To acquire wisdom, one must observe

These seniors are really pissed

UPDATED: 29/04/2021

Aaron was leaving the dining hall just the other day when he saw something that made him want to hurl. It was a tour group, massive and not socially distanced (social distancing, while a useful pandemic measure, really only exists within abstract spaces like diagrams and policies), huddled in front of the Shapiro Campus Center (SCC). The detail that really set him off, however, was the tour group’s attire. Each and every one of them was wearing a bright blue Brandeis poncho. While current seniors still have to pay for a graduation ceremony that we’ll only get to watch on our phones, Brandeis is welcoming the class of 2025 with in-person tours and free gear. They won’t even give us a sweatshirt without making us pay through the nose for it, but these high schoolers get a lavish pass into the Brandeis bubble that we’ve been defending for the past year. As far as admitted students are concerned, COVID-19 is over, yet the pandemic is still thrown in our face as an excuse for why we can’t have a single bone thrown our way. We, as two members of the class of 2021, are upset, to say the least.

We are getting bits of dust and plastic waste for all of our trouble. Despite the promise of “senior swag” and “in-person celebrations” in President Liebowitz’s announcement email, the activity calendar really only lists three “senior send-offs” that seem like nothing more than opportunities for campus students to pick up a box of goods that, according to the Brandeis Senior Week Instagram, contains a Brandeis champagne flute, a pin, a keychain and some candy. Cute, but a sweatshirt would have been nice. There are also a few Prestige photo opportunities around campus, but they aren’t free, of course. It’s Prestige after all, the school picture mogul that will make you pay 30 bucks for a letter-sized print. The curators of this calendar also had the gall to include Hiatt events like “Market Your Virtual Skills to Employers” and “Starting Your First Remote Job” on the list of activities. Well, at least we have … a “Senior Class Bingo Bash?” That sounds like so much fun. 

Let’s talk about the “graduation” that they are giving the class of 2021. As stated, it’s not free—we all paid a $50 “Senior Program Fee” for these most lovely items. The commencement itself is on Zoom, surprise surprise, because why would Brandeis bother to try to come up with something a little more special? Other schools have put in more effort. Northeastern University and even Bentley University are having socially distanced commencements in Fenway Park. As many angry parents in a Facebook group have pointed out, having Robert Kraft’s son on the Board of Trustees seems worth nothing at all when the guy can’t even arrange a commencement for us at Gillette Stadium in our moment of need. The Zoom commencement is bad enough, but they’ve decided to shove all 16 humanities majors into one Zoom call. No offense to people in other majors, but we just want to have a ceremony with the friends that we’ve made in our own programs and departments. Meanwhile, many of us are cut off from the friends that we have made across department lines. The organizers of this Zoom commencement seem to have assumed a particular degree of departmental camaraderie that doesn’t actually exist. We want to see our Econ buddies graduate!

This sounds like another four hour Zoom event. Does anyone really think that we want to spend ANOTHER four hours on Zoom after the last 16 months of Zoom university? And don’t even get me started on double majors from different departments. Are we really expected to attend two long Zoom ceremonies? Is this a celebration or torture? Let’s also not forget all the ceremonies that are happening in the weeks before, like the community service celebration or the thesis symposium or the various department celebrations. We have enough Zoom obligations to burn out the eyes of a seasoned gamer.

As much as we want a memorable graduation ceremony, this really isn’t it. We don’t even want to invite anyone to these because we ourselves don’t even want to go! Also, the Zoom graduation environment, being a virtual space with a theoretically infinite room, should be able to accommodate as many viewers as desired, but graduating students are still only limited to four guests. Twitch streams have tens of thousands of viewers—don’t tell us Zoom can’t handle more than a few thousands viewers at a time. We understand the traditional cap for the in-person ceremonies, since everyone has to physically fit the venue, but what’s the deal with the Zoom cap? 

The fact is, if you can’t make Zoom work—it’s just not cool. It’s exhausting. The organizers of this stuff should put all of their time and energy into giving us nice things instead. That’s all we want. Seriously, we’re not going to form lasting memories with this digital crap. Evidently, there is little incentive not to kick us aside and focus on recuperating losses in the next batch of students.

When Brandeis first announced that the ceremony would be online, we were still deeper in the pandemic, and we had some understanding towards it. Though, of course, we were still upset; we really do want to have a piece of paper handed to us in person while wearing a black bathrobe. But then we got the email about Brandeis allowing the Class of 2025 to come to campus as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test. This was when Brandeis showed its true colors and what it cares about. Seniors that had their college career interrupted by the pandemic? No, give them another dreadful Zoom event. Potential students? Oh yes, let’s bring them to campus and burst that “Brandeis Bubble” we have been hearing about for over a year now. We cannot help but feel wronged by Brandeis. Instead of trying to make us feel special, they gave us the finger.  

We look forward to receiving donation solicitations from this university in our adult lives. It will be a small but sweet vengeance to remind the nice person on the other side of the phone about Brandeis’s failure to make the seniors of 2021 feel even remotely cared for during our last semester as students. 

UPDATED: 29/04/2021 A previous version of this article stated that Robert Kraft is on the Brandeis Board of Trustees. Kraft’s son, Joshua Kraft, is on the board.

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