Brandeis Year In Review

Meredith Glansberg’s excellent year in review is worth reading in it’s entirety, and since registration for the Justice web site is annoying and unnecessary, I’m reproducing the article here in the hope that it’ll get just a little bit wider distribution. Amazing that in the end, incidents that seemed to last forever and involve us so completely become mere sentences in the march of time.

Looking back: 2003 at Brandeis
By Meredith Glansberg

It’s hard to think back to the spring. A semester is a long time, but an entire year, while seeming to move so fast, is an eternity in retrospect. A year ago the first-years were still in high school, eagerly waiting at mailboxes for the envelope that would seal their fates. The Village was just a bunch of metal being banged on incessantly day and night. J-Lo’s “Jenny from the Block” was still at the top of the charts. A year ago most students on this campus could not begin to imagine the extraordinary year that would unfold.

January: Financial tension

At Brandeis, the Spring 2003 semester was a time of monetary and political tension on campus. Students, faculty and staff returned last January to news of further University budget cuts, specifically in operating and capital expenditures. A financial market that continued to stagnate was cited among reasons for Brandeis’ monetary concerns. In addition to the cuts, it was discovered that a former Brandeis treasurer had stolen from the Student Union.

February: Provost leaves, security alert rises

In early February, without warning or comment, Provost Melvin Bernstein stepped down from his position, shocking and surprising many at Brandeis. The University was also changed by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee’s vote in favor of increasing the residence requirement from four to seven semesters. This decision, which will prevent many from graduating early, was confirmed in a University faculty vote in March.

National and international events hit close to home as security was raised at Brandeis in February due to an orange (high) terror alert announcement. Brandeis Department of Public Safety addressed the Brandeis community through e-mails describing the measures that would be taken to heighten security on campus. Restrictions were placed on entry to campus, and the community was encouraged to be aware and to report any suspicious activities.

March: War in Iraq begins, worker dies

The heightened security prefaced the mixed feelings on campus regarding the war in Iraq. The Anti-War Coalition led about 300 students in a walkout from classes on Thursday, March 20 and a protest on Rabb steps. The United We Stand club held a smaller counter-protest to show support for the war and handed out red, white and blue ribbons in support of America. While many students felt very passionately about U.S. foreign policy, many were undecided or indifferent to the war. During this tumultuous time, Brandeis fostered an environment where open discussion between both students and faculty existed, but also where great tensions surfaced and friction existed between opposing viewpoints.

Over March break, 39-year-old Mark Choplas-a construction worker for William A. Berry & Son-fell to his death while working on the partially completed Village.

April: Farewell to Boogle

Joshua Brandfon ’05 won the election for Union presidency by one vote, after trailing more than 100 votes int he primaries. The election was disputed with a Union Judiciary case arguing that lost votes from students abroad cost candidate Joshua Sugarman ’05 the election. The UJ affirmed that students from abroad are not allowed to vote.

Much to the dismay of many students, an April Fool’s joke came true and he file-searching service Boogle was shut down following the threat of legal action by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA had filed lawsuits against similar search systems at other schools. While Boogle did return a few weeks later with the addition of a disclaimer on its Web site, it eventually shut down in the fall.

May: Loss of a student overseas

On the eve of commencement for the Class of 2003, tragedy struck the Brandeis community. Reginald “Reggie” Poyau ’04 drowned while traveling abroad in southern Senegal.

Summer: Hospital closes, new dorm and phones

Students and faculty returned to Brandeis in August to the opening of the new Village dormitory. The heralded living quarters consist of single and double rooms arranged in “neighborhoods.” Every six to eight students share a bathroom and small lounge and approximately every 20 students share a kitchen and large lounge. The pristine building was received as an innovative type of living area on campus and as a celebrated addition to Brandeis’ architecture. However, the new and exciting facility was somewhat overshadowed by the controversy surrounding meal plans for residents of the Village and several instances of unexpected structural damage.

A noticeable absence was that of the summer Odyssey Program, which was cancelled the previous October. The program, offered to high school students, provided an opportunity to study in a college setting. Finances and competition were cited as reasons the program ended.

Another significant loss was that of Waltham Hospital. After a battle that lasted more than a year to save the facility-including Waltham finding over $6 million to keep it open for an extra year-the hospital shut down in July. The Sterling Medical Center is now in its place, but the loss of the hospital has brought concerns not only to Brandeis, but also to the Waltham community in general.

Brandeis’ new phone system, while solving the problems of the aging system in place, brought concerns throughout the fall semester. Unannounced phone outages led to criticism of the new Cisco Voice-over-Internet Protocol IP system, specifically the discovery that when the phones are offline, there is no way to reach Public Safety.

September: Umbrella organizations questioned

Zionists for Historical Veracity (ZaHaV) considered withdrawing from Brandeis’ chapter of Hillel. ZaHaV pointed to financial mismanagement and scheduling conflicts as reasons for the potential break, and the issue generated many questions regarding the relationships between umbrella organizations and how their subsidiaries are managed.

October: Everything gone wrong-another student loss, campus turmoil over racism

October brought with it an emotional roller coaster ride unmatched in recent memory. The month began with good moments: Brandeis graduate, Roderick MacKinnon ’78, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and the playoff series between and Red Sox and the Yankees created a playful uproar on the Brandeis campus as many of the school’s students, faculty and staff participated in the age-old rivalry by supporting their respective teams.

Changes in the study abroad program were made which will enable students-beginning Fall 2004-to study in another country, in certain programs, for the price of their Brandeis education. While upsetting some students because of the greater expense of Brandeis tuition versus many programs abroad, the change, according to Brandeis administrators, is intended to offer all students the chance to study abroad, regardless of their financial backgrounds, as Brandeis financial aid and scholarships will now transfer abroad.

Unimaginable heartache struck the community when another classmate was lost. Mary Jagoda ’05 died after her kayak went missing off the coast of Cape Cod.

A racist comment that appeared in the pages of the Justice in the paper’s Oct. 21 issue ignited feelings of anger, grief and betrayal on a campus in mourning. Students from the Brandeis Black Student Organization (BBSO) held a walk-out during a forum regarding the incident a few days after the words were printed and held a protest outside of the Justice office during production for the following week’s issue.

November: More focus on diversity, mourning a third student death

In November, students voted to allocate $122,000 from a rollover fund toward the new game room in the Usdan Student Center. Tuition rose by 6.1 percent to $29,875 for the 2003-2004 academic year and Brandeis was listed as the 10th most expensive school for tuition by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The Brandeis Muslim Student Association (BMSA), after years of lobbying, hired a new mentor and advisor, Dr. Qumar-Al Huda.

For the first time ever, three Brandeis sports teams earned playoff positions at once. The women’s soccer, men’s soccer and volleyball teams had great seasons, earning them trips to East Coast Athletic Conference tournaments.

The loss of Eliezer “Elie” Schwartz ’04 brought unthinkable grief once again. No student was left unaffected by the loss of the three classmates to the community.

The issues of racism were confronted again when controversial Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes came to speak at the end of the semester, sparking heated debate and protest. Fliers mocking those of a diversity campaign created another outcry as students questioned their campus and the deeper issues of racism both at Brandeis and in the world at large.

This was, arguably, the worst semester in recent memory.

In closing

So much sorrow, anger and negativity filled the hearts and minds of the Brandeis community last year. Heart-wrenching struggle in organizations and personal lives made last semester in particular an emotional nightmare. It was difficult for many to focus academically, and the administration went so far as to request leniency from the faculty as the semester ended and finals approached.

2004: A new year

There are many students who want to move on and go forward, yet many are eager to continue to keep issues open and discussed. As difficult as it was, no one will forget the last semester. However, it must be remembered that there are two semesters in a year, and the latter one was an anomaly. The spring semester’s relative normalcy should be a reminder that things are not always as tumultuous and intense as they were these past few months.

Brandeis starts the Spring 2004 semester welcoming the new midyear class into the community and beginning again in the routine of bookstore lines, class shopping and long waits at the gym. January is indeed an opportunity to look back and consider the past year and how one can learn from experiences encountered over that time. But it’s also a chance to look ahead-one never knows what a new year will bring.