Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars!

Exciting news, everyone.

The Harry Potter Alliance, an innovative non-profit run by Brandeis alum Andrew Slack, recently won a $250,000 grant from the Chase Community Giving challenge on Facebook.

Woah dude. Congratulations are in order.

Let me tell you just a bit about the Harry Potter Alliance, and why it’s so great. First off, this what they have to say about themselves:

Did you ever wish that Harry Potter was real? Well it kind of is.

Harry and his friends start a student activist group called Dumbledore’s Army when the adults and politicians of their world fail to address the concerns of the day. The Harry Potter Alliance is a Dumbledore’s Army for the real world.

Just as Dumbledore’s Army wakes the world up to Voldemort’s return, works for equal rights of house elves and werewolves, and empowers its members, we:

  • Work with partner NGOs in alerting the world to the dangers of global warming, poverty, and genocide.
  • Work with our partners for equal rights regardless of race, gender, and sexuality.
  • Encourage our members to hone the magic of their creativity in endeavoring to make the world a better place.

Exciting, huh?

Here’s a more specific example: They might say something like “Hey! Weren’t you weirded out in the books where the Daily Prophet was the only newspaper around? What was up with that? That was Voldemedia – and it’s happening in the real world. That’s why we’ve partnered with the good folks at Free Press to stop it. Here’s how…”

It works really well. They join up with wizard rock and fan communities. (What’s Wizard Rock? Harry and the Potters. Draco and the Malfoys. Remus and the Lupins. All these are actual bands!)

Whereas many groups take existing activists and try to marshal them more effectively or just try to get them to do more (I call it the MoveOn model of online organizing), HPA is different. It grows the pie. It takes people who are passionate about making the world a better place and shows them how.

HPA is impressive. Their model works. They’re one of the most innovative and creative online organizers in the business, and their audience is totally different from all others. They have tons of volunteer staff, and very engaged members. I could go on. Maybe I will. But for now, let me just say this:

Andrew Slack is the man. He just got $250,000. Congrats!


Did you get the email? Brandeis is replacing some old science buildings with a GARDEN or possibly Volleyball or possibly a combination of the two. I don’t know why but this is very exciting to me.


The email:

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community:

The last portions of Phase 1 of the Science Complex Renewal Project are nearly complete (Friedland has been removed, Kalman removal is in progress).  Following removal of Kalman, the final step will be to heal the landscape wounds, with a further goal of creating, in a highly cost-effective manner, a usable space that can be enjoyed by the entire Brandeis community.  To accomplish this step, working with Landworks Studio (the landscape architect for the overall project), three alternative concepts have been developed.  We are asking you to take a look at these three concepts and share your preferences and thoughts.

The proposals are presented at, where you’ll also find a link (“Vote Now!”) to a survey that includes a space for sharing any comments you may have.

Thank you for taking a look and for sharing your preferences and thoughts.

I am not advocating for any specific of the three plans personally (except for the fact that a GARDEN would be AWESOME). I think all three are clearly much better than what we have now. Vote! Isn’t it nice that we get one in the first place?

Volleyball + Gardens = VolleyGARDENball

I am so excited for Wednesday

I’m really busy so I have to keep this short.

Something really amazing is going to happen on Wednesday.

On Wednesday and Thursday Professor Cunningham is inviting a bunch of amazing Brandeis alumni for a panel on social action. It’ll be great. Noon, Brown auditorium (thats in the building near Pearlman and Usdan). Go!
But furthermore  Wednesday night, the Justice League (a project of the Activist Resource Center) is hosting them for a “chill with students thing”.

And Thursday night, the SJSP minors are bringing them to their event:

The Social Justice and Social Policy (SJSP) Meet the Minors and Alumni
Panel will be on Thursday April 8th from 2:00 to 3:30 pm in Ridgewood

This event will feature Brandeis alums who have since Brandeis pursued
careers in social policy and social justice and if given the chance
probably would have been a part of the SJSP minor program.

Now,  I’m still waiting on who is coming, and when/where the Justice League thing will be. As I learn more I’ll update you.

This has been over a semester in the making. Get excited. And come!

Help bring cool alumni to campus

Tomorrow, at 1pm in the faculty club, a bunch of us are meeting Professor David Cunningham. Professor Cunningham is the head of the Social Justice Social Policy program. For his Social Movements class, Cunningham wants to bring kickass activist alumni or possibly just kickass alumni. After they show up, ARC will try and host them for dinner so they can chill with students.

Do you want to have a say on what kickass alumni come to campus? We can choose cool alumni or activist we like, get them to come to campus and teach us, and then we can learn from and chill with them afterward.

Plus, lunch with Cunningham! Do you want to show up? If more than 6 people show up, then we have to make reservations, I think. So email Professor Cunningham and tell him that you’re coming, or email me.

Brandeis Has an Amazing History

Did you know that Albert Einstein corresponded with Louis Brandeis about the idea that eventually became Brandeis University? Did you know that Einstein was the one who insisted it be named after Brandeis?

I am reading a report in the Hoot about a lecture given by Professor Stephen Whitfield about the early days of the University and I find it just fascinating:

[Einstein] began corresponding with Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis about creating a Jewish-sponsored institution of higher learning. Einstein’s dream to create a secular university founded on Jewish values led to a 1946 gathering of prominent Jewish businessmen and attorneys to form it. They faced opposition from many who feared assimilation, including Chaim Weizmann.

Despite the misgivings of Weizmann and others, Einstein went through with his plan. However, when founders offered to name the university after him, he declined. At that point, he had been in the United States for barely more than a dozen years, had been a citizen for only six years, and still spoke broken English. He wanted the school to be named after “a great Jew who was also a great American.” The obvious choice was to name the school after Justice Brandeis, who had died a few years earlier.

Also, did you know that Brandeis was explicitly founded as a liberal school?

“The name Brandeis,” founding president Abram L. Sachar said, “will combine most felicitously the prophetic ideal of moral principle and the American tradition of political and economic liberalism.”

Also, it seems like Brandeis classes in the early days kicked ass.

The three professors contributed to an active intellectual social life, with professors and their spouses crossing departmental lines to socialize and discuss topics of the day. At the time, lines separating disciplines were blurred both physically, with music practice rooms and labs in the same building, and professionally, with many professors having several specialties.

Whitfield praised Brandeis’ ability to cultivate innovative and esteemed professors and lecturers, including people like Abraham Maslow, author of a book about values and the higher life, Herbert Marcuse, a leftist politics and philosophy professor often named in conjunction to Karl Marx and Mao Zedong, and Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady of the United States.

Brandeis kicks ass! This sort of stuff is part of why I love this place so much. That idea – departments not really mattering, a life of the mind, being taught by people like Herbert Marcuse (the FBI soon forced Brandeis to kick him out) – is so cool! A Brandeis alum recently told me that “Brandeis in the fifties was a different place. You had all these amazing professors, but eventually they retired. They signed up for something revolutionary, but Brandeis stopped trying to Brandeis and started trying to be Harvard”

I can’t wait to read more of Professor Whitfield’s research into this topic. I can’t wait until we* start trying to be Brandeis again.

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