President Daniel Acheampong

Everyone I know who has met Daniel Acheampong shares the same opinion: Daniel is a really nice guy.  He always has a smile and a handshake whenever you run into him, and he’ll always stop to chat no matter how busy he is.  Basically, to know the guy is to love him, and that alone means that we can trust him to run an effective, conflict-free Student Union.

But I’d be doing Daniel (and the Brandeis student body) a disservice to attribute his victory simply to his personality.  I’d also be wrong, particularly in light of how commanding his vote total was.  I’ve never seen anything like the most recent Union election; getting over 50% turnout for the presidential race was far more than I ever thought would be possible, and it speaks to the strength of all four candidates that they were able to motivate so many students to support them.  Daniel’s total, however, was particularly impressive.  Jason Gray and Andy Hogan each won with around 600 votes, but Daniel was able to get over 900.  That has to be some kind of Union record, and you don’t get that kind of campus-wide respect simply because people think you’re nice.

You get it because you took on the most difficult and important job in the Union, the position of Treasurer, and you successfully managed the finances for the entire campus.  You get it because you helped to start Live Campus 2009, a nationwide series of concerts with the proceeds going to eliminating poverty.  You get it because you somehow managed to find the time to serve as a Roosevelt Fellow as well, going through a difficult application process to serve as a peer academic adviser.  Daniel has proven himself a leader in many different areas of the campus community, and his stunning electoral victory is a testament to his diverse, impressive resume.

While I voted and worked for Sahar Massachi in the election, I always had a strong respect for Daniel, and I look forward to working with him to accomplish our shared goals for the campus.  The student body provided him with a strong mandate to work for his agenda, and I’m sure he’s eager to jump into action.  Congratulations again to Daniel on his swearing in, and good luck on guiding the Union to a successful year.

A Closing Case for Sahar Massachi

We as a student body this year are lucky to have four strong and competent candidates running to fill the Student Union Presidency, probably the most important student position in terms of ability to create change on campus by working with the administration.  JV Souffrant has done great work in raising huge amounts of money to help devastated families in Haiti.  Matt Kriegsman has proven himself as the leader of Chabad at Brandeis.  Daniel Acheampong has taken on probably the most thankless task in the student government, serving as Union Treasurer.  Any of them could do a good job as Union President.

However, I’ve known that I’m supporting Sahar Massachi for the position since the very beginning of the election.  The reason why is simple: Sahar is one of the most transformative people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  It’s the same reason why I’ve written for him for three years on Innermost Parts, the same reason why I’ve worked with him on a number of successful campus projects, and the same reason why he’s been one of my best friends since I entered Brandeis University.  Time and time again, I’ve seen how Sahar can create positive change for the good of the campus community through his tireless work ethic and strong leadership.  He’s thoroughly changed the way I think about college activism, and I know he can change the way we think of the Student Union.

Sahar’s extensive resume tells a story of a student active in all walks of campus life, and his accomplishments are very impressive.  However, what’s even more impressive to me is that without him, no project he’s ever worked on could have even gotten off the ground.  He doesn’t just fill established roles effectively, he fights with everything he’s got to create new roles for improving student life.  When nobody was talking about the MSA lounge vandalization, Sahar did something about it.  When students felt powerless in the face of massive budget cuts, Sahar organized a unified and effective student response.  Without Sahar, Brandeis as a whole would be a little different and a little worse off, and I’d be hard pressed to name anyone else I could honestly say that about.

Regardless of who wins today’s election, two things are certain.  First, the Student Union will have a qualified leader set to take the reigns.  Second, Sahar will be working to improve student life and the activist cause at Brandeis.  It’s part of who he is, and win or lose, he’ll still be doing what he thinks is right.  But we have a chance to put our most powerful position in the hands of a transformative leader, and I firmly believe that we should take this rare opportunity.  That is why I’m asking you to join me in voting for Sahar Massachi for President of the Student Union.

Peace Vigil Covered in the Daily News Tribune

In light of all the negative coverage of Brandeis that filled the local media last week, it feels particularly good to see something like this in the newspaper:

Standing on the edge of Brandeis University’s Peace Circle, senior Beth Bowman urged the 100-plus students and faculty gathered in support of the campus’ Muslim community to look around and take in the feeling of unity.

In the wake of vandalism and the theft of Imam Talal Eid’s Quran at the Muslim Student Association’s newly renovated suite and prayer space on March 5, students held a peaceful vigil outside of the Usdan Student Center Friday afternoon, some even ditching class to attend.

Some wore white headscarves, some white yarmulkes, and many threw white T-shirts over sweaters, symbolizing peace, in a show of solidarity.

Student Sahar Massachi, the founder and editor of, the unofficial school blog, presented Eid with a petition he called “a love letter,” signed by more than 400 Brandeis students and professors.

Eid smiled as student after student handed him a page of the petition, each full of signatures.

Students of different faiths condemned the vandalism, and expressed support for their Muslim peers.

“Look around. This is so moving to me,” said Bowman, who is also on the Muslim Student Association’s executive board.

“The events that happened on March 5 are not the spirit of Brandeis – it’s the spirit right here,” she said, the group clapping.

I’m sitting in the library right now, reading the article over and over and smiling like a fool.  We couldn’t have asked for a nicer, more positive story on the vigil; we really put Brandeis’s best foot forward on Friday.  More importantly, we showed ourselves, hopefully our Muslim brothers and sisters especially, that this entire community felt the pain and fear of the MSA vandalism and that an attack on any of us is an attack on all of us.  We stood together in a way that people recognized.

The vandals must be absolutely furious right now.  They tried to attack a very specific group on campus, but instead they allowed us to prove publicly that we are united on a fundamental level, regardless of religious differences.  However, this can be their gain as well, because in the wise words of Imam Talal Eid, “This person was probably a member of the Brandeis family, and we will not give up a member of the Brandeis family.”  It’s a great feeling to know that you have an entire community willing to stand behind you when you need it the most, and provided you choose to act in accord with this community’s values, you (or anyone) can take comfort in that knowledge as well.