Another petition

As you already know, there’s an open letter of students and other Brandeis-affiliated people who are thinking about skipping commencement circling around. To quote one signer:

With as rich a selection of potential candidates as we have right now, it is a shame that the school has chosen such a politically loaded commencement speaker. There is a time and place for (much welcome) debate, but by choosing this speaker the school gives the impression that it officially supports a singular position on what is a very emotionally charged topic for both sides of the discussion.

It’s a day later, and the “other side” has their response: “a letter of support for President Reinharz and Ambassador Michael Oren” An excerpt:

We look forward to hearing Ambassador Oren address the Brandeis community at commencement based on his achievements and contributions to academia as a former professor at several prestigious universities in America and his work in Israel to promote the creation of the country’s first liberal arts college. Your selection of Ambassador Oren to address this year’s Commencement reflects Brandeis University’s historic ties to the American Jewish community and timeless dedication to academic excellence as well as Justice Louis Brandeis’ own commitment to Zionism and Social Justice, a legacy on which this university was founded.

Editorial note: and here we see the inevitable fracturing of campus. Battle lines are being drawn, divisiveness is increasing, etc. This is why I think choosing Michael Oren as commencement speaker was a bad choice. Especially when we’re this close to getting Paul Farmer! Paul Farmer! Why couldn’t it have been him?


12 thoughts on “Another petition”

  1. Maybe we should just ask Paul Simon to be commencement speaker this year. And he can inspire us…by song (and maybe reuniting with Garfunkel?)

  2. The “you” there was collective. I was unaware of any other students who were vocal regarding this choice. I hereby give credit where due, etc.

    You speak of the commencement speaker offending you. Yet you and I know he won’t preach from the pulpit. He will make 0 policy oriented statements-the word Palestine may only come up in regards to this whole deal. This individual has no capacity to offend, in that I am sure you would not consider individuals who went on programs like Birthright, which supported the Israeli economy, puppets of the zionist agenda.
    That Oren’s simply association with a nation makes him leprous is pretty sad. The myopia and targeting is undeniable.

  3. I am so bothered by all these people claiming stupid crap like:

    “I just don’t know what about our brains is different that prevents you from seeing that divisiness has only been created because you mounted an opposition to a reasonable choice.”

    Do you realize how disgustingly condescending that statement is?

    You are saying to all these students “you are only upset and angry because someone named Jon told you to be.”

    Maybe you don’t realize that before Jon even created the facebook group, before Mariel wrote her innermostparts post, before any petition went up, there were a lot of upset and angry students talking to each other about how bad of a choice Michael Oren was. All of these actions were simply manifestations of the anger and hurt felt by students over the choice.

    You might think Oren is not divisive, but that’s because you don’t think he’s a bad choice – you have the privilege of knowing that the commencement speaker won’t offend you.

  4. Sahar, I don’t wanna be mean because you’re a pretty awesome guy, and it was great working with you on the Perlstein event. I just don’t know what about our brains is different that prevents you from seeing that divisiness has only been created because you mounted an opposition to a reasonable choice. none of us would be engaging in any of this had jon not gone on a noble crusade against a diplomat and spokesperson.
    we know that oren, whether or not you like his politics, is political in general. that is a given-so was corey booker.
    you’re allowed to dislike israeli politics-that a genocide is occuring is a bit false, but israeli policy is not above reproach, let me be the first to say. that said, nothing about oren insinuates he was in any meaningful way an author or even beyond-de-facto supporter of those policies.
    i am sure george bush’s spokesperson disagreed with him.
    it is for these reasons that oren is acceptable. is he the best choice? nah, a major CEO would have been better, but hey…

  5. I’m disappointed that thus far neither side has really articulated my concerns about the choice of Oren. I want his invitation to speak rescinded, but it’s not out of any sense that the commencement should be “about us,” and certainly not “us” in the sense of “the juniors who started this Facebook group/petition and have been most active in its promotion.” I’m sad to see this movement co-opted by people who weren’t even invited to hear Oren speak and I would be disappointed if commencement were nothing more than a confirmation of my peers’ views and adulation of our achievements.
    I want to hear a speaker who can bring a perspective on what it takes to really break the mold and succeed on his or her own terms, which is exactly why Simon and Farmer and even Kaye are so appealing. It doesn’t have anything to do with liberal beliefs. Booker qualifies under that criterion alone, and so does Tom Friedman, and so would many conservatives.
    I don’t actually think Oren would try to push his beliefs on us at graduation. He’ll probably dispense the same kind of advice that every commencement speaker gives, and I’m sure he’s insightful enough to keep it interesting. It’s just that as someone paid to defend a war, Oren is more analogous to Paul Wolfowitz than to Tony Kushner. By only comparing him in terms of a liberal-conservative binary to the other options that have been put forth, those who do want to hear Oren are only further discrediting the “distinguished academic” justification for his appearance.

  6. @Anonymous: No, I don’t think that this fracturing of opinion was in any way ’caused’ by the group/open letter – instead, these channeled and gave expression to feelings of frustration many of us already had. I’ve heard from many of the people who’re not troubled by Oren’s selection say that we’ve politicized the event, but this overlooks their privilege that they have their views already represented in commencement (by not one but two honorary degree recipients, note). Oren’s selection means that commencement was always already politicized – expressing a minoritarian position didn’t do that.

    And yes, I am proud to be amongst politically conscious people, but the fact that ‘both sides won’t take this lying down’ simply proves our point: selecting Oren divides Brandeis into warring factions, rather than uniting us. I would LOVE to discuss Oren’s viewpoint and opposing viewpoints at almost literally any other time – why does this conversation have to be foisted on us at commencement?

  7. Matt, that’s pretty close to my feelings on the matter.

    Anon – you raise a good point. I wrote a sentence or two that said something like “but really I’m happy that Brandeis students are learning to be activists and flexing their citizenship muscles because that’s important in and of itself. In the end, I got rid of those sentences because I thought they would distract from the main message but I’ll cheerfully say it in the comments or elsewhere.

    As for your first paragraph – I can only speak for myself. Jon is an Innermost Parts member in good standing and therefore is entitled to use our online activist tools. I haven’t decided whether I would’ve gone to commencement if I were a senior. Honestly, I don’t want to get too involved in the whole issues.

    Still, my friends are really hurting. Just because I know I am not too comfortable making a case of why Oren is a bad speaker because he is a bad person, I am more comfortable saying “commencemnet is supposed to be a celebration – not an argument”.

    Does this make sense to you? I have to go to sleep…

  8. do you think the “inevitable fracturing” is perhaps due to the initial catalyst of the innermostparts-created open letter? Did you expect to create this petition that suggests skipping commencement yet not expect others to voice their opinion that they will gladly attend? there will always, always be more than one opinion on any given topic and you cannot expect that when one loudly proclaims the other will not follow suit.

    in reality, to see both “sides” of this “issue” make their voices heard is a testament to the Brandeis community’s unwillingness to take anything lying down. You should be proud to be among people who do not just blindly agree, no matter what faction you may agree with in this case.

  9. I don’t know what to think about Michael Oren speaking at commencement. I mean, I don’t object to allowing him to present his perspective on campus, and I certainly wouldn’t be against having him as a speaker, but I just wonder if he isn’t worth the controversy. After all do we really want to be reminded of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a day that’s supposed to be a celebration? Besides, Paul Farmer represents the spirit of social justice that we always talk about at Brandeis.

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