Kent State and Student Activism

So as a lot of our readership might know, a few days ago was the 40th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State University. As a lot of our readership also knows, this blog and the authors who write on it are also concerned with issues relating to student activism, and are frequently disillusioned by the common perceptions that students these days, overwhelmingly, are too lazy (or preoccupied) to deal with the pressing issues of their day.

This article at Salon, while similarly lambasting the current state of affairs, got me thinking about our notions of activism and the past, especially around the time of the Vietnam War. You often hear about people saying that “back then,” students stood up for things, often in the face of guns and popular disdain (we heard much of that at the Remembering Ford Hall event). And they did stand up in response to the shootings, to the tune of a national student strike and a huge rally in Washington, DC. But, apparently, right after the initial buzz, people were just as content then to sit around in the sun or play frisbee as we are now to sit around watching reality TV and talking about how much the situation sucks.

Quick Edit: I sound like I’m saying a national student strike, involving 4 million students and campuses across the country, is no big deal. Which I’m not. But I am saying that after the initial strong start, people started to lose their sense of urgency and went back to their daily lives (which, after all, is only to be expected, right?)

Brandeis and Its Sick History

A while back Sahar posted something about how awesome Brandeis’ history is. Those of us who went to today’s MLK Week event, Remembering Ford Hall, got to experience a bit of that history firsthand, and it was AWESOME. Seriously, folks, if you weren’t there you really missed out.

Picture, if you will, four older black gentlemen, jovial and classy as all hell, plus Gordie Fellman, talking about that one time forty years ago where they took over, for eleven days, the campus’ main building to secure rights for minorities. They talked about their backgrounds, about the various circumstances that brought them to a nascent Brandeis University, the feelings of passion and community, the parties in Rosenthal and the old Ridgewood buildings, the fear they had about the police and their scholarships and their futures, the national mood about civil rights (Dr. King had been killed the year before) and the Vietnam war, the faculty on campus, their motivations and their sacrifices…as cheesy as it sounds to say this, I felt like I was sitting in the presence of true heroes of activism.

Check out some info here.

Mad props and respect for DFA, the Office of Undergrad Admissions, and MLK & Friends for bringing such a cool slice of Brandeis history to life.

Further Thoughts

Having further thought about, and discussed at great length, The MSA Incident and the subsequent fallout and reaction, I’d like to offer some clarifications and updates to my earlier post. Firstly, I’m really really proud to see the reaction this campus has had. Sahar’s open letter and the responses to the facebook events clearly indicate the good intentions and open-heartedness of Brandeisians, and I’m proud to call myself one. I’m on a bunch of email threads discussing the next step forward, and while I’m not sure what that should be, the responses by campus leaders and administration folks are awesome.

I’d like to clarify the point of my last post. My point on Wednesday was that while there was a (very high) probability of malicious intent bordering on what we’d call “hate,” we should keep ourselves from summary judgment until the facts present themselves clearly. I also wanted to keep the overall conversation calm and rational, since overreaction can lead to precisely the opposite of the kind of message we want to send. But since then, I’ve talked to people about it, both MSA members and non-, and I just want to update the readership on my thought process. Thanks to those conversations, the interview Imam Eid did with the Daily News Tribune, and some of the comments to that post, I realized that I understated how hurtful an incident like this really is. While the physical, material damage may have been minimal and therefore a bit of a non-issue, the nature of the vandalism itself screams out something far worse than “teenagers TPing a house ’cause they’re bored and want to raise a ruckus.”

Though the sum of the rest of the damage can be seen as such, the stealing of a copy of the Qur’an indicates something more than just a prank or some ultimately-harmless mischief. This is a text that represents the Divine Word of God on earth, and is therefore of immense spiritual value. I think Sahar was essentially right in his post – even not presuming outright desecration of the Scripture, simply walking off with something holy and sacred…? PLUS, there were two years of notes and sermons in there. That’s someone’s hard work. That’s two years of dedication to faith and education and introspection lost. Having really thought about it, this was more than just disrespectful, it was – yes, I’ll say it – a hateful thing to do.

Last thing: Come to the vigil on Friday. Stand up for a good cause. It’s a symbol, but it says a lot.

Actual Last Thing: If anyone’s interested, you’re more than welcome to come to Friday prayer as well. It’s in the International Lounge in Usdan, a little bit past 1, every Friday. There’s a sermon followed by the prayer, and everyone is welcome to stay for either or both.

Hate Crime for Sure?

Hello folks, new blogger here. My name’s Hyder, class of 2012. I’m planning on majoring in bio and IMES, and I’m also interested in politics, activism, Islam in the modern world, South Asia, the list goes on.

I’m a member of the MSA. I first heard about this incident late last week, I think after Friday prayers. As I was sitting in the MSA lounge, talking to people after lunch, I couldn’t bring myself to feel terribly angry or hurt. Because when I had heard “vandalism,” I thought things had been broken, tables upturned, the room terribly defaced, blood on the walls, apocalyptic quotes, broken windows, the whole nine yards; instead we got damage to a wall, unplugged lamps, bent cooking utensils, and a stolen copy of the Qur’an. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that’s okay either, that it should be fine for people to walk into a place for Muslim gathering and worship and do whatever childish immature things strike their fancy. And I’m really glad to see the kind of reaction people have had, because  I’ve seen nothing but support for the Muslims on campus and outrage that something like this could happen at Brandeis.

But I don’t think we can label this a hate crime quite yet. As far as I know, no one knows who did this, or why, or when, or what happened afterwards. Sahar put it well, saying  “stealing (and presumably desecrating) a Koran is a big deal” – because it is –  except I’m not sure we can presume desecration right off the bat. That copy has yet to be found, and may well be returned – who knows? This isn’t like finding a noose hanging in a library, this is more like teenagers TPing a house ’cause they’re bored and want to raise a ruckus.

In the Justice article, Neda was quoted as saying “”No matter what the suspected motivations are, I believe this vandalism should be treated like a hate crime by the Brandeis community and Police department.” I completely disagree. I think this should be treated as immature, juvenile, disrespectful, outrageous…the list goes on, because this incident is all those things (and more) to very many people aside from the Muslims on campus. And if it ends up being something malicious and intolerant and hurtful, I’ll be the first to shout for swift justice and strong action. But before we can assume “hatred” of the Muslim presence at Brandeis, we should have clear proof that it exists; labeling it a “hate crime” when we have so little information is jumping to a conclusion that may not be useful or true, but may end up unnecessarily staining the Brandeis campus and community.