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Angry, Controversial Senior Sendoff

Published: April 27, 2007
Section: Opinions


It's the last issue of The Hoot and even though I am no longer any sort of official, weekly columnist, I still get a request from the editorial board reminding all the seniors to not be afraid to go out with a bang. Don't worry, I got that covered. So I go home and scribble down a few thousand words in an article called Brandeis' Golden Years It is all about how Brandeis is nearing 60 years of age and it is time for Jehuda Reinharz to retire the traditionalism of Brandeis money and find donors who will not complain every time some Palestinian artwork is hung on campus or some obnoxious student invites Jimmy Carter to campus. It is trite.

I don't really want to do this. So I throw it out and begin writing what I wantto tell the world. Some self-important crap about how I did this 2,500 mile mountain bike race called the Great Divide Race that made me realize that I never appreciate challenges and it caused me to drop out after about a thousand miles because I was too immature to respect the journey. Life is about challenges;

we have to respect all of them. I never respected the challenges of friendship, my education, or even falling in love. I screwed them all up by not caring;

I learned my lesson, so maybe you should learn through osmosis? Whatever.

So, as I am metaphorically ripping paper out of the typewriter and throwing it in the wastebasket, I get a call from a female fellow student I barely know. This woman originally emailed me this past February wanting to talk to me about my column A Memoir of a Goy at Brandeis, something that I wrote well over a year prior. We met and I was told one of the most horrific tales about being a minority at Brandeis. A skinny, blonde-haired, Christian girl from the mid-west detailed her first day at Brandeis. She was alone in the Shapiro Campus Center going into the TV lounge to use the ATM. She was met by a flock of described inebriated Jewish males, in traditionally orthodox garb, who then begun yelling shiksa at her and making various sexual advances: Give daddy some lovin' and Why don't you stay awhile? She then detailed how they began to move as to almost corner her before she managed to escape. The whole situation sounded to me to be a near-rape scenario, one that was luckily avoided by her managing to flee the campus center. She later said that she spent her entire freshman year in a deep depression, afraid to tell anyone about her experience and just wanting to transfer out.

Moving back to present day, I receive the call from her as a reply to an email I sent her. Hey, what did you want? Oh, thanks for calling, but it's not really relevant anymore. I was considering writing a piece about continued minority issues at Brandeis and I wanted to talk to you a little more but The Justice seems to have stolen that thunder and I'm not sure I want to make a big splash;

I'm not doing it anymore. She then insists on hearing on what I had originally planned on writing. What can I do to make you write that?

Unfortunately, I already threw that piece out, along with the piece on our donors and my piece on love and obscenely long mountain bike races. But, her story needs to be told. We, as a community, continuously push away the difficulties of being a goy on this campus, be it a white Christian, a Muslim, a black student, a Latino, an Asian, or any other minority group on campus (political minorities even?). What kind of culture does Brandeis want to foster? As respectful as the preponderance of students are, it only takes the actions of a few to negatively affect the community as a whole. Racism clearly still challenges our community in many painful ways. The mere fact that we let this issue fester under our community's surface without airing it through discourse only proves this assertion.

It's not a question about Brandeis being too Jewish. It's not a question of being too white, too rich, or too suburban. I actually think Judaism, or the percentage of Jewish students on campus, has very little to do with issues on campus. Rather, it's a majoritarian view that we have some right to abuse and ridicule those who are not in the majority. For, however liberal the campus defines itself, we certainly are not very tolerant of the conservatives on campus. The administration abused the rights of free speech of the Palestinian perspective on the Israel/Palestine conflict when it forcefully removed the Voices of Palestine artwork exhibit last May. Again, this past December, President Jehuda Reinharz made many public statements about how he did not give a damn about bringing a former President to campus, likely because Carter saw the Palestinians as human-beings. And, finally, in the case of this abused woman, some perverts thought they could sexually harass someone just because she was not Jewish.

However, it does not have to stay this way. Last week, I attended the Brandeis University Open House Activities Fair to promote The Hoot to incoming students. I was describing to a family our paper's big stories of the year and then I got to our coverage of the Jimmy Carter lecture on campus. The family's incoming son quickly asserted that the main reason he decided to come to Brandeis was because of Carter's speech on campus. The mother then noted that she was “astonished” by how mature and open the student body was towards dialogue and that the event made her much more excited about the school.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, Brandeis has been able to recently reestablish itself, at least publically, as a University founded on debate, understanding, and truth. For years, Brandeis has been majoritarian. Everyone just assumed that the community would be rude to Carter during his speech. But something happened: students listened. People were shocked. Newspapers across the country called the event a dialogue and noted the respect and civility of the campus community. For once, we were noted for our maturity, and prospective students have seen this before even arriving on campus.

So, will this end racism? No, absolutely not. However, a precedent was set that the community can listen to minority opinions. The University has proven its potential to create open discourse on controversial issues and thus leaves us with a starting point to encourage future dialogue. So, Brandeis, will the dialogue continue, or will we settle for ethnically-charged assault?