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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: A cease-fire for protests

Published: April 8, 2011
Section: Editorials, Top Stories

As a community that purports to investigate issues thoroughly ‘unto their innermost parts,’ Brandeis should not tolerate the recent rash of protesters who have chosen to disrupt speakers discussing Middle East events.

We recognize that tensions run high on this issue, and that’s not a bad thing—after all, we should have a diversity of opinions on campus. But this back and forth rhetoric needs to stop.

On Monday, prominent Knesset members from all sides of the political spectrum visited Brandeis, and they deserved respect. Students had a chance to ask them questions; to ask, for instance, about Operation Cast Lead from 2008 or about Israel’s policies toward the West Bank. Doing so helps further debate and shows that Brandeis is a serious university where students truly are interested in learning.

Similarly, last semester, when Noam Chomsky came to campus, students had a chance to learn from a noted scholar, and whether or not they agreed with his views, they were again able to ask questions to delve deeply into issues.

In both cases, however, a small group of protesters chose to disrupt the proceedings and upset the speakers. These acts were disrespectful and do not reflect well on Brandeis as a university.

But that’s not the worst of it. When students protest, they may make the front page of the campus newspaper, but they show that they are no longer interested in learning and examining issues in the best traditions of a university.

This has become a self-perpetuating cycle, but there is an answer: treat others’ guests as you would want your own guests to be treated.

Student leaders and advocates on all sides of the debate can agree to disagree, but they must also agree to respect all speakers—our guests—when they visit campus. Ask tough questions, engage speakers, but do so in an academic context.

There’s no harm in an ever-polarized world in taking a step back and examining issues critically. After all, if we can’t even show that we can listen to others in our own campus community, how can we expect our leaders to take the right steps to improve the situation in the Middle East?