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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Me and Jehuda down by the schoolyard

Published: April 30, 2010
Section: Editorials

University President Jehuda Reinharz’s choice of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren as commencement speaker has been called too divisive a choice for an occasion that is supposed to unite the senior class in their last moments at Brandeis.

In order to help avoid similar protests about what singer-songwriter Paul Simon should perform at the ceremony, here’s a list of tunes that, like Oren, might seem like good picks but actually marginalize segments of the community.

“America.” Pros: A song about young people on a road trip to find themselves, “America” is perfect to put the graduate in the moving-on state of mind. Cons: The song’s title–”America”–and chorus–“gone to look for America”–are a great example of American exceptionalism and would marginalize international members of the Brandeis community.

“Mrs. Robinson.” Pros: Everyone loves a song about a “Graduate.” Cons: The references to Jesus and cougars probably wouldn’t sit well with the Board of Trustees.

“Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.” Pros: The use of African beats would sit well with the culturally pluralistic community. Cons: The song’s title and chorus flaunt wealth that many graduates have no hope of attaining with their plans to live poor and save the world.

“The Boxer.” Pros: A song about overcoming adversity and listening to others’ opinions might seem perfect for a graduation ceremony who’s speaker is stirring up protest. Cons: A song about a boxer might not be the best idea at a university that outlawed contact sports in 1959.

“Keep the Customer Satisfied.” Pros: Uses the story of a con-man to teach gradates that words are harmless, no matter how much they get “slandered.” Cons: It might hit too close to home for Reinharz who continuously “gets slandered, libeled” for trying to keep students satisfied.

“The Boy In The Bubble.” Pros: It is a socially conscious song encouraging students to get involved in the world surrounding them with the lyrics “These are the days of miracle and wonder.” Cons: Its message contradicts the practice of university administrators who live in a bubble, neglecting to gain community opinion on campus-wide decisions.

“Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Pros: The song’s chorus “I’m on my way–I don’t know where I’m going” can certainly speak to graduates about to embark on an unknown journey. Cons: The song, which tells the story of a juvenile delinquent who’s arrest somehow garners national press attention, may not be appropriate with a lawsuit pending against the university concerning The Rose Art scandal.

On second thought, maybe Paul Simon is too controversial. Is Miley Cyrus available?