November 23, 2015
Statements of solidarity
Over the past two weeks, Brandeis community members have held a series of demonstrations to call attention to issues of diversity and race on campus. This call-to-action culminated in a list of demands that students sent to Interim President Lisa Lynch, after which the students began a sit-in outside of the president's office on Friday, November 20. You can read more about these events in this Boston Globe article.
Many in the Heller community have issued statements of support and solidarity with the student demonstrators. Below are messages from interim Dean Marty Krauss, the Heller Student Association, a joint statement signed by numerous Heller faculty, researchers and staff members and a link to a statement from Heller alumni.
A message to the Heller community from Interim Dean Marty Krauss
Dear Heller students, faculty and staff,
I applaud everyone in our community who has been involved in the protests on campus regarding the urgent need for an effective plan to address issues of race and discrimination at Brandeis. The university was founded to be open to all, to be a beacon of excellence in all we do and to be a model for other institutions. We are not meeting those principles.
On Friday night, I participated in the negotiation session with five students (two of whom are from Heller) that was led by President Lisa Lynch. The students were determined to get specific answers to their demands and Lisa, along with other senior administrators, were working hard to address those demands. Lisa had continued conversations with the Board of Trustees and other administrators over the weekend to discuss the demands, and last night she issued the university's response. But much more work is yet to come, as she details in her letter.
Here at Heller, we too have significant work to do. Last week, I received a strong and comprehensive set of tasks and recommendations from the Diversity Steering Committee. I thank all committee members for their hard work and concrete suggestions, and look forward to meeting with the committee to plan next steps.
I have also been meeting with a group of Heller students to plan a Community Day for Heller on January 12, 2016, the day before spring semester classes begin. The goal is to have a variety of sessions for students, faculty and staff on topics related to diversity and inclusion, effective teaching strategies and sexual harassment. There are many details yet to be settled, but I hope you will participate.
The emotional and physical intensity of the last few days may subside in the days to come, but my resolve to address issues of diversity and inclusion will not. I stand with our students, staff and faculty who are and have been involved in the demonstrations, as these issues are ever present and ever challenging.
HSA Statement in support of Concerned Students of Brandeis
Dear Heller Community,
We write to you today as your newly-appointed student representatives. We are humbled and honored that you trust us with this position, and hope to represent your needs and concerns to the fullest extent over the rest of the academic year.
Today, we exercise our capacity as representatives to lend support to the students participating in the sit-in demonstration in front of Interim President Lisa Lynch’s office in Bernstein-Marcus. Due to institutions of oppression that play out on college campuses and in the world, Black students - including students at Heller - do not feel accepted, safe, or included in classes or activities at Brandeis. Concerned students of this campus have a list of 13 demands to be met by the University’s Administration and Board of Trustees. These demands, when met, aim to create safer spaces for Black students.
The Heller Student Association stands in solidarity with the concerned students of Brandeis University who protect and honor Black lives and their demands.
As a graduate school whose belief is founded on the ideal of advancing social justice, we charge our Heller community once again with the task of being agents of change. This means having the difficult conversations about power and privilege, recognizing which ways we benefit from systems that disadvantage others, and working to fix those broken systems. This means holding each other accountable to what we say and how we treat each other. This means being an ally. We must confront the uncomfortable reality of systemic racism and oppression in our university, in the United States and around the globe, even if those in leadership won’t. We must increase visibility around these issues of oppression and not further oppress victims through silence or denial. Silence is violence.
Through this difficult time, we also ask that we continue to support each other. Your fellow students are asking for and deserve your support. Please reach out to those you know participating in the sit-in, offering your presence, solidarity, and strength.
With love and in solidarity,
Heller Student Association & the Heller Diversity Steering Committee Student Representatives
Statement of solidarity from Heller faculty, researchers and staff
The undersigned faculty, staff and researchers of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University stand in solidarity with the students who have occupied Bernstein-Marcus. They are seeking immediate action to align the University’s activities with its historic social justice mission. To the University’s shame, most of the student demands are not new and have been part of the campus conversation for years, but talk has trumped commitment, resources, and resolve. We, the undersigned faculty, staff and researchers at the Heller School, appreciate the students’ commitment to ensuring that the University’s actions are aligned with the vision of Justice Brandeis, our namesake. We believe it is our intellectual and moral obligation to support our students in their struggle to transform Brandeis into a truly 21st century university.
The students have eloquently articulated that Black faculty, staff and students face serious inequities on this campus, and ongoing efforts to improve these conditions are falling far short. We, the faculty, staff and researchers of the Heller School, concur that serious shortcomings in equity, diversity and inclusion prevent the Brandeis community from fulfilling its mission. New energy and a new vision are required. The students’ actions offer the University an opportunity to have an honest conversation about these issues and put forward mutually agreed upon tangible solutions. Echoing the social activism of the University’s founders, the students are demanding immediate action. We acknowledge that the slow pace of change is not acceptable, and that both meaningful structural and attitudinal changes are urgently needed to create a more inclusive and equitable Brandeis community.
We urge the University’s administration to take immediate steps to build a University community that is fully inclusive, and honors diversity in deed as well as word. We respect the students’ initiative to seize this historic moment, and offer the entire Brandeis community an opportunity to start a series of both corrective and proactive actions to end racial inequities at our university.
Jody Hoffer Gittell
Nina (Cornelia) Kammerer
Mary Jo Larson