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Community highlighted in heartfelt student testimonies

Following a successful online campaign, the social media event #BrandeisIsOurHouse came to Brandeis again this week in a physical form on campus.

The event was organized by Kelsey Segaloff ’15, who, upset by the wave of negativity at on social media, conceived of the hashtag #BrandeisIsOurHouse to inspire a positivity campaign and foster a sense of community. In December of last year, over 700 participants took to social media to share their positive stories and experiences at Brandeis. This past Wednesday, Segaloff brought the online movement to life, hosting an event featuring student speakers and Dean of Student Life Jamele Adams.

“Brandeis is my house because when one of our own is hurt, we back them,” Segaloff said while opening the event. She also referenced the student community in light of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings. Segaloff praised the diversity of opinions prevalent at Brandeis, jokingly saying the 75-percent chance of a debate erupting following a post on Overheard at Brandeis Facebook page. She also noted random acts of kindness by students such as Zachary Reid ’15, a community adviser who took it upon himself to shovel out the cars of residents during the recent snowstorm. “Brandeis is my house because people go out of the way to make people smile,” Segaloff said.

Terrell Gilkey ’15 discussed the outpouring of support and love he received from the Brandeis community following the tragic loss of loved ones. “I lost a couple of my brothers since I’ve been here,” he said, adding how he initially did not want to return to Brandeis. “I love you all, and I know you all love me. It feels really good to know people here have my back.”

Gilkey went on to recall a moment from two years ago that expresses the kindness of Brandeis students. Locked out of his room in the middle of December, wearing basketball shorts in the freezing cold, Gilkey was waiting for the Brandeis police to unlock his room when another student approached him. Although she had never really spoken to him before, the student in question invited him to wait in the warmth of her dorm, later becoming one of his closest friends at Brandeis. “Brandeis is my house because of you all,” Gilkey said.

Matthew Chernick ’16, chair of the student conduct board, followed, sharing how Brandeis has long been a part of his life before he ever became a student here. His first babysitter attended Brandeis, and he completed his first research project in high school using the Brandeis library, not knowing that he would later attend the institution as a student himself. He also praised the diversity of students as a strength. “That is why Brandeis is my house—because we are light,” Chernick said.

Rohan Narayanan ’15 shared a piece of slam poetry, acknowledging not only the beauty of Brandeis, but also the need to be aware of its flaws as well. “Brandeis helped me discover my loves: poetry, Ultimate Frisbee, hummus,” he said. Yet he was not afraid to address the existence of racism and bigotry on campus, and across the nation as a whole. “Silence in your voice is the greatest danger,” he said, concluding, “When Brandeis or the world asks you a question, you best be ready to answer.”

Jacob Altholz ’15 spoke of incredible support from the Brandeis community as well. During his study abroad semester in Australia last spring, Altholz was on his way to play Ultimate Frisbee when he was rear ended by pickup truck. He woke up three weeks later from a coma at the hospital, with no recollection of what had occurred. “I can only imagine the call my parents got at 9 a.m., ‘Your son is in a coma halfway across the world,’” he said. Over $10,000 was donated in an outpouring of support, including funds raised by members of the Brandeis community, to cover the travel costs of his parents and medical expenses. Faced with a 13-hour facial reconstruction surgery, Altholz received letters of support, which he described as unbelievable. “The reason I fell in love with Brandeis is the community,” he stated.

Johnny Bywater ’15, jokingly pointed to his failure to represent the typical Brandeis student. Despite being an international, non-Jewish transfer student over six feet tall, Bywater expressed his absolute love for Brandeis and his sense of belonging. “They’re different, they’re weird, they’re unique, and honestly it’s kind of fantastic,” he said.

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