Student Union State of the Union and Updates


Below is a summary of the highlights of the latest Student Union e-mail, along with my commentary underneath each point.

I am in Chicago and so could not go to the State of the Union. Did anyone attend? Thoughts/reactions?

Attached to this post is "most of what was said at the State of the Union," e-mailed by the Student Union. I like the town hall forum initiative. Rosen covered a lot of  issues and changes Brandeis has been making, and for the most part they sound like steps in a positive, more student-friendly and involved path.


  • The Usdan C-Store (P.O.D.) will be open from Midnight – 2am on Saturdays for all of next Semester! Thank you to everyone for supporting the Senate's Ad-Hoc Dining Committee, Senator Ricky Rosen and the Student Union in this initiative. Make good use of those hours!
    • ?YES! Responding to students' needs! Now if only we could negotiate with Aramark…
  • In response to PULSE Feedback, we've been trying to secure more study space for the student body. In the future, we are trying to get the Mandel Center & Science Complex, but we need to see how this new option goes. Please understand that you need to keep your study space clean and neat. If this first extension of study spaces goes well, then we will be able to get the nicer areas like the Science Center!
    • ?GREAT! Listening to feedback! Yay!
  • Student Union, Student Events, Student Activities and WBRS are proud to bring you… MAKING WAVES! – The Brandeis Pool Party! Saturday, January 21. Keep your eyes open for more information, but get your swim-suits ready!
    • ?Does this mean the pool will be opening Jan. 21st?????!
  • Attached is most of what was said at the State of the Union. Please feel free to read it over, and let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, etc.
    • Highlight: From now on, Rosen hopes S.o.t.U.'s will be Town Hall Forum-style
    • State of the Union

State of the Union Press Release: Open to Student Input

The Student Union just sent out an official press release concerning the State of the Union, which will be this Thursday from 5:30-7:30 in the Mandel Atrium. 

The State of the Union, which has typically consisted of the SU President, and sometimes members of the President's Executive Board, delivering speeches, including reflections on the past term and predictions or unveiling of plans for the upcoming semester.

However, in an effort to make the event "more transparent and interactive," this year the State of the Union will consist of a short speech from SU President Rosen and then an open floor for questions from anyone in the audience, and featuring a "panel of Student Union representatives."

In a reception to follow the address, Rosen, Provost Steve Goldstein and Senior Vice President of Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel will jointly "lead one of the first student Strategic Planning sessions."

This sounds like a great initiative. Rosen's administration has talked a lot about reforming the Student Union to place more focus on open communication, transparency, and increase student input, but events like these are necessary to put those lofty ideals into practice. 

Having attended the past 2 spring State of the Unions, I can say that the crowd is usually made up of more "adults" than students. Hopefully, this effort will increase student participation and attendance.

Anyone want to liveblog the event for us here at IMP?



The full text of the press release follows below: 

Continue reading “State of the Union Press Release: Open to Student Input”

Live-blogging the Fall 2010 SOTU

For those of you who can’t make it tonight, here’s what is being said (refresh for frequent updates).

6:30- Still hasn’t started, food is very good.
6:42- Ryan Fanning is doing the introduction. He thanks Aramark. Nice plug.
6:43- Ryan: Financial Situations, Pachanga, it has not been a quiet semester. But we will succeed through the struggles. We as a community are stronger than we can possibly imagine.
6:45- Ryan thinks Acheampong is a snappy dresser.
6:45- Daniel: Thanks to the Union. General welcomes. The Union means “you”.
6:46- Financial History of the last 2 years: Despite our hardships, we chose to do something unique. We moved together as one, as Brandeis.

Continue reading “Live-blogging the Fall 2010 SOTU”

An Update on the Clubs in Service Program

With all the press the Union government has received for its work in securing a student voice in budgetary committees, some of its other triumphs have flown below the radar.  The Clubs in Service program is one of my favorite Union initiatives this year, and its great intentions and success are unfortunately under-recognized.

Jason Gray first announced and described the program in November during last semester’s State of the Union:

The University’s Department of Community Service has the resources and connections for all clubs to be able to partner with Waltham and provide services to the community.

For example, the debate team could teach public speaking at a local school. An a capella group could sing at a local shelter. Your club can play chess or knit at a nursing home, shoot hoops at the Boys and Girls Club, cook a holiday meal for those in need, or organize a talent show at the YMCA. The opportunities are endless.

Every club could have a community-service component to it.

Today we challenge every club and organization to engage the community in service, and we commit ourselves to helping this challenge succeed.

The Hoot’s article on the speech included my very positive first impression of the idea.  And yes, I am about to blockquote myself:

Student Union Vice President Adam Hughes ’11 said after the address that while the Union’s executive board has yet to discuss how it will specifically aid clubs in adding a community service component, he hopes to make it as easy as possible for clubs to meet Gray’s “audacious call to action.”

Hughes said he imagines that the Union would “spend a significant amount of time next semester” helping to connect clubs with Waltham organizations.

“We don’t want this to be a huge ordeal for any club,” Hughes said. “This is a great actualization of Brandeis goals, and we want to make it as easy as possible for clubs to achieve.”

Here on Innermost Parts, Loki was more to the point:

Ideologically, I was most struck by  the point near the end of the speech when Jason challenged every single club to get involved in the surrounding community. This. is. a. fucking. great. idea.

I was involved in some of the early planning discussions when the program itself began to take shape.  The Union government would do the publicity, reaching out to clubs by e-mail and in person to get them on board.  They would send the clubs to the Waltham Group, who already had a great list of contacts and potential programs for clubs to be involved in.  The Waltham Group would work with the club leaders to plan a service event that would incorporate each club’s unique focus and to work out all the logistics.  In the end, we would be left with the perfect synergy of student resources to take advantage of our ability and desire to improve the Waltham community.

The program was launched in early February.  Class of 2012 Senator Akash Vadalia led the Union side of the program, and his great outreach laid the groundwork for success.  His goal was to get 15 clubs to participate in this, the program’s first semester, which would lay the groundwork for expanding it in the future.

Did we get there?  Just ask Jason:

This semester, some 31 clubs have signed up to participate and involve their clubs in community service.

Jason and Akash deserve tons of credit for leading the program to success beyond anyone’s expectations, and the Waltham Group worked tirelessly to accommodate every club sent their way.  And though Clubs in Service has already done amazing work in the community, its future is even brighter.  The program has a friend in a very high place: Union President-Elect Andy Hogan.  Andy made the expansion and institutionalization of Clubs in Service one of his foremost campaign platforms, and with his strong track record of planning successful community service projects (the Combating Hate fundraiser, the Rwandan rape victim fundraiser, past involvement in Clubs in Service), I’m confident that he’ll make the program even stronger.

If you’re involved with a club that hasn’t participated in Clubs in Service yet, you should definitely try to get it involved.  I’m not sure if the program is still active this semester, but it’s worth finding out.  At the very least, it’s never too early to start planning for next year.  Contact Jason (, Akash (, or Andy ( for more information (I’m not sure who would be best right now, but I’m sure any of them could point you in the right direction).  Community service is such a great way to make a difference in so many people’s lives, and I’m proud that Brandeis has proven itself a leader yet again.

The Arts at Brandeis

It’s been two weeks since Jason Gray made this call to the Brandeis community:

[T]oday, I challenge the University administration to engage the arts community in order to find tangible ways to invest in the long-term future of the arts at Brandeis. I call for a series of meetings between administrators and members of our artistic community to discuss ways to ensure that Brandeis remains a fertile ground for artistic creativity even amidst the financial situation.

I haven’t heard about any progress being made on this issue since the State of the Union, but I hope the Union (or some other party) is following up on it.  This is a tough time for everyone at Brandeis, but the art community has been particularly hard hit.  The closing of the Rose Art Museum is the most obvious reason, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Just as important is the way in which the decision was made and announced, the current uncertainty about the Rose’s exact status, and the various other cuts that the art department has faced.  Jason made the historical importance of the arts to the university very clear in his speech, and I know that there are many professors and students who need reassurance from the administration that they remain a priority.

The cuts outside of the Rose have not gotten nearly as much general publicity, but they have contributed to the sense that the arts just aren’t as important anymore.  One of Brandeis’s true jewels, the Lydian String Quartet, has been reduced to part-time status for next year, a move that violinist Daniel Stepner says may force a decreased concert schedule for next year.  The Hoot has more on the importance of the group and the effect of the reduction:

The quartet, founded in 1980, is an internationally acclaimed chamber ensemble dedicated to reinvigorating works from the classical canon while exploring contemporary pieces. The group has won ensemble prizes at important festivals in France, England, Canada and the United States, given performances in prestigious American and European concert halls, and released more than twenty musical recordings. Yet despite their worldly ambitions, the quartet feels most at home at Brandeis University, where all the members are part of the teaching faculty and regularly give performances.

Before the program began, the quartet announced that the university would be cutting back its position to half time for the following year, but that the ensemble would figure out a way to continue offering concerts to the Brandeis community and broader listening public. At a time when cutting back on the arts appears to define the university’s modus operandi, the announcement came as more troubling than shocking.*

It’s sad to see another world-renowned art institution handicapped by the budget crisis.  In addition, the Music Department has lost and not replaced three full professors in the past few years, and the graduate program suffered cuts even before the budget crisis hit.

Of course, the Rose has been the focal point for controversy this semester.  The official statement released by the Fine Arts Faculty shows how deep their surprise and disappointment at the initial announcement was:

In addition to despairing at the Trustees’ action, we wish to make clear that at no point in the decision making process was the Department of Fine Arts faculty consulted. Neither was there any communication regarding the decision with the Rose Board of Overseers on which a member of the faculty sits. Nor was any reference made to the museum at the university-wide faculty meeting last Thursday (January 22) when strategies to confront the current fiscal crisis were discussed.

The department faculty wishes to express our profound sadness at the consequences of this abrupt action for the liberal arts mission, cultural life, and intellectual legacy of the university…

As to the proposed future of the museum building, at no time before or after notification of the decision, have members of the Fine Arts Department expressed a desire to change the function of the Rose or reuse the building. There is no academic advantage to be salvaged from closing the museum and selling our art. It is a sad response to the current fiscal crisis that treasures left in trust for current and future students are now being sacrificed. The department remains committed to continuing the legacy of the intellectual and artistic practice here. We are losing an irreplaceable tool to fulfill that goal.

Since then, we’ve had a series of backtracking and vague, contradictory statements about what exactly will happen to the Rose, and its future remains very uncertain.  What we do know is that the Rose contains one of the best collections of modern art in the world, and it now appears very likely that we’re going to lose at least some of its masterpieces.

I know that many of these cuts may be necessary due to the state of our budget, and I think the administration has done a much better job of handling these situations in the past few months.  However, we cannot allow the arts community to feel marginalized and irrelevant in the decision-making process or in campus life.  Jason was absolutely right to call for meetings to remove these feelings and to plan a solid future for the arts at Brandeis, and I hope we can see his goal realized soon.

*The article I quoted was written by Max Price, the Diverse City editor and a great writer and good friend of mine.  His piece “Arts resources at Brandeis: Use them or lose them” is the best statement I’ve read on the importance of the arts in general and at Brandeis.  I highly recommend you check it out.


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.

A History Lesson from J-Gray

For a speech with a theme of “Looking Forward”, Jason Gray’s State of the Union went pretty far back to the past — all the way to 1946, in fact, to the University’s founding.  Of course, this isn’t a criticism; the past is our best (and maybe our only) tool for predicting the future, and Jason effectively used several anecdotes to guide our approach to the next few years, both in attitude and in deed.  They were among my favorite parts of the speech, and they put some of our current struggles into context.  I’d like to quickly examine these passages, but first I want to encourage anyone who has a story about Brandeis’s past that they find particularly revealing or just plain interesting to share it through the comments or by e-mail to  I’d like to explore more of Brandeis history, and anything we receive will be researched and incorporated into a post at some point.

I’ve heard several times in relation to the financial crisis that Brandeis has gone through worse struggles before.  However, overall I think the campus discussion has been surprisingly sparse on any actual details of historical parallels.  I think it would be a great relief to many people if we could point to specific situations where Brandeis has handled difficult finances before and come out fundamentally intact.

Can we find guidance in the University’s founding?  Jason think so:

In 1946, even before Brandeis became Brandeis, a group surveyed the campus.  They found it badly run down.  Walks were eroded.  A Castle had been built, yet built without an architect.

When Abe Sachar was approached to be the first University President, he was warned by a friend that the Brandeis project would be “a great disaster” and “nothing but pain.”

But the promise of what Brandeis could be was so much greater than any of the potential challenges.

The castle was improved, cafeterias built, faculty recruited, and students matriculated.  By early 1949, the same friend who had warned Sachar against accepting the job, visited the campus.  Standing under the arch of the Castle, he said “I thought it could not be done, but…  it had been.”

In a specific sense, I don’t think they University’s founding has much to tell us about our current situation.  Yes, Brandeis’s founding was not without significant challenges, but they seem to be more infrastructural and administrative than financial (I’m basing this mostly on Jason’s speech and Wikipedia.  Any corrections would be greatly appreciated).  Regardless, the methods for funding a fledgling university in 1946 and for rescuing an established university in 2009 are quite different.  Jason’s point is more general: Brandeis has shown the ability to overcome the odds in the past, and the ideas that helped us then still exist today.  If nothing else, the passion of the entire community to come together and help the University shows that we all still believe that the promise of Brandeis remains so much greater than the challenges.  If that philosophy was enough to set Brandeis in motion, it will be our greatest ally in keeping it strong.

The other key passage is much more specific:

At our founding, our curriculum was informed by a Harvard general education report from 1946. It recommended studies in a core curriculum, humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences.

Brandeis, however, was not satisfied. We added another area to our curriculum: the study of music, theater, and the fine arts.  This commitment is one from our founding, and one we must continue.

Jason’s comments on the arts deserve broader discussion and action than this post allows, so I’ll hold most of my thoughts for later.  For now, I’ll just say that this provides the perfect framing for discussing the arts at Brandeis.  Art was deliberately included as one of the building blocks of our curriculum, and it must remain there, or we will be betraying the ideas this university was founded upon.

Our history is indeed very interesting and bears much more attention than it often gets.  If you’re interested in exploring it further, I recommend the very comprehensive “Brandeis University: A People’s History” hosted off the official Brandeis homepage and Phil LaCombe’s excellent series of posts from last year: Blunders of Brandeis (here, here, and here) and The Castles of Brandeis (here, here, and here).  Again, we’d love to hear your own stories, so post and send away!

Complete State of the Union Text

If you couldn’t make Jason Gray’s final State of the Union on Tuesday, then you missed out on a very good speech.  Thankfully, Innermost Parts is here for you again (Have we ever let you down before?  Don’t answer that…).  Below the fold is the complete text of the speech, titled “Looking Forward: Student Involvement, Student Rights, and Student Advocacy”.  I’ll have more thoughts on the speech itself and several key points from it in the next few days, but for now, I encourage even those who already saw it to peruse it again and get an idea of what the Union has done this semester and what is still ahead.

Continue reading “Complete State of the Union Text”

State of the Student Union Address – with full text

While I’m not sure if it lived up to Adam’s promise of it being THE BEST SPEECH EVER, Jason Gray’s address really brought home to me all the accomplishment – with almost no infighting – that has been achieved this year. We’re in the process of setting up a committee on endowment ethics, we established OSRA, the Student Bill of Rights will soon be implemented into Rights & Responsibilities, the Weight Room was finalized and will be here next semester, free bikes are coming soon, Brandeis Votes was a success and we had tons of civic participation this election cycle… the list continues.

While there is still a long way to go on Dining Issues, and the newly established CEER, OSRA, and the various other committees established have their work cut out for them, I am very nearly satisfied with our progress thus far – and that’s something I’ll rarely say.

Ideologically, I was most struck by  the point near the end of the speech when Jason challenged every single club to get involved in the surrounding community. This. is. a. fucking. great. idea. Hear what he had to say:

The University’s Department of Community Service has the resources and connections for all clubs to be able to partner with Waltham and provide services to the community.

For example, the debate team could teach public speaking at a local school. An a capella group could sing at a local shelter. Your club can play chess or knit at a nursing home, shoot hoops at the Boys and Girls Club, cook a holiday meal for those in need, or organize a talent show at the YMCA. The opportunities are endless.

Every club could have a community-service component to it.

Today we challenge every club and organization to engage the community in service, and we commit ourselves to helping this challenge succeed.

Continue reading “State of the Student Union Address – with full text”