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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis’ Commitment to Social Justice Threatened

Published: March 9, 2012
Section: Opinions

On March 5 an article titled “BZA sponsors campus events for Peace Week” printed in the Justice misrepresented the Brandeis community and distorted the mission of the institution itself. The article focused solely on the Faces of Israel event, which featured five individuals who discussed their experiences living in Israel. The only quotation taken from the panelists in this article was that of a man referred to only as “David of Georgia” who stated, “Yes, we are Jews and it is a good thing; Jews are the diamonds of God. Like diamonds we are brilliant, like diamonds we have to have the press and the heat but finally we [become] the strongest element that nature can give.” As non-Jews in attendance at the Faces of Israel event, we found much of the dialogue to be non-inclusive. At an event promoting diversity, we were expecting the speakers to cater to an audience of varying backgrounds. We found, however, that much of the rhetoric was directed only toward the Jewish population and failed to inform others. Despite the fact that offense was taken to certain comments, the event did provide some important insight into Israeli life and culture. The few offensive comments that were made were beyond the control of BZA and were solely the opinions of the speaker. The event was intended to highlight the diversity of Israeli culture, but this quotation did just the opposite. It elevates a specific group of people and such language alienated many in attendance. Now that it has been published in the Justice, the quotation, originally a minor divergence from the otherwise engaging event, has become representative of the Faces of Israel event itself. As a result, it destroys the evening’s intended message. Even more toxic, the author goes on to connect the quotation to the entire Brandeis community by stating that, “Responses from the student population to the Faces of Israel were enthusiastic.” This statement is a sweeping generalization that misrepresents the student body and connects the institution to a quote that is clearly abhorrent. Regardless of personal sentiments or political beliefs, such language is inflammatory and offensive. As graduation approaches for high school students across the country and acceptance letters begin arriving, many students and their families are visiting college campuses in order to make their final decision. Students who have received or are awaiting an acceptance letter from Brandeis have no doubt been exposed to the school’s commitment to social justice. This main tenet of the school may even be the reason why many ultimately choose to come here. The student newspapers often offers a glimpse into the nature of the student body to these prospective students. This makes what it is printed in the newspapers even more important. The news section should be reserved for objective pieces that attempt to report on an event as it actually happened. There is no room for an author to make a comment on the entire student population and it is the editor’s duty to ensure that these pieces remain balanced and factual. Upon reading an article such as this, the student may cast doubt upon the university’s reputation and question the values that our community holds. This quotation is in no way representative of those members of our community who are committed to social justice. As members of the Brandeis community, we must do everything in our power to reject falsehoods such as those expressed by “David of Georgia” and that are presented as representative of the student body. For those who express a desire to preserve the nature of our institution and want to encourage a diverse environment on campus, we must defend Brandeis’ commitment to “ethnic and religious pluralism.”