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Committee seeks to better student life

By Eli Sedransk

Section: News

October 17, 2008

In an effort to streamline communications between disparate staff and student groups, Student Union President Jason Gray ’10 created the Brandeis Campus Life Committee. The committee’s first meeting was held Oct. 8.

This committee, co-chaired by Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer, will attempt to identify and improve upon various facets of Brandeis student life by creating a 15-20 point list of important issues. Sawyer explained, “we decided to take three [of the items] to put on the front of the line,” including off-campus transportation, housing arrangements, and space utilization on campus.

The BCLC came about as an initiative immediately following Gray’s election last semester. He stated that he felt that “campus issues are addressed on an ad hoc basis, instead of looking at how they fit into a campus life context.” This led to the idea of bringing stakeholders together with the purpose of creating more interactions between student leaders and staff.

Gray and Sawyer believed that creating an environment where groups can work together will allow everyone to gain a better understanding of the university’s overall campus life workings. Gray explained, “I think everything relates to bettering student life on campus,” and putting students in the position to “have things worked out [the way students wish them to be].”

While Gray and Sawyer are optimistic about the efficacy of their plan, Sawyer quickly noted that the problems are multi-faceted. With issues such as gender-neutral housing, placement of students into Ridgewood, and problems with the various space-rental policies, Sawyer said that the BCLC is definitely a work in progress. He added that working with many disparate groups could be “very complex.”

Even so, Gray and Sawyer were quick to note that the BCLC’s composition is created to be just that: complex. Gray stated that he picked the student elements of the committee in order to obtain a good cross-section of the Brandeis population.

According to the press release from Student Union Coordinator of Communications James Ansorge ’09, there were student or staff representatives from Student Union, International Club, the Intercultural Center, Residence Life, Athletics, Student Affairs, Student Life, Student Activities, and Student Events, amongst others.

The committee is still very new – its second meeting will be held in the first week of November. However, Both Gray and Sawyer are optimistic about the possibilities for the future. Gray sees the short-term goal simply being “idea-generating” ways to improve the current system, and to promote new, more efficient ways of working.

Sawyer has seen issue-rectification at Brandeis as very small-time, stating that the university administrators have always been willing to help, but that “mostly those [problems] require one-on-one situations.” The BCLC should aid in the efficiency of large-scale problem solving. Sawyer said, “the fact that they’re defined as issues…would [imply] that they’re subject to change and improvements,” and that the BCLC “might find expediencies.”

Questions about long-term were deemed difficult to answer by both Gray and Sawyer. However, Gray noted that “if it [the BCLC] works out,” the committee could function as “a correct forum for change for the future.”

Sawyer, though, sees possible immediate effects, including the implementation of the Senior Exit Survey and the first years’ Wabash Survey to aid the committee in creating a better campus environment. He further commented, “It wouldn’t surprise me if those two tracks [surveys and the BCLC] intersected at some point.”

Assuming that the committee is able to function and maintain its efficacy, Sawyer prophesied, “I believe we will make a difference,” also noting, “this could be a Jason [Gray] legacy.”

Sawyer predicts the future to be bright for the BCLC, saying that “if we’re [the committee members] smart and are able to create some momentum I would be shocked if we weren’t still doing this a year out…It’s got sustainability.”

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