Reviewing Our Success So Far

Wow.  Among all the meetings, protests, committees, forums, list servs, blogging, e-mailing, letter writing, and general, all-around activism that we’ve seen from so much of the student body recently, it’s easy to forget that the infamous closed faculty meeting was only one week ago as of yesterday.  So much has happened since then, so much has been achieved, and so much work still lies ahead.

In the latest Justice, Hillel Buechler states that the gathering outside of Olin-Sang on that Thursday “failed to accomplish anything substantial” and that “any hopes or signs of true action …fizzled”.  With all due respect to Hillel (he’s one of my favorite op-ed writers at Brandeis), his eulogy for our demonstration was quite premature.  In the week since the faculty meeting, we’ve seen:

  • President Reinharz present to the students the principles he showed the faculty that will guide his decisions in the budget cut process.
  • The creation of the Brandeis Budget Cut Committee, a group with an active list serv and several successful meetings already under its belt.
  • An open letter from the Student Union President to the faculty and administration calling for greater opportunities for  student involvement in planning for Brandeis’s future.
  • A student-led campaign to preserve the job of a highly respected faculty member.
  • A collaborative wiki created for the entire Brandeis community to share ideas to ease the budget crisis.
  • Several high level administrators attend a Union Senate meeting to share information about Brandeis’s financial picture with the entire student body.
  • An open forum with President Reinharz to discuss Brandeis’s current financial situation.
  • Students invited to sit in on every new committee to discuss potential academic changes, including the steering committee.
  • And, just breaking now, a new Study Abroad Advisory Committee with three student voices (including Innermost Parts’s own Alex Melman!) to reevaluate the controversial changes to the study abroad program.

In short, the past week has resulted in an administration more willing to listen and engage with students than ever before, a faculty who has come out strongly for increased student involvement, and a student body reenergized and full of great ideas for improving our campus.  The lesson I take from this is that activism is not a zero-sum game.  When people decide to speak out, everyone benefits.  It would be disastrous to lose focus on the challenges still ahead, but the entire Brandeis community should be congradulating itself on everything that it has accomplished.  More importantly, we should look at this as a model for how we can weather the strom of budget cuts while gaining something in the process.