Of all the suitemates at Brandeis, Mark Gimelstein ’17 and Brian Hough ’17 are arguably two of the most ironic to be found. Why is this? Gimelstein is the vice president of the Brandeis Conservatives, and Hough is the vice president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts.
Hailing from New Hyde Park, NY, Gimelstein finds himself double majoring in economics and business. Hough hails from Marblehead, MA, double majoring in psychology and politics and double minoring in Social Justice and Social Policy and International & Global Studies. Upon entering Brandeis, the two discovered in themselves a passion for ideas pertaining to the public good, and they each set out on their own exploits.
Setting out to found the Brandeis Conservatives in January 2015, Gimelstein describes an organization that is beyond the Grand Old Party, Libertarians or the Tea Party, and instead describes an organization dedicated to conservatism as a principle, in whatever form the conservatism may manifest. He described the group by saying, “We believe in free markets, constitutional liberties, leaving you alone,” continuing “whatever your [conservative] framework is, we work around it to individualize to our personal beliefs. It’s a lot of different, politically conservative people talking about politics.”
Hough was drawn to the Brandeis Democrats because of their positioning as a group that, as he said, “came into their light as people who want to empower others and inspire change. They want to educate their members, empower them to get involved, get active in their government and call out injustice when they see it.” Hough continued, “A lot of these issues stem down to racial injustice, which is a big one, LGBTQ+ equality, environmental sustainability, women’s issues. A lot of issues come under the progressive movement. Brandeis is a perfect place to inspire that sort of change.”
Gimelstein asserts that the Brandeis Conservatives don’t focus on advancing a party agenda, and believes that by operating in such a way, his group can attract a wider range of students to their events and functions. Since the Conservatives’ conception, they have brought commentator Ben Shapiro to speak at campus. Shapiro is widely known as being a founder of the conservative group Truth Revolt, a media watchdog. “Brandeis Conservatives exist to partner with other groups on campus to create a public forum, we’re open to debating and discussing issues with anybody,” he said.
The Brandeis Conservatives also have tentative plans to bring Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers ’79, who received her Ph.D. from Brandeis, to campus to speak. Sommers is well known for her writings and critiques of modern feminism in America. On Sommers, Gimelstein said, “Some people who are turned off by our ideas are willing to listen to her ideas. She advances an equity feminist perspective that resonates […] it creates an enthusiasm that otherwise wouldn’t exist.”
Hough finds himself involved greatly in progressive movements beyond the Brandeis campus, serving as both the vice president for the College Democrats of Massachusetts and the mentorship program Coordinator for the College Democrats of America. Hough spoke of his group’s current advocacy for environmental sustainability, which is part of a broad climate change push also taken up by the White House. He also recounted advocating at the Statehouse over the summer for education equity, and plans to soon take up advocating for gender nondiscrimination legislation.
Relating both the Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Khadijah Lynch-Daniel Mael controversies of past years, Gimelstein places large amounts of blame for campus speech issues at the top. “People need to pressure the administration and the faculty to be open minded. It’s ironic that people who advocate free speech are the least tolerant, being totalitarian in how students should behave on campus,” Gimelstein said. “If you want to address the problem, you have to tell the administration to stop. I’m a proponent for free speech for everyone.”
Speaking on the difficulties of running political clubs and events on a campus that is often a fiery hub of debate, Hough believes that Brandeis needs to foster an environment that spurs conversation on the issues in a forum where people can voice their points of view without getting burned by others. Hough stated that the administration should come down on political bullying. He said that leaders should be inspired and shouldn’t be brought down or torn apart for their points of view, stating that the university should foster an environment where people can hear the issues and everyone’s point of view. Hough concluded, “Political bullying should not be tolerated at all, it’s disgusting, and it’s the bad kind of politics that turns people off and ruins people’s lives. It’s happened at Brandeis and other schools as well, and you just can’t stand for it.”
Hough and Gimelstein acknowledged engaging with each other politically almost daily in their suite, often in the hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Gimelstein said, “What I like about living with Brian, unlike other liberal minded people, is that they are very respectful and civil with their disagreements with me. It stays away from the ad hominem attacks that you see, and we focus on the intellectual disagreements we have. We find where we differ and where we agree. It’s a nice thing to see.”