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Letter to the Editor: Campus political activism is meaningful and important

Published: February 10, 2006
Section: Opinions


To the Editors and Readers of The Hoot,
I am writing in response to Kevin Montgomerys recent article entitled Self Aggrandizing Extremists Destroy the Campus Community to which I took great offense due to its insulting and inaccurate charges.

Mr. Montgomerys first assertion is that Brandeis University was once a hotbed of meaningful political activity, but is no longer. However, if Mr. Montgomery had bothered to do any research for this article he might have noticed important products of Brandeis Student Activism such as the more than $80,000 dollars raised for microfinance over the past 4 years by Click Drive, the recent successful drive by the Brandeis Labor Coalition to get pay parity for Brandeis non-union workers, the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committees trip that brought 50 students to Washington to meet with 25 Members of Congress, or the Brandeis Democrats voter registration drive which registered over 130 students to vote last semester alone. Regarding his assertion that campus political activism is dominated by extreme and divisive voices, he might have noticed the abundance of centrist nonpartisan voices on this campus such as STAND (Students Taking Action Now Darfur) and BIPAC.

Mr. Montgomery asserts that leaders of campus activism are merely self promoters interested in placing their names in articles. First, I would like to state that I have been a student activist on this campus for a year and a half now, and this is the first time my name has appeared in print in this capacity. There are probably many hundreds of current Brandeis students who have been involved in campus activism in one form or another, and the vast majority of them do it with no title and for no glory. While I will grant that there are probably some people on this campus whose activism is at least partially motivated by thoughts of their resume, it is inflammatory and unfair to paint an entire community with this brush.

This article was not only offensive for its insulting nature, but also because it was rife with inaccuracies and untruths. Mr. Montgomery charges that several students took it upon themselves to attempt to decharter the all-womens talent show. In fact, the three students to whom he is referring were attempting to deny the specific program of the talent show funding through the student activities fee on the grounds that it was not open to the entire campus community, not decharter the club Nashim. While I disagree with these students, as my public testimony before the Union Senate shows, and most especially with their highly inappropriate tactics, it is unfair to misrepresent their motivations in print or to hold all campus activism responsible for their behavior. Mr. Montgomery also states that the result of their crusade was the effective dechartering of a group while in fact the result was that the show was fully funded through Alwina Bennetts discretionary funds. This was an admirable compromise that allowed this valuable campus program – which raises money for a battered womens shelter, and gives women who would not otherwise have one a chance to express themselves through art – to continue, while addressing these students concerns over the source of the funding.

Yet another example of Montgomerys untruthful editorial style is his statement that Democrats actively worked to undermine the Republicans' effort to bring political pundit Ann Coulter to campus. While I do personally feel that Ann Coulter is an extremist who does little to foster meaningful political discourse (an opinion I incidentally also hold of Michael Moore) I can assure you, as a member of the Brandeis Democrats executive board currently and at that time, that we did no such thing, a fact we would have been happy to share with Mr. Montgomery had he made any attempt to contact us to verify his statement, as I believe is standard journalistic procedure. Some members independently expressed distaste over the choice of speaker, but no active effort was made to prevent her coming to campus. As the Brandeis Republicans will confirm, Ann Coulter did not come to campus for the simple reason that her speakers fee was too high.

He closes by charging that In the community's interest, these nefarious individuals should be . . . stripped of their microphones, a statement which is ironic as he has just finished saying that our campus should be open to all speakers of all perspectives. My response is this if I should be stripped of leadership positions to which I was duly elected, and which I have used to make meaningful positive change in our community, perhaps Kevin Montgomery should be disenfranchised of his soap box, which I do not remember any one electing him to, and which he is using in this case to be a blatant example of the very kind of political hackery and demagoguery he denounces in others.

Mr. Montgomery charges that The current curse under which we live is that our most outspoken political demagogues succeed only in raising controversy rather than fostering beneficial political discussion and I couldnt agree more wholeheartedly. This is, in fact, a perfect description of his article. I ask the Hoots editorial board to be more cautious in the future about publishing such libelous and inflammatory pieces.
Sarah Mulhern '08
Vice President, Brandeis Democrats
Legislative Affairs Director, BIPAC