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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: With publicity stunts, Brandeis loses

Published: March 30, 2012
Section: Editorials

If their goal was to embarrass Brandeis University in the Jewish community, they succeeded.

Whether you agree or disagree with Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Arabs, the two-state solution or Obama’s foreign policy, it is all immaterial. When a dozen Brandeis students interrupted Knesset speakers at a community event hosted at Temple Emanuel, they were wrong and unwelcome, and their actions reflected poorly on Brandeis.

As a reminder, Brandeis is a university and has a reputation for taking an intelligent approach to studying the current Middle East conflict. We have the opportunity to invite dynamic speakers to campus because of that reputation. Debate and discussion informed by facts not rhetoric should be and has been the goal.

But the outside world doesn’t care. When Brandeis students disrupt speakers and media outlets pick up the story, they don’t discuss Brandeis course offerings, academic excellence or faculty achievements. They focus on the sensational story. And our school’s reputation suffers.

This editorial board has time and again decried protest because it is antithetical to the central mission of the university, to investigate issues “unto their innermost parts.”

Speakers from all sides of the debate visit campus and the community, and we should treat all guests with the respect they deserve. We may not agree with everyone, but there are other forums for disagreement during question and answer sessions, through academic writing and through campus events.

Had the protesters listened to the politicians speak, they could have voiced the same opposition to their politics. But they could have done so respectfully. Rather than produce a video for a press release, they could have benefited from answers to their questions.

Disagreement is fine. Interruptions are not welcome. Protest is fine. Publicity stunts are not. Their negative message isn’t what Brandeis is about. It’s about time for the protesters who continually interrupt these events to graduate.