Revised Story Pitch: Brandeis Sustainability Fund/Cassie Cain Interview

Pitch #1: Environmental issues at Brandeis through the lens of BSF’s Cassie Cain ’18.

Unknown to most Brandeis students, the University has a specific fund devoted to solving environmental issues and improving sustainability on campus. The Brandeis Sustainability Fund, or BSF, has been collecting $7.50 per student per semester since Fall 2011, and rarely receives more than one project proposal per semester.

Cacilda “Cassie” Cain ’18 is the newest student representative to the BSF, is involved in Brandeis Climate Justice, and knows the campus environmental scene better than anyone. She provides an insight into this powerful fund, and into the state of environmental issues on campus. I would like to ask her:

-who her mentors are in these areas,

-what she hopes to accomplish with the BSF,

-what was the first environmental group she joined on campus,

-where she sees this activism taking her after university,

-when she plans to review projects for the BSF,

-why she is interested in environmental studies,

-how she came to be involved in eco-friendly projects and environmental activism in general,

-and how she plans to impact sustainability on campus through the BSF.

After the BSF meets and chooses projects, I would want to meet with Cassie again. I would ask follow-up questions, such as:

-who proposed ideas,

-what kinds of projects were funded,

-how did the board choose between projects,

-how funding decisions were made,

-how many proposals, historically, does the board see per semester,

-and how the board plans to make the student body aware of BSF’s existence/abilities.





Possible Story Pitches for Class on 9/15

Pitch #1: Underused club resources at Brandeis.

Unknown to most Brandeis students, the University has two funds that students can use for club or independent projects. The Community Enhancement and Emergency Fund, or CEEF, can hold up to a quarter of a million dollars, and is currently full (and has been full for a year). The Brandeis Sustainability Fund, or BSF, has been collecting $7.50 per student per semester since Fall 2011, and rarely receives more than one project proposal per semester. In fact, almost all proposals coming from one class whose assignment is to make such proposals. Both funds have remarkably little oversight. I would like to investigate why students do not use these funds, and how the student representatives to these committees–Emma Russel for CEEF, Cassie Cain for BSF–promote and/or distribute funding.

Pitch #2: Town-gown relations, specifically between Waltham police and unofficial Brandeis greek life.

Students in Greek life often complain (and probably have always complained) about fraternity and sorority events being shut down early by police due to what these organizations see as undue security concerns. Frome one perspective, Brandeis’ suburban campus offers few places for students to congregate except for these houses. On the other hand, the greater Waltham community has a right to peace and quiet. At the same time, Waltham is deeply dependent on Brandeis, and thus on Brandeis’ students, for industry. I would like to interview members of the Waltham Police, as well as fraternity/sorority presents and Greek Awareness Council members, to investigate the diverse perspectives on this issue, and on the connection or dependency between Brandeis/Waltham. This story could interest members of Greek life at other suburban universities, police forces in other student-focused cities, the Brandeis administration and other Brandeis students.

Off-Campus Events: Both US Presidential Candidates Boot Press from Planes, But Only Clinton Seems to Be at Fault

For the first time since the tradition’s inception, press covering the US Presidential candidates will not fly on the candidates’ planes, says an August 28 New York Times article. Instead, reporters will be confined to the “zoo planes,” secondary planes originally designated for troublemaking journalists who had to be kept at an arms length from the candidates. The Times’ Jim Rutenberg frames this development in part as an outgrowth of Clinton’s policy of secrecy, exemplified by her email scandal, by her lack of interviews with election beat press, and by the Obama administration’s insufficient response to Freedom of Information requests. While Rutenberg does mention Trump’s issues with the media—notably, his ban on journalists he personally dislikes—Rutenberg’s commentary largely comes down on Clinton. (This double standard that Clinton, the nation’s first female presidential candidate, faces is certainly not her first. But its familiarity does not make it fair.)

The press has the opportunity to criticize Clinton precisely because of her previous transparency, her openness to media, her government experience, her many interviews, which she gives all across the country. That the Times would forget the foundation on which their argument stands weakens the argument itself is worrying on several levels.

On-Campus Events: Reevaluating General Education Requirements

This summer, Brandeis University announced that it would be reevaluating its general education requirements. An August 19 Hoot article noted that “[Dean of Arts and Science Susan] Birren said it has been over 20 years since Brandeis’ last ‘full assessment’” of the requirements, and a lot has happened in those 20 years. Most notably, Ford Hall and the current dialogue around the Black Lives Matter movement have spurred increasing consciousness about systemic racism on campus and the extent to which implicit biases are reflected in the general education requirements. Birren is working with survey data from students, staff, faculty and alumni to gauge the campus’ opinions on the requirements. With Harvard, Brown, and most recently Georgetown University making amends for their past and present biases, let’s hope that Brandeis can follow suit with a more socially just and inclusive general education curriculum.