Andrew Wingens of Livingston, a graduate of the Golda Och Academy in West Orange and a sophomore at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., has been named editor of the Brandeis student newspaper, The Justice.
Journalism is nothing new to Wingens, who was layout editor of GOA’s student newspaper, The Flame, while in high school.
“I knew I would want to work on the newspaper at Brandeis,” he told NJJN in an interview in its Whippany offices while he was home on Passover break. He headed to the newspaper office at the beginning of his freshman year, assuming he would work on layout again.
But after being assigned to cover student government, his interest in writing increased. “It adds something to my understanding of the university — knowing why people are planning events, or what people thought of the events,” he said.
He recently interviewed the university president, Frederick M. Lawrence. “I had to interview him while we were walking from a classroom to his office. It was a good experience,” Wingens recalled. “I felt like a real journalist.”
Wingens credits Golda Och Academy, which was still Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union when he graduated, with preparing him for the role of editor at the Justice.
“Working as an editor of the Justice is like a full-time job added on top of my course load. My experience with the dual curriculum at Schechter helped prepare me for the rigors of an editor’s schedule,” he said.
Wingens is self-effacing and — perhaps from having seen journalism from the other side of the desk — careful in his responses. He sent several follow-up responses via e-mail, unsolicited, following a face-to-face interview in the NJJN office.
He said he hopes to put his own stamp on the university’s weekly publication, which began in 1949, perhaps through increased coverage of the big issues. (Brandeis has a second community newspaper, known as The Brandeis Hoot, founded in 2005.)
One of the big controversies on campus, according to Wingens, is the cost of getting a Brandeis education. The administration announced recently that tuition would rise 4.1 percent for current students and 4.85 percent for new students.
Another issue is the number of students admitted each year.
“When the school was going through financial trouble, there was an increase in [yearly] class size,” Wingens said. “Now, the administration is coming to realize the school cannot maintain this larger class size and provide necessary services, including dining and housing, so they decided to cut the class size from 850 to between 800 and 820.”
A perennial issue at the “Jewish-sponsored” school is just how Jewish that means. The administration hasn’t always agreed with alumni on the answer to that question. In the April 3 edition of the Justice, a student columnist wonders why Brandeis doesn’t embrace its Jewish roots more, and even suggested the university offer a traditional Friday night dinner experience and let it become a “Brandeis thing.”
“I’m not quite sure how to answer,” said Wingens, who plans to major in politics and Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, when asked about the Jewish issue. “It is difficult to define how ‘Jewish’ Brandeis is because ‘Jewish’ means different things to different people and in different contexts.”
Later he followed up in an e-mail.
“You can be as Jewish or not Jewish as you want to be at Brandeis,” he wrote. “It is an open community that allows you to explore your religious identity. While the school has a Jewish cultural dimension, it is definitely a secular school sponsored by the Jewish community.”
A member of Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell, Wingens grew up in North Caldwell before his family moved to Livingston several years ago. His father, Gary Wingens, served as president of the board of Golda Och Academy from 2004 until 2006, when it was still Schechter, and currently chairs the UJC MetroWest Unified Allocations Committee. His mother is a member of the GOA board of trustees. He has two brothers in ninth and fifth grades, respectively, at GOA.
Listing his goals as editor, he said the on-line presence of the paper “could be improved,” with “a better integration of the print and on-line editions.”
He said he also hopes to expand the analysis offered in articles. “We need to focus more on what an event means in the context of the larger university,” he said.