I just got around to reading the Justice’s article about the State of the Union today, and one thing in particular really jumped out at me:
“I think his speech was one of the most outstanding you can imagine from a student leader,” said Rena Olshansky ’56, a member of the Board of Trustees’ Students and Enrollment Committee, who said that it was her first State of the Union address. Commenting on the Union Rena said, “I think the [students] set their agenda, and that’s important.”
University Provost Marty Krauss, who attended the speech, said in an interview with the Justice, “[Gray] has a tremendous amount of respect among the members of the administration because he’s a mature person; he’s diplomatic; he thinks about the perspectives of many constituencies; he’s smart; and he makes really good recommendations, and he gets things done.”
Senior Vice President of Communications Lorna Miles, who also attended, added that Gray “has been incredibly vital; his legacy is having created a consciousness in the University among the administration and the faculty that students are part of the day-to-day governance of this community.”
That’s an incredible amount of respect for Jason Gray coming from the administrators and trustees who attended the speech. We’ve already heard the great praise that Jason gets from the student body, and it’s really satisfying to know that the other members of the Brandeis community feel the same way.
This kind of universal acclaim is impressive enough on its own, but I find it even more impressive when viewed in the context of the content of Jason’s address. The speech was not tailor-made to draw praise from the administrators. Several times, Jason challenged the University to meet goals that he set, and he wasn’t afraid to call the administration out on several mistakes. Most notably, he directly stated, “[T]here is no doubt that the Rose Art Museum has become a case study in what not to do procedurally.” Isn’t that hard-hitting?
So what does all this mean? First, it says something very positive about our administrators. By praising the speech so effusively, they’re letting us know that student participation is not incumbent on our complete deference to their decisions. They are willing to have a dialogue with us, allow our disagreement, and even to admit mistakes and work towards changing them.
But it also says so much about Jason himself. He has the rare ability to say exactly what needs to be said while striking the right chord for every party involved. This didn’t just happen overnight; it is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, determined advocacy, and appreciation for everyone’s point of view, and it shows what big shoes our next Union leaders will have to fill. Ultimately, Jason’s greatest success might be that he was able to treat every single Brandeisian with respect, and it should be no suprise that he has received so much respect in return.