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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Walking the line of censorship

Published: February 2, 2007
Section: Opinions

This week, the Brandeis community was introduced to two committees, one to address and advise the Provost's office on “controversial” art exhibits and other events and another being created by the Student Union to review and establish a collective of Middle East events this Spring. The administration and the Union have every right to create these committees. After the controversy's surrounding the “Voices of Palestine” art exhibit last spring and the confusion from the Carter event, it is fair to suggest that there be an advisory board. However, there is a thin line that these committees must be careful not to cross: censoring ideas.

A committee could have merits: It could recommend to organizers bringing controversial events to campus the best ways to ensure people are not hurt by events. For example, during the “Voices of Palestine,” the committee could have recommended that a statement was created to inform students as to why the exhibit was put up. As I mentioned in a previous column, the committee could have flagged polarizing “Why Marry Jewish?” posters from last fall. However, it should be mandated that these committees do nothing more than advise–it should be dictated that their recommendations are not requirements and they cannot reserve the right to censor dialogue on campus.

Two students working independently of each other to bring Prof. Norman Finkelstein and Daniel Pipes to campus have already expressed that they feel as though the Student Union committee is adding unnecessary bureaucracy to the process of bringing speakers to Brandeis, thus stifling dialogue on campus by discouraging students and groups from pursuing bringing speakers to campus and organizing events. The Daniel Pipes visit, which had been scheduled for April 23 in November, was recently put on hold pending the committee's “approval.” This is both unfair to event organizers and the community as a whole. We shouldn't have dialogue put “on hold” to satisfy a Union appeasement board.

In short, the administration and Union can go forth and establish sensitivity committees, but they should not force this upon student groups, nor effectively cancel the projects that students have already started. We can address the issues surround controversial topics maturely–the Carter visit proved so. Let's not walk backwards.