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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

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Published: April 1, 2011
Section: Editorials

I am writing to express my disappointment in the treatment of the issue of our classmates retuning home from their Japan study abroad trips early. Your article was, on the surface, informative. It included quotes from the director of study abroad, as well as the president of the university. It seemed like everyone who had something to say was represented. Except for the students themselves, that is.

How is it possible that a student newspaper failed so utterly in finding out the viewpoints of their peers? How was it that my fellow students and good friends in Japan were not interviewed? Asked their opinions? Asked if there was anything else they would like to comment on, if there was perhaps another story to be reported? Because, as it turns out, there was another story.

Even a simple scan of the most content-light source of all—Facebook—could tell a story far more interesting, impactful, and important than the citation from the president’s blog. First came the cancellations of the program due to legal constraints, followed by the false promise of a waiver to stay in the country that was rescinded as quickly as it was offered. Then, final, irrevocable letters of deportment were sent not to the students themselves (who, by the way, are in their 20s, not in kindergarten) but to their parents, with no recourse for discussion?

Forget about facts, what about feelings? What about Gabrielle Geller, who said she was “honestly and devastatingly heartbroken” on facebook? What about Rachel Soule, who is having to deal with her program’s strange quasi-cancellation—72 hours until her flight and still no word—and getting her education back on track after an empty semester? Or the frustration Ben Swartz felt when I skyped him to discover he would be flyng back to the US in three days? I found no fault at all in Mr. Van Der Meid’s comments—they’re doing the best they can with a bad situation—but please don’t tell me that the Study Abroad office’s official statements are the be-all and end-all of the issue. Also, let’s not hide behind a shield of journalistic stoicism either. Not adding a single student quote is either blatant negligence in reporting or a sign of misplaced purpose on the part of The Hoot.

I refuse to believe that sufficient, timely effort was taken to contact students. I will also not accept that my personal connection to those effected yielded me special information. If any newspaper is to be legitimate, it is up to them to legitimately follow through on their stories, and I assure you that any of my friends would have been glad to discuss the true nature of their experience if contacted in a responsible and timely manner. One guy on facebook found all this out, and any one piece of this puzzle should have alerted the reporting staff that perhaps the study abroad office wasn’t the right place to be sending emails.

As someone who studied abroad himself, it is not only upsetting to see the viewpoints of Brandeisians not physically on campus so woefully unrepresented, but also to be wantonly cast aside in a matter which directly relates to them. When the archives of the Hoot are online and Brandeisians of the future want to see what Brandeis’ small part was in the giant history of this tragedy, I fear they will be sadly disappointed in what they find. I know that I, in the present, sure am.

Many thanks for your consideration.

— Jesse Appell ’12