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Parting words on life at the ‘Deis

By Ben Douglas

Section: Features

May 2, 2008

Instead of talking about The Hoot and how awesome it is, I thought that I would address Brandeis, and college for that matter, in a more general sense. These are the parting words of a senior student. The battle was long, and after these 16 or so years of sitting through the education system of this country, I, amazingly, don’t have post-traumatic stress disorder. In this hunk of text I want to convey a few things to others that I think they should hear, namely: what should be known about Brandeis, what your college experience should be like, and what Brandeis should do as a university to improve upon itself.

I’ve found that not enough people have knowledge of the various gems of the Brandeis experience. Here are a few examples: there are tunnels under the castle; using Student discounts it’s possible to see the Boston Lyric Opera for $2; you can create any type of media project in the Getz Media Lab; and the Faculty Club is open to students and probably the easiest place to find Jehuda. In your experience of Brandeis, maybe you will get to experience the other things that I have not listed, but that’s a start.

There is something that all students should understand about the nature of Brandeis. All the administration cares about is making us look good to donors and prospective students. This creates a trickle-down-care type dynamic where supposedly to satisfy the condition to making the university superficially look good, they will have to create awesome opportunities and care about the students as well. This is a hollow shell of a sentiment most of the time, but it works. It is true that there are many administrators that actually do care about the students, but as a whole this university is run as a business, and that is the bottom line. Because of this we see events handled in specific ways, such as the Palestinian exhibit and the recent Darwish case. Be conscious of this when claiming that the university has dealt with a situation in the wrong way.

Now after criticizing the university, I would like to praise it from a personal perspective. As a Jewish stereotypical male coming to this university, I found that my previous identity of being “The Jew” of the group had become meaningless and allowed me to explore other ideas of my own identification. The clubs of the university were so diverse that I could find my own niches, trying out many different clubs and eventually gaining leadership in some of them. I have been president of four different organizations on campus at some point, and also have held various other important positions. I’m not saying this to gloat, but rather to illustrate that Brandeis offers a context where it is easy to become a leader, and to develop your own personal image.

This leads me to my next topic: What a college experience should be. Basically, college is for making mistakes. It’s for breaking the rules, learning from consequences, and exploring internally and externally. College is the safest setting to make poor decisions without the hard-hitting consequences that you might experience if you were out in the real world. I’m not saying you should put yourself into extremely dangerous situations, that’s just dumb. I am saying that you have a community of close and trusted friends that will help you out in times of trouble, and that you should be educated towards living in the real world where that kind of wisdom from experience will help you.

The college experience should also involve being part of activities and groups. Be as active as you can in everything, without exhausting yourself, and you’ll be rewarded. Also, try to improve your situations by actively changing them yourself. If you find something irritating about campus or anything like that, your best bet is to take charge and change it yourself. I’ve found that organizations (Student Union, the Administration, various Clubs) will usually not do things for you, and you have to solve the problem face to face with people, not over email. College is also a place to challenge your ideas. Don’t be stubborn. Consider alternatives to your predispositions and meditate on the sentiments of others. College will expose you to a plethora of differences between people that you cannot easily find in the real world.

Alright, now that I’ve preached to you as individuals, I think I should say more about Brandeis as a whole. Lighten up. Bring back traditions that have been lost, because tradition is an enormous virtue to communities. I’m talking about Modfest, the “Less You Wear, Less You Pay” Dance, Screw Your Roommate (as it originally was). I know some traditions, like Rocky Horror and Liquid Latex, have also been threatened into extinction. Keep these events alive. Also, clubs should find a way to communicate with each other and use each other’s resources. The Hoot is an amazing resource for advertisement of events, as well as recording videos and posting them on their website. I also believe that the university, and all organizations holding power, should react to situations in a patient, thoughtful, and community-involving way. All too often, quick and rash decisions have led to disaster, like with Gravity, Hindley, and the Student Events funding controversies.

My final words of wisdom are – experience is life, hunger is the best spice, and your main goal in life should be to get to a point where you can die without regrets.

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