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Students explore social justice through ‘Deis Impact

Students explore social justice through ‘Deis Impact

By Hannah Stewart

Section: Featured, News

January 29, 2016

One hundred years ago, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis D. Brandeis, “the people’s lawyer,” as a Supreme Court Justice. From Thursday, Jan. 28 to Sunday, Feb. 7, Brandeis will commemorate its namesake’s appointment with a weeklong festival of social justice.

’DEIS Impact began in 2011 when Marci McPhee, the director of campus programs at the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, wanted to create a program that would unite the Brandeis community and offer the opportunity to consider different perspectives on the question, “What is social justice?”

“Back in 2011, then Student Union President Herbie Rosen and I began collaborating with our teams to build what we thought would be a one-time ’DEIS Impact,” McPhee recalled. “The response was tremendous, and it’s been rolling ever since,” said McPhee, who loves to see Brandeis students, faculty and staff come together to consider learn about important issues, consider social justice and put it into action.

This year, 37 events have been planned for ’DEIS Impact in addition to seven sessions of ’DEIS Impact College. The former have been planned by more than 50 clubs and student organizations at Brandeis, aided by a core committee of 14 undergraduate ’DEIS Impacters, who were selected back in September and have been meeting weekly ever since. ’DEIS Impact College refers to classes taught by Brandeis faculty from multiple departments: American studies, anthropology, English, legal studies, politics and theater arts. These classes are regular Brandeis courses that connect their respective material to the theme of social justice and are then opened up to the public.

Lindsay Mitnik ’16, the chair of the ’DEIS Impact committee, describes the festival as “a time to not only celebrate social justice that already exists, but also our capacity and potential to make even greater changes in our world.”

Mitnik got involved with ’DEIS Impact in its second year and from then on has worked to make it as “impactful” as possible. “I knew that the festival had the potential to teach and inspire this community to change the world, one person at a time,” she said.

’DEIS Impact involves more than just the Brandeis community. This year, the festival will also feature events sponsored by More Than Words, Waltham Family School and Habitat for Humanity.

For the fifth anniversary of this Brandeis tradition, the week of social justice will feature Germaine Ingram, a civil rights lawyer and jazz tap dancer, as the keynote speaker on Wednesday, Feb. 3 in the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC). During her address, Ingram will present excerpts of her performance, “Freedom Underfoot,” which will be presented in full on Tuesday, Feb. 2 in the SCC Theater. The performance excerpts will be accompanied by violinist Diane Monroe and will serve to “illuminates her [Ingram’s] lives in the law, arts and culture, and the broad civic arena as avenues for advancing fairness, respect, and inclusion,” according to the description of the event on the Brandeis website.

“I’m excited about this featured event: ‘Breaking the Story: How Eight Ordinary Citizens Took Down the FBI,’” McPhee explained. “It’s a remarkable opportunity to hear from two burglars who took ‘extra-legal’ actions to address injustice within the FBI, as well as the filmmaker and journalist who told their story.” The screening of the film and subsequent panel will take place in the Wasserman Cinematique on Feb. 1, 2016 at 6 p.m.

The highlight of the week, designed to commemorate the centennial anniversary of Louis Brandeis’ Supreme Court appointment, was Thursday, Jan. 28’s “Louis D. Brandeis, The Supreme Court and American Democracy” panel, featuring remarks from current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The panel was comprised of Ralph D. Gants, chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court; Philippa Strum ’59, senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Jeffrey Toobin, a staff writer for the New Yorker; and Mark Wolf, senior judge for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Mitnik hopes the festival encourages students to take action.

“I hope that everybody is able to celebrate the amazing amount of good that has been done in this world, but I also hope that at the end of the festival students realize how much more work needs to be done,” said Mitnik, concluding, “We want students to be a different person when the festival ends, a person better equipped to change the world.”

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