I hate Massachusetts Nazis.

I know that it’s break, but I strongly urge everyone who can to take a minute to oppose racism in Massachusetts.

The gist of the story is: This Wednesday, the Worcester Public Library is offering a room to the racist organization North East White Pride (NEWP). In essence, this means that there is implicit public approval for racists to openly organize and recruit in Massachusetts. Wherever racists are allowed this level of recognition, they spread hatred and express it through violence against minorities. It is imperative for us to prevent them from doing this.

Please send a short message to Worcester Head Librarian Mark Contois. His email is mcontois [AT] worcpublib.org. Below is what I wrote him.

Dear Mr. Contois,

I am incredibly disturbed to have heard that the Worcester Public Library will be hosting a meeting of North East White Pride, and I strongly urge you to cancel their reservation. As a white supremacist organization, NEWP is dedicated to harassing and excluding all those who do not fit into their lily-white version of America. Their promotion of hatred and intolerance disrespects the members of our community and does a disservice to us all, and consequently they should not be allowed the privileges of a community platform.

Some will certainly argue that cancelling the NEWP’s reservation amounts to a restriction on free speech, but this is a bogus argument. It is not incumbent upon the community to provide a free platform for those who seek to tear apart the pillars of the community. NEWP is more than capable of meeting in private spaces; providing them space at the public library gives them the imprimatur of legitimacy as well as free advertising. Finally, consider the consequences of allowing NEWP space to organize. Wherever racists are allowed to openly recruit with implicit public approval, the result is entrenched racist organizations, community division and violence against minorities.

In closing, I strongly urge you to stand against racism by cancelling NEWP’s reservation.

Jon Sussman

A Town Hall for Our New President

As has already been reported, Brandeis the Board of Trustees has selected our next President, Frederick M. Lawrence, dean of George Washington Law School. Reading just a little into his biography, he seems like a stand-up guy, working pretty effectively to uphold civil rights, particularly in the area of bias crimes. More importantly, he’s from Long Island, something which will undoubtedly connect him to most of the students on campus.

At the same time, as you may have guessed from the snarky cross-out in the previous graf, I’m still wary about decisions that are handed down to us from the Board of Trustees, especially when they have such a strong impact on the future of our community. Yes, I know, the selection process included ‘student input’ – a survey, an online forum, a town hall or two – but none of these constitute serious democratic involvement of the community. I’m not interested in beating dead horses, but the near-total lack of substantive power that students exercise within Brandeis administration is a cause for continuing concern.

This is why I believe we should start off on the good foot with President Lawrence (Freddy Law!) and have a serious town hall meeting early next semester, before his term begins. A small part of it – a very small part – should be allotted for him to introduce himself, to explain why he can best lead Brandeis and how he intends to do it. But the larger part, I hope, can be devoted to expression of student and staff concerns, issues, and desires for the future of our community. What I think would be especially great would be a presentation of a plan for accountability, for making sure that student concerns and demands are substantively addressed, and that individual administrators will find it in their best interests to act on student concerns.

What do people think?

Demonstration Against Oren – Today! 3PM! Bernstein-Marcus!

Hey Everyone,

Come to Bernstein-Marcus TODAY at 3 pm to take part of a demonstration against the choice of Michael Oren as commencement speaker.

In collectively voicing our frustration, we can let the administration know that commencement is no place for divisive politics. We will be encouraging discussion, expression, and intend on presenting our concerns to President Reinharz during his office hours.

Come for fun! Conviviality! Discussion and dissension! Fun and frivolity! And kicking some buckets!

And if you have not already done so, please sign the online petition:


Take Action: Oppose Michael Oren as Commencement Speaker!

Commencement was supposed to be about us.

However, with the selection of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, commencement has been hijacked to serve as part of a debate about Middle Eastern politics. Whether this was the intention is not important: in our eyes and the eyes of the world, Brandeis commencement is a stage for partisan politics, not a celebration of graduating seniors.

We, students, faculty, staff, friends and family of Brandeis University, respectfully believe that the choice of Ambassador Michael Oren as commencement speaker is inappropriate. His far-right views are divisive and do not reflect the diversity of opinion on campus, and moreover politicize what should be an uncontroversial, inclusive role.

Read the rest, and sign the petition!

EDIT: You should also join our Facebook group, Commencement Was Supposed to Be About Us: Against Michael Oren as Speaker.

Under Pressure

As noted in the earlier post “Party Time,” Brandeis has been recieving a fair beat of heat for graphic design. The logo for a conference on right-wing radicalism featured a swastika, which some conservative media figures interpreted as demonizing the Tea Party.

Despite the fact that the pressure was coming from a very small (if vocal) segment of the population and has only been in the public eye for a few days, Brandeis has already caved. The press release notes that the logo has been removed from the conference’s event page, and assures us that “Brandeis regrets the unintended association and pain this caused.”

Keep this in mind as the campaign against Michael Oren as a commencement speaker grows: when confronted with a minimal amount of outside pressure, the university jumps to rectify the problem. What will be their response when our own community expresses much greater concerns about a campus ceremony?

Ambassador Michael Oren Selected as Commencement Speaker

A breaking update from The Justice:

Michael B. Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, will be the keynote speaker at Brandeis’ 59th commencement on May 23, according to a University press release. 

Honorary degrees will be awarded to Paul Farmer, a founder of Partners in Health; Judith S. Kaye, the first female chief judge in New York State; award-winning Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina; Dennis B. Ross, a member of the National Security Council; and Paul Simon, Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter and member of Simon and Garfunkel, as well as Oren. 

Oren, who was born in New Jersey and moved to Israel in the 1970s, served in the Israeli Defense Forces and acted as an IDF spokesman during the second Lebanon War and the Gaza operation of 2009, according to the release.

Oren is also a distinguished scholar and author whose “two most recent books focused on American involvement in the Middle East, and on how the Six Day War of 1967 influenced the making of the modern Middle East.” He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown Universities, according to the release. 

I won’t hide my feelings – I find this selection polarizing, disrespectful, and decidedly not in keeping with the Brandeis legacy of social justice. Whatever Oren’s academic qualifications, as a propagandist for a regime that does not respect human rights in the Occupied Territories and disregards international law he should not be legitimized by being selected as our commencement speaker.

The comments on the Justice article are telling – criticism of Oren is equated with anti-semitism, and his work defending human rights violaters is whitewashed in favor of his academic achievements. I was even told that “You should be ashamed and should have gone elsewhere to undergrad…Brandeis is a Jewish school and a supporter of Israel. You believe yourselves to be open minded citizens, but you are merely bigoted.” Besides demanding that all Brandeis students fit this poster’s ideological beliefs, this comment points out a stunning intolerance for dissent within the Jewish community – something we also saw in the appalling decision to bar Justice Goldstone from his grandson’s bar mitzvah.

I’m still trying to collect my thoughts about this, but I for one will certainly not take this lying down. More news on this as it develops.

Real Food at Brandeis: We Can Make It Happen!

Last night, the House of Representatives passed the first stage in the most expansive reform of our nation’s health care system since the 1960s. But we all know this didn’t happen overnight: it was a messy, dragged-out, complex, and (for many) unsatisfying experience.

But at least how the political sausage gets made is a public process. The way most of our food gets made is just as gross, just as filthy, and happens on a daily basis – but there is less transparency about what goes into our bodies than what goes on in the halls of Congress.

As consumers, we are shielded from the myriad processes by which our food is made. We don’t get to see the effects our food choices have on the environment, on animals, on workers, and our communities.

But as Brandeis students who purchase food through our dining plan we can collectively choose real food that nourishes every aspect of the food system from production and distribution through consumption and disposal. What we need to do is change our dining system such that it chooses sustainable, ethical food suppliers, uses local and organic ingredients, avoids unnecessary and unhealthful additives and chemicals, and conveniently and cheaply feeds all members of our community, especially dietary niches including vegetarian and vegan, kosher and halal, gluten-free and lactose-intolerant.

To that end, the Real Food 2020 campaign has a ridiculously simple and eminently sane proposal: by 2020, 20% of the food served at Brandeis should be real food. This goal is both achievable and ethically imperative – unless, of course, protecting the profits of food corporations outweighs the needs of our planet, our local farmers, and our bodies.

Although this goal is entirely sensible, it has proven more than a little difficult to work with a giant (and ethically suspect) corporation like Aramark. The few changes they have made (putting “locally grown” signs on the salad bar, including more vegetarian options) are woefully inadequate, and serve more as a cosmetic to divert us from the lack of transparency in our food system. While the campaign is willing to work with Aramark, we demand that our administration seriously consider other dining options.

Real food will reaffirm Brandeis’ commitment to social justice by ensuring that our food choices are sustainable and healthy. Our current dining system gives us very little choice – locked into expensive and unwieldy meal plans, we are forced to eat unsustainable and unhealthy food that harms our bodies and others for Aramark’s profit. Together, we can turn our dining halls into a place that nourishes our planet and ourselves.

Take action to move Brandeis forward by signing this petition!


Learn more about real food: http://realfoodchallenge.org/about/realfood 

UCLA Occupied by Striking Students

Anger at tuition increases, staff and faculty cuts, and the corporatization of education has led to major actions across the University of California system in the last few months. As the UC Board of Regents meets this week, students at several schools have staged protests and occupations to demand greater access to education (as promised in the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education) and democratic decision-making.

Students at UC Santa Cruz and Berkeley have (attempted?) occupations. At UCLA, students have taken Campbell Hall and renamed it Carter-Huggins Hall in remembrance of Black Panthers murdered there in 1969. Although cops have tasered at least three students and beaten others, the occupation as a whole is still going strong.

More updates as they come in!

Rape Culture – It’s Not Fucking Funny

I think that The Blowfish is sometimes funny, and it’s a cheerful sight to see them in orange jackets handing out copies on the Rabb steps. But they’re definitely not above criticism, even when they’re ‘trying to be funny’.

Case in point: this week’s column entitled “Happy Dating Violence Awareness Week!”, which offered ideas and tips for celebrating the fact that millions of women (and men) around the world are at risk of violence from their partners. Their ideas include watching a Kung-Fu movie with your date (“watch other, more attractive people beat their signficant others”) and trying S&M or bondage (“hitting, biting, punching, scratching, cutting, maiming and burning are sometimes seen as reprehensible behaviors in a dating relationship…unless, of course, the other person’s into it!”).

Let me draw a useful distinction here. This is Not Funny. Keyboard Cat for President of Brandeis: funny. The fact that, for instance, 20 in 1000 young women will suffer violence from an intimate partner strikes me as a pretty serious topic.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think this is ‘beyond the bounds of free speech’, whatever that means. What I think is really sick and disgusting about this is the unapologetic endorsement of rape culture – the systematic normalization of sexual violence against women, such that it’s almost expected (even cool) for men to participate in it while women who claim to have been assaulted and raped are ignored, demeaned, even threatened. I, for one, have the feeling that sexual violence is trivialized if the Blowfish’s suggestion for being aware of it is not “listening to Metallica on your iPod[,] which drowns out the muffled sobs of your partner.

I think it’s pretty commendable for Brandeis Six-TALK to organize a week of activities to raise awareness about this usually-ignored reality, and pretty fucking offensive for the Blowfish to tell us that it’s “time to pick yourself off the floor and celebrate Dating Violence Awareness Week!” If you feel the same way, you might want to let the (all-male) editors at the Blowfish know how you feel by sending them a note at blowfish[AT]brandeis.edu

What Happens When Your Board of Trustees Won’t Listen to Students?

…your new dorm building is named after coal.

The CEO of Alliance of Coal, Joseph Craft, donated money for a new men’s basketball dorm at the University of Kentucky, on the stipulation that it be named after coal. The Board of Trustees voted 16-3 to approve the new dorm; of the three “no” votes, one was a faculty representative, and another was the Student Government President.

I think it significant that the students who attempted to influence the Board of Trustees at the meeting where they made this decision were ignored and sidelined. Despite passing a statement to the Board announcing their reasons for opposing the name, the statement went unread and the vote was taken. After the vote the majority of the Board, including university President Lee T. Todd Jr., retreated to a back room rather than confront disappointed students. One statement from Todd caught my eye:

“They said a lot,” Todd said. “They were heard.”

Perhaps they were heard, but the fact that they had no part in the decision-making process seems much more significant. What does it matter if you’re heard if nothing you say will make the slightest difference?

At least at the University of Kentucky, there are some students and faculty with votes on the Board of Trustees. Despite our school’s veneer of ‘democracy’, there are no voting students, staff, or faculty on  the Brandeis Board of Trustees. Keep that in mind the next time they make a horrible decision.

Bug the Board of Trustees – Contact Yer Student Reps!

The Board of Trustees is meeting this week to discuss…well, no-one really knows what’s on their agenda, but I’m sure it’s nothing sinister. Remember the Board has no voting student, staff, or faculty members, effectively shutting the campus out of collective decision making.

If you’d like to pass on any suggestions on this or any topic, be sure to send a quick note to our student representatives on the Board. They may not have a vote, and can be shut out of the meeting at any time by a vote of the Board, but they can still…um…

Heddy Ben-Atar ’11 – heddy [AT] brandeis.edu
Jon A. Kane ’10 – jkane [AT] brandeis.edu
Scott Motyka (GRAD) – smotyka [AT] brandeis.edu

Is Brandeis a Haven for ‘Leftist Abuse’?

One of the most common targets for right-wing demagogues is the stereotypical ‘radical leftist university’, a purely fictional construct used to gin up anti-intellectualism and support for slashing education budgets. (For a shocking expose of the corporatization of the university system, check out excerpts from Marc Bousquet’s new book.) According to ThinkProgress the latest innovation on this front is CampusReform, a social-networking site for collegiate conservatives who want to counter percieved liberal bias on campus and “smash left-wing scum”.  Besides offering a space for mutual commiseration and to report percieved discrimination, the site is also offering $100 every day in October as part of a “Report Leftist Abuse” contest.

So, naturally, I sauntered over to the page for Brandeis University and – what do you know! – the only thing on there so far is a complaint submitted by recent graduate Jordan Rothman. His complaint is below the fold.

Continue reading “Is Brandeis a Haven for ‘Leftist Abuse’?”


Recently, the Class of 2010 received a letter soliciting donations towards the Senior Class Gift. This in itself is nothing out of the ordinary; donating is a great way for students to give back to their school, to ensure that in a time of economic crisis others will have access to the same educational opportunities.

At the same time, I start to wonder where our priorities are when the Office of Development and Alumni Relations brazenly admits the following:

We encourage each member of the Class of 2010 to make a gift of at least $20.10 so that we can maximize our support of other students and beat the participation record of 68% set by the Class of 2008. Participation, regardless of gift amount, is important because every gift help’s Brandeis’s national rankings, thereby increasing the value of the degrees that we will shortly recieve. We hope to reach 80% participation this year.

This sort of self-interested philanthropy is nothing new, but it is a bit suprising to see it so openly attested to. Other schools play a similar game – in exchange for a donation, they will give you a coupon for a larger amount at the bookstore. Since college rankings (for whatever reason) include the alumni donation rate as a barometer for institutional excess, these schools try to make up in a rankings boost what they lose in cash flow.

So, on the one hand, this sort of solicitation makes great sense from an institutional perspective. At the same time, it’s more than a little depressing to see how Brandeis can enthusiastically capitulate to an unfair, absurd rankings system, one at which it is a disadvantage anyway. Would it be so bad for a school that prides itself on an activist, contrarian history to take a stand on something like this?

SDS Statement of Solidarity with University of California Students

Over the summer, the governing Board of the University of California tried to implement a number of changes aimed at harming the campus environment, including: a 32% tuition hike, layoffs of faculty and staff, and “furloughs” (i.e. salary cuts) for those who stay. In response, the students have organized to take back their university! More information is available at http://occupyca.wordpress.com.

We at Brandeis University stand in solidarity with the students, faculty, and staff of the University of California as they take sorely-needed action against a corrupt, anti-democratic regime. The actions of the UC governing board indicate that their concern is to auction off the public education system for private profit. Resistance is thus necessary, proper, and morally imperative. We must protect one of the few successful public higher education programs in the United States.

While Brandeis is not in the same dire straits as UCSC, there are some parallels which should concern us all. Under the cover of the economic crisis, our university administration and Board of Trustees (which includes no voting student, staff, or faculty members) has increased tuition, threatened several departments, and expanded enrollment to the point of overcrowding. While steadfastly claiming to champion the liberal arts, they have sought to shutter our prized art museum. They have added a pathetic Business major, with hopes of attracting a conservative clientele to be complacent students and wealthy alumni. An unwritten administrative policy of “delay and obscure” ensures that critical announcements and news trickles down to us through rumor and press release, confusing an already disempowered campus.

Considering our weak and divided state, the actions of the University of California community give us the assurance that action is still possible. We cheer you on as you end the occupation of the university by corporate interests and posturing politicians and bring about the occupation of the university by the people. Unified action to overthrow oppressive power structures must no longer be the exception, but our everyday struggle.

Out of the classrooms, into the streets!

Mad love and solidarity,

Brandeis Students for a Democratic Society

Privilege Watch: When is Domestic Terrorism Not Domestic Terrorism?

…when right-wing Americans do it, of course.

The Washington Post was trying to do the right thing when it published this article about the reticence of many medical students to take up abortion in their OB-GYN practices. This has been a problem for a while, of course; as the article notes, though abortions are utilized by up to a third of American women at some point in their life, almost 90% of U.S. counties have no abortion provider. Obviously, the right to obtain an abortion is hindered (if not negated) by the inability to access a doctor to perform the procedure. What makes this a particularly pressing issue is that most of the physicians who currently perform abortions are near retirement, yet few medical schools include abortion services in their curriculum.

Highlighting these scary facts should animate those of us concerned with reproductive health. However, I’m more than a little peeved at the Post’s perception of the causes underlying these problems, which they’ve summed up with the headline: “Abortion Stigma Affects Doctors’ Training And Choices”.

Stigma? Are you serious?

Continue reading “Privilege Watch: When is Domestic Terrorism Not Domestic Terrorism?”

Privilege Watch, Mini-Case File #1.5: The Color of Money

[Hopefully there’ll be another, more in-depth case file by the end of the week]

When you’re a religious group with a long history of intolerance and racial animus like the Mormons, interfering in the democratic process to legislate your sexual mores isn’t just something you do in the state next door. It now looks like the Mormon church is employing its financial resources to derail the Equality Bill in the United Kingdom, a broad piece of legislation to bring together several already-enacted anti-discrimination measures.  They have retained a distinguished law firm with the aim of building a coalition of religious groups to protect every Englishman’s right to bash gays (or at the very least ensure exemptions for religious organizations).

Meanwhile, if you’re a Muslim-American charity founded to help children and families victimized by an illegal occupation, your government will distort evidence and make wild, unfounded assertions in order to convict you of “material support for terrorists”, a charge so nebulous and subjective it resembles a Rorschach ink blot.

So, to quickly review: Providing essential supplies to the victims of a brutal military siege? Illegal!

Funding cultural and sexual imperialism so you and your fellow bigots won’t catch the gay cooties? Hell yes!

Privilege Watch Case File #1: First They Came for the Dead White Men

While my introduction to Privilege Watch focused primarily on race, my first case file will also touch on sexism and Christian privilege. The latter is something that I feel I’m exceptionally sensitive to. As a Jewish atheist, public presumptions of faith, especially Christianity, are glaringly obvious to me in a way that it seems Christians don’t recognize. Partly I attribute this to my summer internship in atheist activism with the Secular Student Alliance, but I also think that the experience of exclusion clues one in to the reality of the dominant culture. As Womanist Musings puts it:

“If you are gay or lesbian you’re an expert in heterosexist culture and how it marginalizes the various sexualities because for the entirety of your existence you have had to negotiate it to be able to survive.  If you are of colour you are an expert on white privilege and racism because for the entirety of you life you have been assaulted by it.  If you are differently abled you are an expert on abelism because for the entirety of your experience you have been denied access by others, or told to capitulate and remove yourself from any and all social actions.  The oppressed are experts because we live it every damn day of our lives.”

Obviously, I can’t claim to have experience with those specific oppressions, but I think that this idea will be a running theme of Privilege Watch – namely, that minorities, be they racial, sexual, gender, religious, or ability, often know more about their dominators than they do.

Anyway, today’s case file starts with this Fox News clip. You can also see this at the wingnut propaganda site The Fox Nation under the wholly misleading title, “Guess Which Words Are Banned From Your Kids’ Textbooks?”:


I saw that sneer, Steve Doocy! Just for that you deserve a smack upside the head.

Continue reading “Privilege Watch Case File #1: First They Came for the Dead White Men”

Privilege Watch: An Introduction

It seems that ever since Obama’s election, affluent white hetero Christians – by far the most economically and politically powerful bloc in the country, far beyond their real numbers – have suddenly been waking up in the middle of the night, screaming “Holy shit, I’m not nearly as privileged as I used to be!” Their hysterics are prima facie absurd, in that their money and influence is still enough to, for instance, block necessary health reform and hate crimes legislation. If, as Bill O’Reilly says, the white Christian power structure is under serious attack, it seems to be fairly shrugging off the blows.

At the same time, though, these charges are pretty dangerous. Let’s leave aside the fact that (to use the above example) if health care isn’t reformed, millions will remain uninsured and suffer serious health consequences. I mean that conservative demagoguery can seriously fucking kill you. If puns really are the lowest form of humor, I’ll dub this list

Right-Wing Assholes’ Greatest Hits!

  • The vicious and unsubstantiated charges leveled at Dr. George Tiller by Bill O’Reilly and other anti-choice fanatics created the hateful atmosphere that led to his assassination.
  • A 22-year old white supremacist’s shooting of three Pittsburgh police officers came after an extended stroking of his paranoiac love gun by Glenn Beck, who waxed rhapsodic about FEMA concentration camps.
  • Jim Adkisson’s shooting of a Unitarian church in Tennessee was prompted by his hatred of liberals and Democrats. His desired targets included the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America listed by Bernard Goldberg.

These are not fringe incidents. The direct perpetrators may not be considered part of the mainstream, but they share a significant and critical affinity with the vanguard of the social conservative movement: namely, the belief that they are defending a traditional, god-given social order from dangerous outsiders. Continue reading “Privilege Watch: An Introduction”

Just when you thought they’d forgotten about the Rose debacle…

It’s only a small mention, but significant nonetheless. In an article about the NYC legislature’s attempt to curb the “deaccessioning” (rapid sale) of art collections, the New York Times mentions that the bill “was prompted by a number of recent high-profile moves, including … Brandeis University’s January announcement that it would close its Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Mass., and sell the collection because of its declining endowment, a plan that the university is now revisiting.”

What this should highlight, if anything, is both the unprecedented nature of the Rose closing, as well as the poor handling of public relations. Thus, for the foreseeable future, articles about art sales, university endowments, or the place of the arts in education will have an obligatory mention of Brandeis.

Why Is Ayers Being Connected to the Death of Officer Walter Schroeder?

A persistent theme of the criticism Brandeis as a whole (and DFA/SDS in particular) have received as a result of Bill Ayer’s visit is the purported connection between the Weather Underground organization and two Brandeis students, Katherine Power and Susan Saxe, who murdered a police officer during a 1970 bank robbery. The assertion of a connection has been made by, among others, Michael Graham and Cliff Kincaid. Conservative radio host Michele McPhee is going so far as to use this connection as a pretext for a protest at Brandeis this Thursday, the day of Ayers’ visit.

However, this connection is not supported by evidence. The proof which Graham et. al. use to support their conviction is either nonexistent or misleading. While the murder of Officer Schroeder was and is tragic, Ayers and his organization were not involved. Rather, it seems that the effort to link Ayers with this murder is politically motivated, seeking to exploit the Schroeder family’s tragedy to rile conservative outrage.

Although the FBI formerly considered Power and Saxe members of the Weathermen, they have since rescinded that designation. Dan Kennedy of Media Nation has a great post examining the evidence for an Ayers-Power-Saxe connection, and finds nothing. He points out that the main source for Graham’s contention is an FBI webpage on the Weather Underground, which mentions Power only to say that a “Photo of Katherine Ann Power was removed because she was inaccurately associated with the Weather Underground”.

Continue reading “Why Is Ayers Being Connected to the Death of Officer Walter Schroeder?”

Rose Closure Blues: Let Your Parents Do the Talking!

Art Attack came up with a pretty snappy idea – give out form letters and stamped, addressed envelopes to students, so their parents can quickly and painlessly indicate their disapproval of the Rose Art’s closing. In the interests of saving some paper and postage, I decided to put the letter up here, so either you or a parent can print and mail/fax it yourself.

Continue reading “Rose Closure Blues: Let Your Parents Do the Talking!”

The War of the Rose: An Allegory of Transparency

The scope and reach of the (so-far announced) budget cuts have riled student opinion, but perhaps none so much as the closure of the Rose Art Museum. This should strike us as perplexing; the need to cut a full tenth of faculty, or vastly simplify our academic structure, would seem to be far more worrying and unacceptable changes. If what we are witnessing is the wholesale reorganization of our campus, imposed on our community with little student or faculty consent, why has the Rose become a flashpoint?

There is no single answer, but there are many contributing factors. Clearly, the marginalization of the arts on campus has long been a problem, and this move is seen by many as an appalling blow. Alumni are up in arms because the closure indicates that the administration has a callous attitude towards donors, viewing them less as partners in an ongoing project and more as non-renewable resources.

But perhaps the reaction can best be understood in the light of ongoing administration opaqueness, a secretiveness almost designed to breed student paranoia and rumor-mongering. It is utterly inexcusable that this decision was announced so suddenly and with so little input – the fact that this even caught museum director by surprise shows a marked disrespect on the part of the administration, even a reckless mentality, one I thought we could have left behind with the Bush administration.

This is not to say that this might not be a good decision, one carefully considered by Jehuda and the trustees. There is every possibility that this quick cash infusion may allow Brandeis to stay afloat through the financial crisis, through the restructuring process and the resulting academic scrambling. I could even be tempted to say that this was an inspired move, a bold decision that will ensure that we have a university in the years to come.

However, I am no position to make such a judgment. The complete lack of openness on the part of the administration means that nobody – none of the students, and precious few faculty and donors – can truly judge the merits of the decision.

The administration deigns to treat us as children. We are given but a poor mirror in which to grasp these shocking, unforeseen changes, and the cloudy images we see do nothing to alleviate our confusion and anger.

Rally Against Recriminalization!

The passage of Question 2 does not seem to have settled the question of marijuana’s legal status in Massachusetts. While it is currently decriminalized across the state, several municipalities are looking to roll back this development. Some are considering vastly increased fines for smoking in public places, and others seek to impose jail sentences. This clearly goes against the will of 63% of the voters in the state, and ought to be stopped. I will expand upon the case against recriminalization, as well as provide more info about these counter-democratic efforts, in a post tomorrow.

However, right now I wish to inform everyone who wants to preserve this hard-fought victory about a pair of protests tomorrow, January 20th. At the Quincy Town Hall and the Methuen City Hall, rallies are being held to tell their respective representatives to keep marijuana decriminalized in Massachusetts. The Worcester city council has already voted 7-4 against recriminalization. We need to let the drug warriors know to stay out of our state!

Information about the rallies below the fold.

Continue reading “Rally Against Recriminalization!”

Did we accidentally legalize pot?

Please welcome guest poster Jon

On January 2nd, Question 2, the Massachusetts imitative to decriminalize marijuana possession, came into effect. As (co-)President of Students for Sensible Drug Policy on campus, I am, of course, in favor of any steps that can end the senseless damage the War on Drugs has wreaked on our communities. This is why the November passage of Question 2 was such a satisfying victory.

However, it now appears that a loophole in the initiative has all but legalized marijuana in the state. As passed, Question 2 reduces the penalty for possession (up to one ounce) to a $100 fine, plus mandatory drug counseling for minors. However, police chiefs across the state are essentially giving up on enforcement altogether:

…in what is likely a clever sleight of hand by legalization advocates, the law, by pulling arrest off the table as an option, deprives police officers of any means to compel people caught with marijuana to show identification. Anybody willing to say “Donald Duck” to a cop who nabs him with a joint and asks for a name can escape even the $100 fine.

Marijuana is now not only de facto legal in a few Massachusetts communities because police find the requirements of decriminalization too demanding, it is now effectively sanction-free in the entire state for anybody willing to face down a cop.

Continue reading “Did we accidentally legalize pot?”