THE JUSTICE ● FORUM ● MONDAY, MAY 20, 2019
Freshman year at Brandeis presents new opportunities By RENEE NAKKAB JUSTICE STAFF WRITER
The first few pieces I published at Brandeis were a collection of reflections on how I wished the orientation leaders had better prepared the first-years. From transportation to nightlife, I thought that the nuances of being a Brandeisian were not explained well enough, and we were left to learn too much on our own. Now, after successfully completing my first year, I cannot help but chuckle at just how misguided my earlier thoughts were. The very purpose of the first year of college is to be out of the know. Undergoing a multitude of experiences, making mistakes and taking questionable risks help one grow as a person. Essentially, the first year is about being willing to jump and not fearing the fall. The first leap of faith is within academics. Before a first-year comes to campus, they have to select classes for the fall. While they do have academic and faculty advisors, in addition to the Roosevelt Fellow peer advising program, how much can those really help? A student can type up pages of their academic interests and email it to any of these advisors, but the student knows themself best. Advisors can guide based on the little they learn about the student from their transcript or anything the student sends them, but they do not know the student’s history with handling stress or deep passions about specific topics. It is these aspects that make the student their own best advisor. Subconsciously, students know what interests them, what they hate and what they want to learn more about. However, if a student does not have a clue despite these guiding questions, the next step is to try different possibilities. They must look through the course catalog and see which course titles catch their eye. Advisors can help plan their major and satisfy University requirements down the line, but they will prefer the student settle into different classes that pique their interest so they can find themselves academically. Although it may seem like mindless, random stumbling through courses within completely different or similar fields of study, it is this unplanned path that may lead to a future major, occupation or passion. The beauty of the academic choices of the first year is that they are non-binding. Students can try multiple courses in different fields and find what they love the most, and they do not have to stick with a certain area of study if they do not want
to. Brandeis acknowledges how intellectually curious its students are, and encourages us to try many different courses by making it easy to double and triple major or minor. There are also interdisciplinary courses that apply for different majors or minors. My “Building the Massachusetts Constitution” course went towards both my Legal Studies minor and History major. After taking this course, I discovered that I had a passion for American legal history and wanted to do more with it. Now, I am doing groundbreaking research within this field, where I am documenting every moment of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention. This institution clearly supports first-years dabbling in different academic regions and wants to help them further develop their passions. Brandeis is most known for doing just that, especially in the research department. We are an R1 institute known for our Nobel Prize-winning faculty, such as Professors Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey Hall. Aside from the science research facilities, we have a women’s and gender research lab and research being done in the Near Eastern and Judaic studies department, among all of the other humanities and social sciences. While it is amazing that we have all these opportunities, what makes it better is that each and every one of them is accessible to firstyears. It is the norm for graduate students or upperclassmen to get these research positions in other schools, but Brandeis not only allows but encourages underclassmen to get their foot through the door and try. People can explain what it is like to do research; yet it is not until you are wearing white gloves in the archives or holding the test tubes in your hands that you can experience a passion you never thought you had. When you choose to go on an endless hunt to explore your current interests and those you may have never realized you had, you can take advantage of all Brandeis has to offer. The Brandeisian extracurriculars are all-inclusive and actively hope to find individuals with a passion for trying something new. Through the Brandeis Aviation Club, Brandeis helps you get a pilot’s license. In the MakerLab, you can 3D print and learn how to use the designing software for free. Through Brandeis’ annual hackathon, you can be hired for a job on the spot by the multiple companies that sponsor the event. Brandeis wants to enable you to prosper in every unique way possible. I had never debated or rowed before Brandeis,
READER COMMENTARY: KENNEDY III ARTICLE I am puzzled as to why Ellie Eiger (Brandeis ’20) and Congressman Kennedy in a recent article (“Congressman discusses US-Israel Relationship”) believe that the citizens of Gaza should vote in Israeli elections? Gaza has never been part of Israel. In the Biblical Period, it was the Land of the Philistines, one of Ancient Israel’s mortal enemies. From 1948-67, it was part of Egypt, and served as the staging point for the murderous Fedayeen raids. It is interesting to note that, just as Jordan never gave a moment’s thought to an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank during its occupation from 1948-67, Egypt never uttered a word about an independent Gaza, either. Israel left Gaza in 2006, withdrawing all of its citizens and leaving major agricultural and industrial structures intact when it ceded the area to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements. Within two years, the corrupt PA was ousted in an election that went to the more radical Hamas — and that was the last time Gazans (and West Bank Palestinians) had an opportunity to exercise the right to vote because the “democratic” Palestinian Authority has gone 14 years without another election! Gaza is not part of Israel, so its residents should not vote in Israeli elections. —Nathan Salant serves on the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America’s Letter Writers Board.
MEGAN GELLER/the Justice
but I was able to discover my love for both of these activities over the course of my first year. That being said, I realized that the activities I was continuing from high school were not ones I truly enjoyed. It was through broadening my horizons that I realized I had been following my old path because I felt like I should, rather than because I had actually wanted to. All first-years need to go through a moment of re-evaluation to ensure that they are doing what is best for their personal growth and development. Part of this reflection should include the types of relationships you have in your life. Over the course of the first year, it is natural for relationships to evolve. All first-years are in the same boat when they first arrive; they are eager to make friends and find a group they can fit in with. It is natural to feel like you belong to more than just one group of people with a specific set of interests, but many will stick to the first group of friends they made because they fear being labeled an outsider. Over the year, you find yourself
straying from some people and being drawn to others, which is the purpose of the first year of college: exploring relationships, finding the people who make you happy and your best self. Additionally, although it may feel like we have known our first-year friends for years after only a couple of months, it is important to realize we do not know nearly as much about one another as we think. That is what the next four years are for. Ultimately, college is a fresh start where you are given an opportunity to become the person you want to be. However, it is hard to know exactly who that individual is. The first year may seem like a giant race to find friends, your major and extracurriculars — all before you even have a chance to catch your breath. Yet it is the very opposite. Take those ten long strides into your first year by actively trying everything you heart desires, but take the rest of the academic year to settle into what you truly want to be a part of. It is finding those passions and not being afraid to take the risk and try.
Workplace bullying is corrupting politics By NOAEM SHURIN JUSTICE CONTRIBUTING WRITER
We’ve all heard the phrases, “if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say it at all,” “always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’”, and “treat others the way you want to be treated.” From kindergarten to grade school we’ve learned to treat each other with respect, assume each other’s best intentions and, in disagreements, engage with the best forms of each other’s arguments. Instances of workplace bullying and harassment are on the rise. Grown adults are currently bullying other grown adults in their very adult workplaces. This occurs so often that one in every three workers in Massachusetts will experience some form of workplace bullying. When I first heard that statistic, I was shocked. It is deeply concerning that adults have forgotten the basic principles of interaction and human decency any kindergartener could instinctively recite if asked. Taking a step back, I realized adults haven’t forgotten these norms. They’ve been retaught other more harmful ones. Recently, there’s been a shift in discourse. Politicians, the people we trust to shape the laws and norms of our society, have forgotten the crucial knowledge we learned in kindergarten –– specifically, the importance of refraining from the name calling and slandering we’ve been seeing during the current election cycle. People are becoming more concerned with how politicians dress than with their policies. Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive Office are all workplaces. The discourse among politicians is the government equivalent of workplace interactions. I would never expect to be shamed for dancing in college or wearing makeup in a workplace setting. My private life is of no concern to my employer because it has no impact on the way I do my job. This kind of concern with personal life happens in Congress all the time. What’s worse is that in a normal workplace I would have a human resources department to settle bullying disputes, but when part of the expectations of your job are public harassment and humiliation, there’s no way to remedy things when they’ve gone too far. By condoning and even praising this sort of behavior, we normalize it and shouldn’t be surprised when we see it in our workforce. This is why bills that target the work environment, like the Healthy Workplace Bill, are so crucial. The Healthy Workplace
Bill would expand worker’s rights by providing a clear definition of workplace bullying and expanding legal protections for both employees and employers. Employees would be able to sue for instances of workplace bullying that aren’t on the basis of protected class (i.e. race, gender and religious creed). This is necessary because there’s a lexical gap in our legal system that allows people to bully others because of their socioeconomic status, their region of origin, their style choices, or any other number of silly reasons to berate another human being. Simultaneously, it assuages fears of wrongful accusations by allowing employers to defend their actions if they provide evidence they were necessary to running the company. So firing someone because they were negligent would not be considered an instance of workplace bullying. Most importantly, however, it creates “vicarious liability,” which means that an employer can be held liable for harm to an employee even if the harm was not directly caused by the employer. For example, if the employer creates a culture where bullying is acceptable, they can be held liable for negligence. This is crucial because the way to reshape the work environment is to reshape employer incentives. If this bill passes, employers would be incentivized to take preventative measures in order to curtail workplace bullying. This could look like making boardroom meetings more inclusive to employees, rebuking bullying immediately when it becomes apparent and expanding HR departments by making people do more comprehensive, government-regulated, discrimination training. It is very difficult to change the work environment on the federal level, but putting laws in place that change it on the individual level would discourage people from emulating the behavior they see normalized by politicians. The Healthy Workplace Bill is a way to directly target the norms seeping into the workplace as a result of these harmful trends. Not addressing these issues now would mean knowingly letting another year of graduating seniors like myself enter the workforce without the legal protections they need. If you want to be a part of changing the work environment for the better, call your legislators and tell them to vote SD 1072 out favorably. If we all take the time to support the bill (and maybe email a few of our kindergarten teachers to get a refresher course), future graduating classes could enter a stronger and more accepting workforce.
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