President urges freshmen to begin a search for self
Cites Louis Brandeis as a man who understood the meaning of moral courage
Welcoming the Class of 2016 to campus at Gosman Sports and Convocation Center Sunday afternoon, President Fred Lawrence told the 820-plus new Brandeisians that the greatest act of moral courage is to be oneself.
He urged them to emulate the university’s namesake, Louis Brandeis, who accepted leadership of the American Zionist movement at great risk to his own career.
For Justice Brandeis, and at the university which bears his name, Lawrence said, “theory and practice do not pull in opposite directions.”
On this campus, “social justice is not just a branch of curriculum. It’s not just a part of life; it’s a way of life,” he said. Over the next four years, he said, members of the Class of 2016 will focus on the “act of creating yourself.”
Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan J. Birren, who welcomed incoming international students at a standing-room-only gathering in Levin Ballroom Friday, also stressed the centrality of social justice at Brandeis.
“The focus here is social justice,” Birren said. “It permeates everything we do. It influences the classes we take, the clubs we belong to... and the way we think about the world."
Both Lawrence and Birren emphasized that the missions of Brandeis as a liberal arts college and a teaching university were inextricably integrated. Throughout your time here. “you will be encountering people engaged in cutting edge research, and you are going to be part of that," Birren said. “What you're going to be learning in the classroom starting next week is what will be in the textbooks in 10 years."
Lawrence promised students that somewhere on this campus there is a professor who will “change your way of looking at the world and blow your mind,” and told them they will also make lifelong friends and possibly meet a future spouse.
“No pressure, but we like to think of ourselves as a full-service university,” he told the laughing crowd.
Mitchell Schwartz ’14, the student coordinator of orientation 2012, said that in conceiving the theme for this orientation, the committee tried to imagine “what describes this Brandeis experience that we all love so much.”
When they realized they were unable to do this, they made the theme “Out of This World.”
“This institution offers so much but it all stands idle until you access it,” he said, urging students to take advantage of every opportunity.
Andrew Flagel, senior vice president for students and enrollment, said students would have to make choices but urged them to “do everything” in their orientation period and early days.
Flagel, who recently took his 10-year-old son to the Lorax movie, quoted the beloved Dr. Seuss character in his charge to the freshmen: "Unless someone like you cares an awful lot, things are not going to get better. They're not."
So, Flagel continued, "we expect a lot from you.... We are counting on you to repair our world, to heal the sick, to feed the hungry and, God willing, to bring us peace."