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Students organize demonstration against injustices at Brandeis

Published: April 11, 2008
Section: Front Page


A demonstration was held on the Great Lawn yesterday by about 85 students citing a number of grievances related to students’ rights. The demonstration, organized to coincide with Open House, lasted an hour.

After five minutes of silence, individual students spoke on a variety of issues, including the pending appeals of suspended TYP student Mamoon Darwish, the way in which the administration handled the case regarding Prof. Donald Hindley and the arrest last weekend of two students after a party in the Mods.

For the duration of the demonstration, students stood with raised fists, holding signs with statements such as “bring the justice back to Brandeis,” “violations of our rights,” and “due process for Mamoon.” Some covered their faces with scarves or ski masks.

A printed statement disseminated beforehand via e-mail and then at the event read “the demonstration today is in regards to an ongoing situation at Brandeis University. We are asking the student body to carefully consider these things: the removal of Palestinian Art, Nadia Kim, Gravity Magazine, Jimmy Carter, Donald Hindley, and Mamoon Darwish and consider the implications of the way the Administration and the student body has responded.”

“There’s a systemic problem on campus, where the community doesn’t feel its voice is being heard,” explained Ryan McElhaney ’10. “We are demonstrating to the university that we are standing for certain values.”

McElhaney spoke to the demonstrators about the silencing of student voices, while Senator for Racial Minorities Gabe Gaskins ’08, one of the event’s organizers, noted to the crowd that “this is probably the only time I’ve ever seen this scene at this campus center. This is a demonstration of student solidarity.”

Adriani Leon ’08 then spoke on the treatment of Prof. Hindley, asking “if a tenured professor is going to come under fire for something he is not, what can we expect for ourselves?”

Gaskins said afterwards that the demonstration could be a step toward more dialogue between students and the university administration.

“People were afraid that this would close dialogue and I couldn’t disagree more,” he explained. “I saw this as nothing more than a dialogue starter. The next step is finding a solution, and the solution will arise.”

Amanda Dentler (GRAD), another of the event’s organizers, explained that a meeting has been arranged with Vice President of Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy regarding Darwish’s case.

Other student reactions immediately after the demonstration touched on a variety of subjects, but were all positive.

“I think it was a powerful, effective protest,” said Student Union President Shreeya Sinha ’09, adding that “we really need the administration to hold forums and events so that students don’t feel the need to protest. People are graduating with the perception that a lot of suspicious things are happening on campus with process.”

“I’m really impressed by the outcome,” said McElhaney. “I think it definitely showed solidarity within the student movement.”

“It was very very good because we don’t have a lot of public displays of students sharing in their passion, because they’re worried about the consequences,” said TYP Senator Kamarin Lee ’11.

However, Lee believes that more demonstrations may be necessary for the administration to fully receive the students’ message.

Meanwhile, Lisa Hanania ’11, who spoke to the demonstrators regarding her experience chartering the club Students for Justice in Palestine said “this makes us better activists. We can create an atmosphere that’s lacking here. This proves that we can work together, should work together.”

Dean of Student Life Rick Sawyer also had good things to say following the protest.

“I go to a lot of protests, and I’m always proud of our students,” he said. “I know deep down inside they really love the place.

“I thought it was pretty cool that it was on Open House day,” he added. “We like activists, we admit activists. It was ‘Deis students doing their thing.”

The day’s events concluded with a gathering in the Campus Center Atrium, at which students discussed the effectiveness of the demonstration.

“This turned out better than I thought it would,” said Leon. “If this amount of concerned students came out, I know there are many more out there.”