5 Thought-Provoking Quotes from Inspiring Ethics Center Guests

April 25th, 2014

1. Eliza Dushku, actress and a social activist gave the Keynote Address: “Uganda By Way of Boston and Hollywood: A Social Justice Journey” at the 2013 ‘DEIS Impact “festival of social justice” together with her mother, Judith Dushku.


“The running joke in our family is that when other kids and families were going to Cancun or Hawaii for Spring break, our mother was bringing us somewhere where there had just been a revolution, there was about to be a revolution, or where she was going to start one.”
Full video. 


2. Dr. Patricia Hill Collins ’69, PhD ’84, is a Distinguished University Professor of Sociology at University of Maryland, College Park. She obtained her bachelor’s degree and completed doctorate at Brandeis. In October Dr. Collins received the fifth annual Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize, which recognizes outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations. (The Gittler Prize is hosted by the Ethics Center on behalf of the Office of the President.) Her prize lecture was titled “With My Mind Set on Freedom: Black Feminism, Intersectionality and Social Justice.”


“Intersectionality as a knowledge project that is committed to social justice finds itself pinioned between the rock of taking on intellectual and political agendas that ironically limit its emancipatory potential, and the hard place of seeing the tremendous human need for an analytical framework that can engage social injustices.”
Full video of her lecture and an interview hereExcerpt from transcript (see page 5).


3. Ruth Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service, delivered the keynote address at the inaugural ‘DEIS Impact “festival of social justice” in 2012, centering on the importance of local action as a crucial foundation for global results.


“And as much as I want many of you to go into international work, and as much as I hope that someplace in this audience is the future Secretary of State or future head of the Agency for International Development, I want to remind you that Westerners do not have all the answers.” Excerpt from transcript (see page 5).

4.  Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres, Rector Emeritus of Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and former President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Peru, delivered the keynote address for the symposium “Just Performance: Enacting Justice in the Wake of Violence,” hosted by the Center in December 2011. He spoke on “Memory of Violence and Drama in Peru: The Experience of the Truth Commission and the Yuyachkani Theater Group.”


“Art is divorced from both efficiency and efficacy…. its aim is to dignify all human beings – its business to shake us out of passive conformity to what is, and provoke us to dare explore what we can and should be.” Read his full comments in the original Spanish:  “Memoria de la violencia y dramaturgia en el Perú: La experiencia de la Comisión de la Verdad y el Grupo Yuyachkani” or in an English translation. Also available: an extended excerpt from transcript (see page 5).


5.  His Royal Highness Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, now a member of the Ethics Center’s International Advisory Board, gave delivered the second Distinguished Lecture in International Justice and Human Rights at Brandeis on January 30th, 2013: “Beyond Nuremberg: The Future of International Criminal Justice.” He was introduced by Donald Ferencz, son of Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz and co-founder and executive director of the Planethood Foundation.


“After all, was it not humanity’s retrospective awareness of how terrible miscalculations led to two world wars that subsequently produced a multilateral system of states centered on the United Nations, and ushered in a new family of multilateral treaties and human rights instruments, all enabled by a shrinkage in the geographic distances between us stemming from technology, increased air travel, vastly improved communications and a correspondingly huge expansion in commerce and banking, and then – as of late – the creation of a new international criminal justice system?”
Full videoFull transcript. Extended excerpt from the transcript (see page 5).


–Shota Adamia ’15, member of the Ethics Center Leadership Council

9 Ethics Center Rockstars That Will Blow Your Mind

April 8th, 2014

I guarantee you’ve never heard of many of these amazing individuals who have and continue to work to change our world.  Fun fact–each of these incredible people are or were at one point affiliated with the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life!  Read on for crazy amounts of inspiration…

1. Wendi Adelson ’01 ez-e27tbwGIcxUc2fcqAVWFqwdn5xBkuqGCAvtoAj-I 

Cover of Wendi Adelson’s 2011 novel This is Our Story

  • 1999 Sorensen Fellow who worked with The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina during her fellowship
  • Clinical professor at Florida State University College of Law
  • Director of a student-led legal clinic that provides free legal services (disability and immigration) to homeless, disabled and undocumented patients in Tallahassee, Florida.
  • Author of This is Our Story, a novel about human trafficking and the law in the United States, based on her own experiences with her clients, published in 2011. This is Our Story was selected as the work all first-year students will read and discuss for Florida State University’s “One Book/One Campus” shared reading program in 2014.
  • Read more about Wendi’s work in Argentina here

2.  Kate Alexander ’12 NOAp1PkVLHJ0IVjcv9IHUthDo4gH9SIj3j_lU7obqvw

3. Jocelyn Berger ’03 3P8EWUdK7_bvfZ4b-9R08g-vuySKkRtKVDdWSoC6b9A

Jocelyn Berger, at Brandeis in 2002, holding the publication that features the internship projects of the 2002 Sorensen Fellows. Read it here

  • 2002 Sorensen Fellow who worked in Sri Lanka
  • Has worked for a number of faith-based, secular, community, social justice, humanitarian, and peace building nonprofits and NGOs
  • Completed a Master’s degree in International Affairs at The Fletcher School at Tufts, focused on post-conflict peace building and development.
  • Currently works in community engagement and political organizing at American Jewish World Service
  • Read about her Sorensen Fellowship experience in Sri Lanka here

4. Will Chalmus ’07 VI6yewY7vy1ksvZuqcNJELz8NZtVHLrfucRG-n9qcAM

Will Chalmus, Natasha Faria, Eileen Kell, and Abigail Steinberg ’12 (right to left) during a Playback workshop at ‘DEIS Impact 2012. Photo by Sheila Donio

5. Richard J. Goldstone H ’04 wvBSQ4FvlUlDG7cWrAUHhNkMSHoLkp2NrB_3DLd7i48

Richard Goldstone (center) speaks during an Ethics Center sponsored event: “Extremists and The Challenge of Public Conversation”

  • Chair of the Center’s International Advisory Board
  • Retired Justice for the Constitutional Court, South Africa
  • Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda
  • Succeeded Kofi Annan as Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court
  • Faculty Advisor for the Brandeis Institute for International Judges since 2002
  • Read more about Judge Goldstone here

6. Daniel Koosed ’08  PH7QI06je1Offfg-2xYal6rMOUgk75gkvMOnLp6stz8

Sorensen Fellow Daniel Koosed ’08 (third from left) in Arusha, Tanzania in 2007

  • 2007 Sorensen Fellow who worked in Arusha, Tanzania as an Academic Intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR):
  • Attended law school at the University of Miami where he obtained another fellowship and returned to Arusha as a Legal Intern during the summer of 2010
  • Koosed passed the Florida Bar Exam and is now working full time as an associate immigration attorney in Miami with a law firm called Rodney & Rodney & Bernstein, P.A.
  • Read more about Daniel’s Sorensen Fellowship in Tanzania here

7. Rebecca Miller ’13 ci8Dum8-XaePVkdb4aSmXydx7amIv_QHiQwyLmiKelk

Rebecca Miller (left) at the Massachusetts State House (Photo: Ruth Weld)

  • Member of the Advocacy For Policy Change class in the spring of 2011
  • Lobbied for a Massachusetts state bill that guaranteed 15 non-paid days of leave for victims of violence and sexual assault
  • Won an Advocacy Policy Change award that allowed her to build on her lobbying efforts by undertaking other advocacy initiatives the following summer (See “Awards support student summer advocacy work”)
  • Now works as legislative aide to Massachusetts State Representative Tom Sannicandro and is assisting current Advocacy for Policy Change students with their efforts on Beacon Hill!
  • Read more about Rebecca’s work in Advocacy For Policy Change here

8. Michael Ratner ’66 MichaelRatner

Michael Ratner (at right) speaking with other Ethics Center International Advisory Board members at “Social Justice and the University: Perspectives from the U.S. and Abroad” in 2012

  • Member of the Ethics Center board
  • President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York and is Chairman of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin
  • He and the Center for Constitutional Rights are currently the attorneys in the United States for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He is still trying to get Guantanamo closed and the indefinite detention scheme it spawned ended
  • Writes and litigates on the enforcement of the prohibition on torture and murder against various dictators and generals who travel to the United States
  • In 2006, the National Law Journal named Ratner as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States

9. Aziz Sohail ’13   95TTnCSF21MjOl6cP1PeWtJsF9rGhkyXbelR-WEYaf4 


–Talia Lepson ’16, member of the Ethics Center Leadership Council

10 Most Inspirational Moments from ’DEIS Impact 2014

March 26th, 2014

Agonizing that you couldn’t make all 55 ‘DEIS Impact 2014 events? No worries! Here are the 10 moments I found particularly inspirational. For more information on the incredible speakers, performances, and events that took place, click here. What inspired you? Let me know below!


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1. “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Ndaba Mandela took several deep breaths before quoting from his grandfather’s inauguration address. ‘DEIS Impact keynote address



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Photo: Sister Helen speaking at Social Justice and “Protest, Politics and Change: Social Movements” (SOC 155b) taught by Prof. David Cunningham during ‘DEIS Impact College.

2. Sister Helen Prejean describing the hero in her book, Dead Man Walking, as the father of a murdered teenager fighting the death penalty because he knew it’s not what his daughter would have wanted. Dead Men Still Walking: A First-Hand Account of Death Row by Death Penalty Activist Sister Helen Prejean



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3. Alum Blanca E. Vega ’98 (second from right in photo) describing the racism she faced as a Latina on the Brandeis campus and how it motivated her to advocate for racial equality in higher education, reminding students that social justice begins at home. 3rd Annual Brandeis SoJust Leadership Forum




4. The courage and empathy filling the room at Queerlogues, an event where students explored LGBTQ issues through poetry, song and monologue. Queerlogues



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5. The sobering Harry Potter Alliance event “Magic Can’t Create Food, Can You?” demonstrating the difficulty low income Americans face cooking a nutritious diet … and getting a shout out from Brandeis alum and HPA founder Andrew Slack ’02. Magic Can’t Create Food, Can You?




6. Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy personally thanking students for volunteering their time at the Chill Zone, stressing that even one act of service is social justice. Brandeis Unites in Service




7. The emotional and personal film “Seoul Train” shown by Brandeis Liberty in North Korea taking students for a heart-wrenching ride as North Koreans attempted to flee to freedom. The Secret Underground Railroad Out of North Korea



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8. Damiana Andonova ’15 sharing her experience as a Sorensen Fellow witnessing discrimination against Roma infants in Bulgaria during “Recognizing the Roma Conflict – An Exploration of Human Rights.”



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9. The rhythmic heartbeat of communal drumming at the Brandeis Beats event “Beats of Peace” as Peacebuilding and the Arts Director Cynthia Cohen told a story describing a Hutu and a Tutsi drummer traveling and performing together in an effort to combat ethnic tensions in Rwanda. Beats of Peace




10. The enthusiasm, dedication, and determination of the ‘DEIS Impacters, the ‘DEIS impact steering committee, and Ethics Center staff that made it all possible.

- Mia Katan ’15 member of the Ethics Center Leadership Council

‘DEIS Impact explores LGBTQ Issues

March 14th, 2014

With its aim to tackle issues regarding social justice, ’DEIS Impact 2014 featured events covering a wide range of subjects, one of them being issues faced by the LGBTQ community.

Two of the most striking events regarding these issues were “Queerlogues” (read a Hoot article about the event: “‘Queerlogues’ demonstrates Brandeis’ LGBTQ pride”) and “Breaking the Silence on LGBTQ Sexual Violence” (see a ’DEIS Impact Blog post about the event, written by a ‘DEIS Impacter).

“Queerlogues” was arranged by the Queer Resource Center and featured multiple performances by Brandeis students. The aim of the event was to provide a safe space for participants to share their stories, hardships they have faced and courage they have found through the support of empathetic people they have encountered. Students read poetry, performed songs, read vivid monologues and left the audience empowered – most of the listeners with tears in their eyes.

One could sense that most of the people in the room felt an inexplicable connection with others, shattering the negative social constructions that tend to obstruct one’s capacity for empathy even against one’s kind will. Performers disclosed what was under their external layer of conduct and reminded the audience of the depth of human feelings, magnitude of one’s bias and actions on other people’s lives and the importance of human loyalty.

I left “Queerlogues” feeling empowered after seeing a large group of passionate individuals, yet I could not forget about the grim aspect of the human nature – violence that often exhibits itself from individuals whom one would least suspect. After all, can one definitely tell if a particular person is capable of sexual violence per se  – an issue unfortunately prevalent in the modern society?

“Breaking the Silence on LGBTQ Sexual Violence,” the second above-mentioned event, concentrated on occurrences of sexual violence on the LGBTQ community and ways of addressing and hopefully reducing, if not exterminating that violence. The event was hosted by the Queer Policy Alliance club and featured two speakers who provided the audience with statistical information, as well as gloomy details of the subject.

Speakers conducted a small workshop that put the audience in the position of encountering a case of sexual violence and gave them suggestions on how one can address the problem. We were provided with details about resources to reach out to in case of encountering such a case (for resources visit Boston Area Rape Crisis Center).

Both of these events restated the importance of activist work, as well as of tackling individual cases of oppression with the aim of achieving social justice and ensuring the protection of human rights of every single member of the community. I was moved and inspired by both of these events and I do hope that more students start to pay attention to the issue that affects our entire community.

– Shota Adamia ’15

Social Justice & Social Networking

February 7th, 2014

Students, alum and faculty braved the snow Wednesday evening and gathered with anticipation to hear ‘DEIS Impact keynote address, “Africa Rising: The Mandela Legacy & the Next Generation of African Leadership.” Continuing the legacy of their grandfather, Kweku Mandela-Amuah and Ndaba Mandela spoke of Africa Rising, which seeks to publicize the positive image of Africa. Kweku and Ndaba spoke of youth empowerment, the contagious potential of ideas, and inherent risk in truly striving for social justice.


Prof. Chad Williams, Chair of the Afro and African American Studies Department, moderates a Q&A with 'DEIS Impact keynote speakers Ndaba Mandela and Kweku Mandela-Amuah.

Prof. Chad Williams, Chair of the Afro and African American Studies Department, moderates a Q&A with ‘DEIS Impact keynote speakers Ndaba Mandela and Kweku Mandela-Amuah.


Praising Brandeis student body’s unique commitment to social justice, Kweku stressed that it is our inevitable failure in the struggle for social justice that makes it such a unique and meaningful burden to undertake. He emphasized that despite the inherently elusive goal of a just society ‘DEIS Impact is the essential embodiment of intent that drives our ideas forward. In this way, ‘DEIS Impact is, “the best of who we are and are inspired to be.” Kweku concluded by reiterating that true change requires risk, fearlessness, and action.

Ndaba Mandela balanced the crushing challenges Africa faces with the enormous natural strengths it possesses as a continent. In Ndaba’s view, the diversity of Africa’s fifty-four nations does not detract from its ability and necessity to unite. The African Dream must rise above and over power the global perspective of an Africa teeming with war, dictators, and poverty. Ndaba called for Brandeis to mobilize against injustice locally by holding our own Mandela Day to celebrate public service. Ndaba left us with the words of his grandfather, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Following the Mandela’s words of inspiration I went home and logged on to mandelaproject.com for a taste of social justice networking. I was intrigued by the unexpected combination of Brandeisians’ two favorite pastimes – Facebook and social activism. The Mandela Project seeks to be a sounding board of inspiration where global citizens share their hopes for Africa and the world. The site immediately offered to transfer my Facebook information into their platform where I then received an automated welcome message from Ndaba Mandela himself. A Facebook-meets-Tumblr coated in Nelson Mandela’s face it’s certainly a unique take on honoring Mandela’s legacy. However, this marriage of the Internet and political activism seems a natural following the integral role of social media in the Arab Spring. While I don’t anticipate transferring my communications to Mandela Project I do believe it represents an inevitable shift towards online political organizing. As Ndaba and Kweku continue to experiment at the vanguard of youth organizing I can only hope they find a way to transfer the time and mental energy poured into social media towards collective action for a better world.

‘DEIS Impact continues at Brandeis through Monday February 10. The full schedule is here, the Facebook page is here, and videos are here.

– Mia Katan ‘15

Getting To Know The Ethics Center

January 24th, 2014

What is the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life? Can you give a clear, comprehensive explanation about what the Ethics Center is? Prior to accepting a position on the Ethics Center Leadership Council last June, I sure couldn’t.


It’s easy to become involved with the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.  The Center is incredibly multifaceted in its programming and offers plentiful leadership opportunities for both students and professionals alike. On the other hand, however, it’s also really easy to involve one’s self with a specific program and forget to take advantage of the other areas the Center has to offer.


The Ethics Center is such a multifaceted organization that coming up with one, comprehensive explanation about the inner workings of the Center is really difficult.  The official mission of the Ethics Center is “to develop effective responses to conflict and injustice by offering innovative approaches to coexistence, strengthening the work of international courts, and encouraging ethical practice in civic and professional life.”


You can read all about the six guiding principles of the center, “an international focus,” “the public square,” “across the disciplines,” “a bridge between scholarship and practice,” “the perspective of the arts,” and “connections to communities” right here.


As a Politics major, the international justice programming acted as a catalyst that inspired me to become involved with the Ethics Center.  When I came to Brandeis as a midyear freshman last winter, I was immediately drawn to ‘DEIS Impact.  Judy and Eliza Dushku, who founded THRIVE Gulu—an nonprofit organization based in Gulu, Uganda that aids Ugandans in healing from various traumas by enhancing their self-sufficiency and self-esteem—gave the Keynote Address. Hearing their inspirational stories ignited a fire that ultimately led me to apply for the ECLC.


After learning more about the Ethics Center as an ECLC member, I became intrigued by Peacebuilding and the Arts and Campus Programming. As a Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies minor, promoting peace by means of creating art was really inspirational to learn about. And regarding campus programs, who doesn’t want a $4000 grant to carry out humanitarian work anywhere in the world?!


For me, the most rewarding part about being involved in the Ethics Center is having access to an incredible network of motivated students and faculty who are all working to promote justice and better the world. Whether it’s learning about student initiatives to promote peace by creating art, reading the work of international judges discussing contemporary issues in international justice, or speaking with Sorensen Fellows who just came back from a summer-long fully funded internship abroad, I am constantly in awe of the resources and programming offered through the Ethics Center.


Starting this February 1, the Ethics Center is sponsoring ‘DEIS Impact 2014, a weeklong festival of social justice. Rumor has it, Nelson Mandela’s grandsons will be speaking at the keynote address! Be sure to check out the schedule of events for a complete breakdown of the entire festival!


If you’d like to become involved in the Ethics Center, please check out our upcoming events. We’d love to see you there!


-Talia Lepson, ’16

Beyond Words

January 16th, 2014

I’ve always loved to draw. The margins of my chemistry notebooks are dotted with doodles, my dorm room walls are plastered with sketches of landscapes and flowers. Until I became a member of the Ethics Center Leadership Council, art had always been about the aesthetic.

The Peruvian theatre group, Grupo Cultutural Yuyachkani, performs at Brandeis

The Peruvian theatre group, Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani, performs at Brandeis

Art took on new meaning when outreach for Peacebuilding and the Arts became my semester project for the ECLC. The Peacebuilding and the Arts program views art as a medium for conveying stories about conflict and reconciliation. Past work includes the Dor Guez exhibit at the Rose Art Museum, the documentary, Acting Together on the World Stage, and a performance by the Thai theatre artist and social activist, Kop. Throughout the fall semester, I learned just how important art can be for people living in areas of conflict and their search for peace.

Last October, I visited Dr. Cindy Cohen’s class, PAX250, “The Arts of Building Peace.” The students had been assigned to interview people who had struggled with conflict and use any type of media to create pieces that demonstrated the interviewees’ resilience. Video footage of a Holocaust survivor, a poem about a student who travelled the world and was imprisoned in a foreign country, a song written about an Israeli soldier…I found it incredible that experiences of people I had never met could move me so much. The stories were certainly noteworthy, but I think it was the artful depictions that played to my emotions. Indeed, the art evoked feelings that are beyond words.

Last November I visited PAX250 again. This time, a special presentation was made by Jane Wilburn Sapp, a renowned musician and cultural worker who grew up during the Civil Rights Era in the American South. By the end of the session, everyone in the overfilled classroom joined Jane to sing, “There’s a River Flowing in my Soul.” Music is infectious, and Jane’s messages were unanimously received. 

This Spring Dr. Cindy Cohen is offering students interested in music, peacebuilding, and the Civil Rights Movement a unique internship/ independent study opportunity documenting the life and work of Jane Sapp. Students will act as videographers, transcribers, and researchers and have the chance to work with Jane in a workshop setting. Jane’s work has the ability to bring people back to the civil rights era, a time that Brandeis students rarely think about. Understanding the struggles of others, I believe, makes us feel whole, and there is no greater unifying force than art.

While words come in different languages, art is universally understood. In a few days I’ll be leaving to study abroad in South Africa, a land recovering from Apartheid. I wonder what kinds of art forms I will encounter that will help me understand the struggles faced by the people who live there and their ability to gain peace.


-Erica Granor ’15

International Justice 101

November 12th, 2013

Brandeis provides several avenues for undergraduates to get a taste of international law. Students have unique access to a variety of opportunities from a semester-long immersion to a three day internship. Whether living in Europe or interning in Africa is your style there are resources at Brandeis to help you get there. Check out how you can get involved below!

#1. Brandeis in The Hague

From biking cobblestone streets and shopping at farmer’s markets to tulips and canals the Netherlands is possibly the most amiable country in which to learn about crimes against humanity. The Brandeis in the Hague Program offers students the opportunity to spend their Spring semester or summer immersing themselves in international justice. Students gain hands on experience by visiting tribunals, participating in mock trials, and interning at prestigious institutions. Past internships include: the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Court, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and various defense teams for leaders convicted of war crimes. Approximately 10-15 rising First-years, Sophomores, and Juniors are accepted each year.

Several students have chosen to complement the Hague Program with a second study abroad experience in countries such as Brazil, Senegal, and Uganda. The Brandeis in the Hague Program offers an incredible opportunity for students to immerse themselves in international criminal law while living and traveling in Europe.

Here’s The Hague program website for more info: http://www.brandeis.edu/abroad/brandeisprograms/hague/index.html

Click here to learn about student internships in The Hague:



#2. Sorensen Fellowship

Have a particular project or organization you’re passionate about? Consider applying for the Sorenson Fellowship next year. Sophomores and juniors selected receive a $4000 stipend for a summer internship. ($3500 for domestic internships.) After returning to campus, students take a course to reflect and publish an article based on their experience. The Sorensen Fellowship offers an incredible opportunity to intern domestically or abroad in an area of interest and a holistic approach of both pre-departure preparation and post-internship reflection.

Learn more about the Sorensen Fellowship at:


For an example of how this fellowship can lead to a future career in international law check out Daniel Koosed’s (’08) reflections on his internship at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania as a Sorensen Fellow:


#3. Brandeis International Institute for Judges

Students looking to get a glimpse of how the international judiciary functions can apply through a competitive process to intern at the annual Brandeis International Institute of Judges, held every 18 months. Interns have the opportunity to document the conference and help it run smoothly. The BIIJ is attended by judges serving on international courts and tribunals from across the globe. Past interns have greatly appreciated the experience to interact with professionals in the field.

Check out this link for more information on BIIJ:


Click here to read the BIIJ interns’ reflections on their experience:


Need more?

Subscribe to the newsletter International Justice in the News published by the Ethics Center:


Post-Mubarak Life for the Zabaleen Community

October 17th, 2012

In 2010, Sorensen Fellow and Brandeis alum Madeleine Stix ’12 worked in Manshiett Nasser in Cairo with the Zabaleen, a Coptic Christian community in predominantly Muslim Egypt. A summary of her experience and her insights can be found in her essay “Treasure Amidst Trash: Preserving Community in the World’s Largest Garbage City” in the Brandeis Ethics Center’s publication Shifting Perspectives: Encountering Community in a Changing World. The Zabaleen are the largest community of informal garbage collectors in the world and are the focus of the widely acclaimed film Garbage Dreams, which Madeleine helped to promote during her time serving in Egypt. In her essay, Madeleine describes the origin of the Zabaleen community and the religious and economic discrimination they face in current-day Egypt. Migrating from Upper Egypt to Cairo 70-80 years ago, the Zabaleen used to work as rural pig breeders, but were forced to relocate to the Cairo landfills due to agrarian reforms by Pres. Gamal Abdel Nasser that evicted the Zabaleen minority from rural lands.

In 2009, in an effort to “clean up” the Zabaleen landfill slums in Cairo, the Egyptian government enforced the mass slaughter of 300,000 of their pigs, destroying the livelihoods of many waste scavengers. Stix interned with the Spirit of Youth Association, started by local Zabaleen waste scavenger Ezzat Naim Guindy, to help implement a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant to introduce the marginalized Zabaleen community into the formal waste system in Egypt. To do this, she helped promote a strategy known as source separation, where the Zabaleen, rather than scavenge the waste in the landfill, actually start separating their waste at the source in waste management facilities to make it easier for them to recycle. The Spirit of Youth Assoc. also established a Recycling School for Boys, where boys bring plastic containers to the school and fill out a form showing how many bottles they’ve retrieved (learning reading, writing, and arithmetic in the process) to aid their work.

Since the fall of Mubarak, the Zabaleen have continued to face adversity and discrimination. Since the Egyptian Revolution, progress on the Gates grant and the recycling project in Egypt has been suspended due to continued religious and socioeconomic discrimination against the Zabaleen community (Madeleine Stix, Oct. 17, via e-mail). According to Stix, when Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood Party was elected President of Egypt earlier this year, he promised to resolve Egypt’s waste management issues through the “Clean Homeland Campaign”, that models a new waste management system based on Turkey’s current system. The question still remains whether the marginalized Zabaleen will be introduced into the formal waste management system and permitted to work at the source of waste collection sites, or whether the reforms will abandon the Zabaleen community and only involve multinational waste management companies. Although the Zabaleen and the Spirit of Youth Association would like to continue their work on their Gates initiative and would like to work alongside the multinational organizations to build an effective organic and non-organic recycling process, few know what to expect for Egypt as a whole, let alone the Zabaleen community, under the new Morsi regime (Madeleine Stix, Oct. 17, via e-mail).

“Choosing One’s Commitments to Causes”: A Review of the February 2012 Ethical Inquiry

October 9th, 2012

During the past two weeks, I have attempted to examine, promote, and engage the ethical factors underpinning one’s chosen commitments to causes (as outlined by Leah Igdalsky ’14 in the Ethics Center’s February 2012 Ethical Inquiry). Igdalsky’s Ethical Inquiry attempts to elucidate several rich and complex issues regarding one’s selected path of social justice by juxtaposing and analyzing methods of committing to a cause. The issues discussed include the relative impact of local versus global action, the comparative effects of advocating for one’s own identified group versus demonstrating global justice advocacy, and the relative effectiveness of contributing money versus time to a social justice organization.

As I read the issues presented, several firsthand and secondhand experiences of social justice action came to mind. For instance, the discussion of local versus global justice reminded me of a heated discussion at the Friday night panel in the Millennium Campus Conference in Northeastern (Sept. 16-17, 2012) between Daniel Cordon, Director of Transitional Employment for the nonprofit Haley House Bakery Café in Boston and Maya Cohen, Executive Director of the student-led global health organization GlobeMed. Cordon highlighted the hypocrisy of students seeking to affect global change when they neglected to first face challenges of poverty and inequality in their own backyard. Cohen, in contrast, underscored the fact that dollars go further in developing countries where the need is greater and that solving community issues abroad can help find solutions for local problems at home and vice versa.

It became readily apparent, however, that criticizing one method in favor of another was an unproductive and unhealthy conversation as both are worthy paths that deserve equal fervor and attention. When I asked Brandeis professor and RESULTS Boston Global Leader Cynthia Tschampl about this dilemma, she gave me this piece of advice (quoting American theologian Frederick Buechner): “vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need”. One may discover their vocation through a series of “a-ha moments” that expose them to issues (local or global) that inspire them to act. Brandeis Heller School Professor Sarita Bhalotra encountered her “pivotal experience” when she went to medical college in India and was for the first time exposed to the dire conditions in which the majority of India actually lived. These experiences shaped her vocation to study medicine and health policy and teach students about global health care delivery as it relates to social inequities.

In her discussion of in-group help vs. supporting foreign groups, Igdalsky also brings up several valid points. For instance, when she states how helping one’s own group is often beneficial because the individual already is aware of the group’s dynamics and needs, I was reminded of a fellow intern during my global health service trip to Venezuela last year. Because she was Venezuelan herself, she was able to infer local customs and language better than us, giving our otherwise foreign group greater legitimacy in the eyes of the local community. On the other hand, striking a balance between supporting one’s own native or local community and pursuing global justice is a responsibility of the informed global citizen. Professor Tschampl advised me to keep in mind that one’s commitment to local and global actions changes as one’s obligations evolve through life’s various stages. She describes how as long as she was single, she could contribute more than 10 hours a week to groups working against local and global poverty, but as she begins to start a family, she will have to alter her time commitment to these causes and contribute in other ways.

In the section “How to Help? Money vs. Time”, Professor Tschampl agrees somewhat with Igdalsky’s assertion that foreign aid to developing countries can create opportunities for misuse. However, she disagrees with the contention (which cites a 2006 report by the National Academy of Public Administration called Why Foreign Aid to Haiti Failed) that the Haitian government should be blamed for its mishandling of the “billions” of dollars in foreign aid prior to the earthquake in 2010. The source cited in the inquiry claims that the presidential election in 2000 won by Jean-Bertrand Aristide had a participation rate of only 5% by registered Haitian voters. However, according to several sources (such as Melinda Miles and Eugene Charles’ book Let Haiti Live and the International Coalition of Independent Observers of the 2000 Haitian election), the participation rate was closer to 60% and the election of Aristide was deemed free and fair.

As a result of skewed U.S. opinion that the election was a fraud, the Bush administration led a crippling embargo on the Haitian government in 2000 that impeded improvements in education, roads, health care and water supplies (according to Tracy Kidder’s 2004 New York Times article “Why Aristide Should Stay”). Concurrent U.S. policies led by Rep. Hyde and Sen. Helms assured that no aid was provided to the government of Haiti, helping to ensure the ineffectiveness of both “aid” and government  (C. Tschampl, via e-mail, Oct. 7, 2012). After reviewing several sources, it becomes clear that the mishandling of aid was the result of U.S. interference at multiple levels rather than the Haitian government’s misuse of the aid.

Another revision was suggested by RESULTS Educational Fund Advocacy Associate Allyson Goldsmith (Brandeis alum ’10), who proposed that the “How to Help” section should also include advocacy and policy change. This issue is implied in the “More Questions” section, but could be elaborated on further as it is often just as important as direct service or money contributions in changing global and local policies and is an important aspect of the Ethics Center’s work. For instance, the Ethics Center launched Advocacy for Policy Change in 2009 along with the Legal Studies Department at Brandeis, giving undergraduate students the tools to advocate for legislative reform. Students such as Ethan Davis ’11 and Mark Garibyan ’11 were given the opportunity to become educated on local issues such as human trafficking in Massachusetts by speaking with advocacy leaders and calling their Congresspeople about passing important bills (page 16 of the Sept. 2011 Student Report) .

Their advocacy efforts undoubtedly made an impact as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick finally signed anti-human trafficking legislation into law in Nov. 2011 (H. 3808, “An Act Relative to the Commercial Exploitation of People“). Likewise, global advocacy for legislative policies related to human trafficking is just as important. For instance, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which authorized the State Department to establish global standards for confronting trafficking and slavery, has currently expired and has yet to be renewed by Congress (S. 1301, “Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2011). This issue deserves equal if not greater attention as many agree that human trafficking is modern day slavery (see Pres. Obama’s speech on 9/25/2012 at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting). All in all, the inquiry brought up many interesting ideas and dilemmas, but could be revised to address the above suggestions.

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