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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Banner over Rabb highlights students’ displeasure with Lawrence

Published: September 19, 2014
Section: Opinions

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, should probably step down from his post due to being grossly overwhelmed by most of the problems he faces. The recent fiasco surrounding the suspension of running back Ray Rice has pushed most football fans over the edge, and a majority of them want to see him gone as they think he is ruining the league single-handedly. Yet more and more problems arise that the NFL is simply not handling with any grace, such as the concussion lawsuits and general safety for the players.

As the public face of the league, Goodell sets the precedent and tone for the NFL and his comments are representative of the entire league. One of the reasons why he probably will not resign is that the owners, who collectively promoted him to the position in 2006, are making money hand over fist as the league has expanded every year in terms of popularity and profit. Goodell has continually made poor decisions that make him seem completely out of touch with the players and fanbase. All of this sounds a little similar to our own president here at Brandeis, Fred Lawrence.

Both are great at raising funds and expanding their institutions; Lawrence led the school out of some of its darkest days, and Brandeis is thriving once again in terms of endowment. They both ultimately have to answer to a governing body that isn’t determined by the people of their respective communities (as the board of trustees hired Lawrence in 2010). While he clearly doesn’t have the national attention of Roger Goodell, Lawrence has also come under fire recently due to comments he has made.

Walking up the Rabb steps the past few days has caused some delays as students stop and stare at the large white sheet hanging from the pillars with a quote from President Lawrence plastered across it. “We’re not here to protect you, we’re here to prepare you for the real world,” reads the quote. Offered in response to the protesters at the “Light of Reason” ceremony last Wednesday evening, the irony in that statement is thick, and Lawrence was probably not expecting these words to be turned on him so quickly and in such a visual manner.

President Lawrence probably realizes now, after reading his own words, just how misguided they were, especially when said in front of an audience of donors, students, faculty and community members. Saying that the university is not here to protect students, students who have been assaulted or violated in some way, is a terrible position to take. Then to add on the aspect of preparing them for the real world, which consists of unaddressed cases of sexual violence, makes it all the more pretentious.

Students have every right to be angry about this, as Lawrence said something completely wrong. Part of the problem is that this particular phrase has been used by Lawrence in countless other speeches he has given, mostly ones during Orientation and other introductory activities. He has a bank of pithy sayings that he constantly draws from, making him seem all the more robotic and orchestrated. It is disheartening to think that the president of our university might be headed down this path of being out of touch with the student body and out of line in the way that he addresses student concerns. Perhaps he will eventually grow to be more concerned about fundraising and promoting the public image of the school than the actual concerns of the community. But he has not reached that point yet, and hopefully he takes a step back and reconsiders how he has handled the problem of sexual violence on campus.

While most of the current undergraduate population did not have the pleasure of attending a school led by President Jehuda Reinharz, Lawrence’s term has undeniably been positive for both the school and the students who attend. With only two different presidents over the past 20 years, there is not much out there that would be an improvement over Lawrence at this point.

While his comments that are now witnessed by practically every student on campus as they walk up Rabb are bad, Lawrence at least understands his general impact on the students whom he serves. Goodell’s wildest dreams include an 18-game NFL season that would severely harm the players with increased threats of injury and concussion. And although they both hold the same basic job and perform the same duties for their respective institutions, President Lawrence is no Roger Goodell, and as a student body, we should be grateful for him, yet still maintain our right to criticize him when fit.