process in this election.
The Elections Commission

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Final
Report date: Fri 18 Apr 2008 00:01 EDT
Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Final (all campus)
Report date: Fri 18 Apr 2008 00:01 EDT
Associate Justice of the Union Judiciary
As at poll close: Thu 17 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 716 • Group size: 3251 • Percene voted: 22.02
Ranked by votes
Rank    Candidate       Votes   %
1       Judah Marans    351     49.02
2       Danielle Shmuelly       313     43.72
3       Julia Sferlazzo 302     42.18
4       Rachel Graham Kagan     292     40.78
5       Zachary Handler 245     34.22
6       ABSTAIN 126     17.60

As at poll close: Thu 17 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 895 • Group size: 3251 • Percene voted: 27.53
Ranked by votes
Rank    Candidate       Votes   %
1       Noam Shouster   447     49.94
2       Justin Sulsky   399     44.58
3       Andrew Brooks   367     41.01
4       ABSTAIN 124     13.85

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Final (2009)
Report date: Fri 18 Apr 2008 00:01 EDT
Senator for the Class of 2009
As at poll close: Thu 17 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 198 • Group size: 794 • Percene voted: 24.94
Ranked by votes
Rank    Candidate       Votes   %
1       Eric Alterman   115     58.08
2       Dani Baronofsky 50      25.25
3       ABSTAIN 33      16.67

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Final (2011)
Report date: Fri 18 Apr 2008 00:01 EDT
Senator for the Class of 2011
As at poll close: Thu 17 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 300 • Group size: 791 • Percene voted: 37.93
Ranked by votes
Rank    Candidate       Votes   %
1       Lev Hirschhorn  147     49.00
2       Alex Melman     121     40.33
3       Naomi Cohn      107     35.67
4       Lexi Kriss      105     35.00
5       ABSTAIN 34      11.33

Building Blunders of Brandeis, Part III

This post is part of a series that addresses the physical aspects of our campus, specifically the history and the current state of Brandeis University architecture and planning.

I think I can safely say that almost all Brandeisians agree on at least one thing: the Castle is really cool. Many of us have explored its rooms and passages, and some of us have even gotten lost in them. It’s the only still-standing building I know of that existed before Brandeis was founded. Usen Castle is on the National Register of Historic Places, and while almost all other buildings on campus will likely face destruction at some point in the future, the Castle is almost certainly here to stay.

Unfortunately the Castle has undergone a lot of changes over the years, mostly for the worse. I’d like to tell you about one of these today.

Between the two gates is a long, thin stone wall with red crenelations on top. On the interior side of the wall you can see through the windows that there’s a long room with a lot of junk in it. One day the door was open, so I walked in for a moment to take a picture.

From my research at the University Archives, I learned that this area between the gates used to serve as a reading room, complete with study corrals and cubbies for students to work and store their things. The room had an intimate feel, with a warm light from the lamps on each desk and the shimmer of a beautiful mosaic tile ceiling. It has since been closed and forgotten.

So, let’s do a before and after:



Some areas of the Castle have legitimate reason to be closed: many spaces contain asbestos, which could be hazardous to students’ health. I don’t believe that this area suffers from that problem, because it looks like it’s actively being used for storage. So why can’t students enjoy this space today? I would love to study there. This is just one of the Castle’s lost treasures.

I urge the administration to restore some of the Castle’s lost glory through renovating this space and making it usable for our great students once again.

Student Bill of Rights: The Real Story

Every Tuesday morning I read through The Justice in order to stay current on campus affairs. One of the issues I’ve been following is the Student Bill of Rights, proposed by Jason Gray, Union President-Elect. Jason is a good friend of mine, and he’s revealed that the Student Rights and Responsibilities is long on responsibilities but severely lacking on rights. You can find a working draft of the bill here. In The Justice‘s weekly summary of the Student Union’s activities, they wrote,

Director of Union Affairs Jason Gray ’10 reported that Union members did not collect enough signatures to make the April 30 vote on the Student Bill of Rights an official referendum. He said the vote would instead count as an unofficial opinion poll.

I was very surprised by this news. Together with the title “Vote on Student Bill of Rights will be an unofficial opinion poll,” it sounded like the Student Bill of Rights had already failed!

While factually accurate, I believe that, as stated and without further explanation, this report is misleading. As I understand campus wide votes, a group of students will seek to pass a referendum in order to get official recognition by the Student Union to their specific issue. If the petition doesn’t receive enough signatures, it isn’t likely to receive serious consideration by the Student Union Senate and Executive Board. The thing about applying the “unofficial opinion poll” vs. referendum in the case of the Bill of Rights is that it came from the Student Union itself, so one can assume that the Union will take the vote seriously no matter how many signatures they collect.

Also, unlike other student referendums, the Student Bill of Rights needs to be approved by the administration in order to carry any legal authority. Approval by students or by the Senate means close to nothing. Jason Gray and other Union members have a lot of negotiating work ahead of them, but by no means has the Student Bill of Rights failed in any way.

Detailed Preliminary Elections Results

The Elections Commission sent me these preliminary results. I encouraged them to make students more aware that they can obtain these numbers and also to post them on the Union website.

Senator for the Class of 2009
As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 186 · Group size: 794 · Percene voted: 23.43
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Sung Lo Yoon 99 53.23
2 Eric Alterman 88 47.31
3 Dani Baronofsky 37 19.89
4 ABSTAIN 14 7.53
5 Dianne Ma 1 0.54
5 Matt Hope 1 0.54
7 Frank Golub 0 0.00

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Primary (2010)
Report date: Wed 16 Apr 2008 11:29 EDT

Senator for the Class of 2010
As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 282 · Group size: 841 · Percene voted: 33.53
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Paul Balik 140 49.65
2 Rebecca Wilkof 123 43.62
3 Feya Hillel 107 37.94
4 ABSTAIN 22 7.80
5 Nicholas Brown 1 0.35
5 Kayla Sotomil 1 0.35
7 None 0 0.00

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Primary (2011)
Report date: Wed 16 Apr 2008 11:29 EDT

Senator for the Class of 2011
As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 337 · Group size: 791 · Percene voted: 42.60
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Lev Hirschhorn 139 41.25
2 Lexi Kriss 99 29.38
3 Naomi Cohn 95 28.19
4 Alex Melman 93 27.60
5 Joshua Mandell 86 25.52
6 Stephanie Cohen 18 5.34
7 ABSTAIN 13 3.86
8 Noam Shuster 4 1.19
9 Kaamila Mohamed 2 0.59
10 Kaamilla Mohammed 0 0.00
10 Ori applebaum 0 0.00

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Primary (all campus)
Report date: Wed 16 Apr 2008 11:29 EDT

As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 1023 · Group size: 3251 · Percene voted: 31.47
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Justin Sulsky 411 40.18
2 Andrew Brooks 392 38.32
3 ABSTAIN 274 26.78
4 Noam Shuster 112 10.95
5 Kaamila Mohamed 53 5.18
6 Kaamila mohammed 41 4.01
7 Kayla Sotomil 9 0.88
8 Noam Shouster 8 0.78
9 Noam Schuster 5 0.49
10 Noam S 2 0.20
10 Kamilla Mohammad 2 0.20
12 Noam Shuster and Kaamila Mohamed 1 0.10
12 Noam Chuster 1 0.10
12 Sung Lo Yoon 1 0.10
12 Keyla sotomil 1 0.10
12 Kaamilla Muhammed 1 0.10
12 Noam Schuester, Kaamilla Mohammed 1 0.10
12 Dan Newman 1 0.10
12 Naom 1 0.10
12 Ayal Weiner Kaplow 1 0.10
12 Adam Barish 1 0.10
12 Jordan Suchow 1 0.10
12 Sam Packer 1 0.10
12 Alex Trott 1 0.10
12 Anyonebut BrooksPlease 1 0.10
12 Josh Mervis 1 0.10
12 Justin Backal-Balik 1 0.10
12 Divya Vangala 1 0.10
12 Aaron Voldman 1 0.10
12 Hana Nagel 1 0.10
12 Michael Martin 1 0.10
12 Sarah Linet 1 0.10
12 Timothy Kane 1 0.10
34 A 0 0.00
34 Andrew Gluck 0 0.00
34 Julia Sferlazzo 0 0.00
34 Kam 0 0.00
34 Kamil 0 0.00
34 Kamila m 0 0.00
34 Kamilla 0 0.00
34 Kamillah 0 0.00
34 Nosm Shuster 0 0.00
34 Robbie Schwartz 0 0.00
34 Your mother 0 0.00

Justice of the Union Judiciary
As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 958 · Group size: 3251 · Percene voted: 29.47
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Jordan Rothman 506 52.82
2 Danielle Shmuely 392 40.92
3 Judah Marans 376 39.25
4 Julia Sferlazzo 356 37.16
5 Rachel Graham Kagan 323 33.72
6 Zachary Handler 284 29.65
7 ABSTAIN 157 16.39
8 Bojan Rajkovic 2 0.21
9 Jonathan Pincus 1 0.10
9 Elisette Weiss 1 0.10
9 Emily Moignard 1 0.10
9 Sarah Ibrahim Enan 1 0.10
9 Alex Trott 1 0.10
9 Michael Bohen 1 0.10
9 Charles River 1 0.10
9 The Rt. Hon. Justice Steven N. Sasmor, Count of East Quad 1 0.10
9 Justin Backal-Balik 1 0.10
9 Rufus Wainwright 1 0.10
19 Daniel Baron 0 0.00
19 Dustin Smith 0 0.00
19 Sahar Massachi 0 0.00

Poll menu: Student Union SP08-2 Primary (RMS)
Report date: Wed 16 Apr 2008 11:29 EDT

Senator for Racial Minority Students
As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 171 · Group size: 643 · Percene voted: 26.59
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Kamarin Lee 130 76.02
2 ABSTAIN 38 22.22
3 Adonis Watkins 2 1.17
4 Jon Kane 1 0.58
5 Athena 0 0.00
5 Denise 0 0.00
5 Gabe 0 0.00
5 Gabriel 0 0.00
5 Kaamila 0 0.00

Finance Board Member for Racial Minority Students
As at poll close: Tue 15 Apr 2008 23:59 EDT
Number of voters: 166 · Group size: 643 · Percene voted: 25.82
Ranked by votes
Rank Candidate Votes %
1 Adonis Watkins 94 56.63
2 ABSTAIN 40 24.10
3 Aarish Sheikh 29 17.47
4 Adriel Orozco 2 1.20
5 Rev. Jonathan A. Kane 1 0.60

Elections Results: Where Are They??

It’s currently 1:15pm. The first round of Student Union Elections officially ended over one hour ago, yet I still haven’t received any results.

I have been very disappointed with how the Union has made no effort at transparency in this election cycle. The votes are counted via computer software, so we should be able to receive immediate results after the polls close (if not in real time, like real U.S. elections!). Instead everyone but the candidates has to wait until one of the newspapers or one of the candidates publishes the results they receive privately via email. I hope that the elections commissioner will make a better effort in the second round, but I’m not feeling too optimistic.

I sent a message to expressing my concern. Hopefully they’ll respond and I can publish the results here. I shouldn’t even have to do that–the elections commissioner should send the results to students via the all-campus list serve at 12:01pm.

Building Blunders of Brandeis, Part II

It is obvious to me that Brandeis seeks to destroy Modernism on its campus. In architecture there is the so-called “50 year rule” which says that after 50 years a building will be harshly criticized as unsightly, a monstrosity, etc. Considering that many of Brandeis’ buildings were constructed in the 1950s during what is called the Modernist era, we’re starting to hit the 50 year mark where people strongly dislike the styles of Brandeis’ buildings. Take a look at this map of campus, complete with dates of construction:

Brandeis Campus with Years of Construction

I think you’ll find the rule to hold true with your personal preferences. You strongly dislike Massell Quad (1952), Sherman Hall (1959), Goldfarb Library (1965), Rabb Quad (1961) and the oldest parts of the Science Center (1956-1958). However, Usen Castle (1928), the oldest building on campus, is beautiful, and Farber Library (1984), the Mailman House (1972), and Ziv Quad (1980s) aren’t so bad. For me, the 50 Year Rule is a very interesting concept that says a lot about human nature. We like the things from the years around our grandparents’ birth, hate the things from the years around our parents’ birth, and aren’t sure about the things from around the years of our birth.

Nowhere have I seen the 50 Year Rule more clearly expressed on Brandeis Campus than in the Olin-Sang American Civilization Center. One day I arrived at my politics discussion section on the second floor a few minutes early. After I sat down I noticed that one of the ceiling tiles was missing, so I got up and checked it out. I saw the well-known waffle-block ceiling found across campus, but that wasn’t all. To my amazement, I viewed through the hole a beautiful arched frosted glass skylight, the light shining through.

Modernism Revealed

Modernism Revealed

The Light Shines Through

The Light Shines Through

Normally I don’t find connections between my love for Brandeis, architecture, and progressivism, but in this case I do. Progressives don’t believe in erasing the past, we believe in embracing it and fitting it to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs. Our university sought to hide elements of Modernism, ironically in the effort to modernize classrooms with new lighting, carpet, and “normal” ceilings. Even though progressives may not like the America of the 1950s, that doesn’t mean we see history in black and white, right and wrong, modern and old-fashioned.

Thoughts on Mike Gravel

Recently I wrote a comment here at Innermost Parts about Mike Gravel’s upcoming visit to Brandeis, saying that I am excited for him to come but that I’m disappointed he left the Democratic Party for the Libertarians.

A writer from the Brandeis Hoot contacted me about the comment and had two questions:

1. What do you think of Mike Gravel coming to Brandeis? Are you going
to hear him speak? If yes, why?

2. Also, you mentioned in your post that you were disappointed in
Gravel‘s switch to the Libertarian party, could you elaborate further
on this?

I thought I’d share my responses with you, and ask for your opinions on the former Senator. The following was my reply Continue reading “Thoughts on Mike Gravel”

Building Blunders of Brandeis, Part I

My personal interests in architecture and planning have led me to do some research on the history of Brandeis’ grounds and buildings, and I have found many interesting things through both the university archives and my own exploring. This will be the first in a series of posts about poor decisions and unfortunate changes that have been made to our campus.

Did you know that Brandeis used to have an amphitheater? We did–it was called the Ullman Amphitheater and hosted commencement ceremonies from 1952 until 1992 (except for 1971–they were at the Chapels that year) when they were moved to Gosman Sports and Convocation Center.

Brandeis: Host at Last by Abram L. Sachar speaks of this former landmark, “Constructed on three acres of ground with seating for two thousand, but with space on the grassy slopes for seven or eight thousand more, it was equipped with a huge se and an orchestra put for forty musicians. Beneath the sing area were facilities for dressing, storage, and utility, as well as a number of classrooms.” It was designed by architects Harrison and Abramovitz, the same men who designed the beloved Three Chapels.

In a very unfortunate event, the Ullman Amphitheater suffered heavy damage due to fire, disabling its electrical equipment so that it was made virtually useless. The university did not repair the amphitheater but instead tore it down. It was located near Bernstein-Marcus and the location of the new Carl J. Shapiro Science Center. Here are some photos to give you a better idea of its location:

Ullman Amphitheater

Science Complex and Ullman Amphitheater

I know that Brandeis wasn’t doing as well financially in the ’90s, but I wish that the university had chosen to repair the amphitheater rather than demolish it. In just about 15 years it has faded away into memory. It could have continued to be an integral part of our campus today.

I hope you enjoyed learning this little tidbit of Brandeis campus history. There’s much more where that came from–you can be sure I’ll be back soon with another Blunder of Brandeis.

The Student Union Senate Fails its Constituents

I heard something very disturbing tonight from one of my sources inside the Student Union Senate relating to their session on Sunday. The Senate supposedly spent two hours debating a resolution on wishing Israel a happy 60th birthday. I realize that many students at Brandeis feel very passionate about Israel, but this was a true waste of time. The priorities within the Student Union Senate must be reordered. Last semester I appeared at one of their sessions to speak for a resolution disapproving of the process by which the decision was made to arm the campus police and calling for more student input in future decisions. Debate went on for hours and in the end the Senate decided to take no action.

United States Senator Joe Biden once said, “My dad used to say, don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget. I will tell you what you value.” Let’s take a look at the recently-proposed Student Union budget, which can be found in their minutes:

Student Union Government

a. Newspaper Program: $3,000 (9.76%)

b. Office Resources: $3,500 (11.39%)

c. Election System: $2,464 (8.02%)

d. Course Evaluation Guide: $700 (2.28%)

Union Executive Office

a. Outreach: $2,500 (8.14%)

b. Project Support Fund: $1,000 (3.25%)

c. Social Fund: $3,700 (12.04%)

d. Officer Development: $500 (1.63%)

e. Total Union Executive Office: $7,700 (25.06%)

Union Senate

a. Communiversity: $550 (1.79%)

b. Diversity: $1,500 (4.88%)

c. Services: $7,000 (22.78%)

d. Social Justice: $1,000 (3.25%)

e. University Spirit: $850 (2.77%)

f. Senate Discretionary: $2,462.23 (8.01%)

g. Total Union Senate: $13,362.23 (43.49%)

Total Student Union Government: $30,726.23 (100%)


The largest item on the budget besides services to keep the Union running is social life. Combined with school spirit, it equals about 15% of the total budget.  Diversity is worth less than half as much as social life at 4.88%.  Social Justice is worth only a quarter of social life at 3.25% of allocated funds.  I came to Brandeis because Justice Louis D. Brandeis’ vision and commitment to social justice appealed to me.  I knew that social life at college would be great no matter what the events were just because I was at college, with so many interesting people to get to know and spend time with, many of whom share my values.  So fellow Brandeisians, pay close attention to the debates and budgets of the Student Union Senate–do they reflect our values?

Fight for Clean Energy with Cape Wind

It is no secret that America is addicted to oil. We all know that our country needs energy independence. Being from Massachusetts, it’s sometimes difficult to face the fact that my power comes mostly from coal. I feel very strongly that we need to support clean, sustainable energy solutions as not only sound environmental policy, but also national security policy. Fortunately there is a project in development in my home state called Cape Wind which can provide for 75% of the energy needs of Cape Cod and the Islands. That’s the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road each year. And unlike oil and natural gas, the cost of energy from Cape Wind will remain constant.

This Thursday the Minerals Management Service, one of the agencies involved in the permitting process, is holding a hearing on Cape Wind this Thursday at UMass-Boston. Opposition groups have instructed their members to show up early, but we’re going to show them that supporters of Cape Wind won’t be shut out. Come to Rabb Steps at 3:30pm on Thursday and we’ll stand up for clean energy in Massachusetts.

For more info go to:

Arizona State Universities to Arm Police with Assault Rifles

I’m pleased to be writing my first piece for Innermost Parts. My name is Phil LaCombe, and I’m involved with many activist causes on campus. last semester, I formed a group with other students, Students Opposing the Decision to Arm.

I have been displeased by our university’s decision to arm the campus police since the day the decision was made. I felt that adding more guns to campus would only disrupt our sense of mutual trust within the community, and still do. Unfortunately, in the wake of the Virginia Tech strategy, many campuses feel that their only choice to making their campuses safe and healthy environments is to arm the campus safety officers.

I read this article on The Arizona Republic today that the administrators of Arizona State University have gone a step further to “protect” their campus–they will arm their public safety officers with military-style assault rifles. What I see developing across this country is a profound sense of fear. No one feels safe from violence any more, even on our college campuses, where environments are supposedly well controlled to keep students healthy and happy. Another thing I see is a coming arms race between campuses and campus shooters. The assault rifles ban expired in 2004, and with that expiration we opened up our country to greater, more severe violence. The campus police do not have a monopoly on military-grade weaponry. Campus shooters will likely respond to the escalations made by the police, and arm themselves with more dangerous weapons. In my opinion, it comes down to a simple fact: more guns do not equal more safety.

In order to protect our campus communities from violence, we need to go to the root causes. What causes a young person to feel so abandoned and so conflicted with his peers that he chooses to take their lives? Pistols and assault rifles will do nothing to heal the wounds of a young person in distress. We can continue to arm in hopes of protecting our community in the event of an attack, but that is only accepting the idea that attacks must happen. We need to heal the whole community.