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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: President Precedent

Published: March 2, 2007
Section: Opinions

Recent rumblings made by the Office of Development have indicated that the very controversial and delayed appearance made at Brandeis University by former President Jimmy Carter is estimated to have cost the University a grand total of five million dollars. Angry donors have attempted to, in the words of The Jewish Week, exact revenge on the University for the President's guest appearance by withholding this money. For a place of place of higher learning, this is just plain wrong.

Free speech, politics and economics have all collided. Had students and faculty not attempted to bring Carter after his initial invite, an effort that would be common at any University, our University would be five million dollars richer. While the overall generosity of the donors is not to be contested, a strong message has been sent to students by more than a handful of donors according to Stuart Eizenstat, a former aide to Carter during his presidency and a current trustee of Brandeis.

The actions have thus negatively effected the University financially. The University would certainly benefit with the extra money, but at what cost will the extra cash now come at? A precedent has thus been set that requires the University to consider the financial implications on an invitation and appearance of practically any guest speaker. The constant worry of inviting a speaker that will please donors can only lead to more suppression.

Professor Finkelstein's upcoming visit to Brandeis is just one of the many examples of a speaker who possesses the power to polarize many individuals on this campus. Could his appearance could cost the University another five million dollars? This does not set a particularly desired example for other Universities that wish to invite a speaker that could possibly offend the school's donors. Should the students be punished for wanting to hear an opinion, popular or not, directly from the source? The Carter and Dershowitz speeches certainly helped foster debate regarding relevant issues in the Middle East on this campus, and to try and stifle this kind of debate is a step in the wrong direction.