Moonlighting: Non-Specialists in the News
Timeline of Finkelstein Event [on Norman Finkelstein & Brandeis]
by David Pepose
Despite the debate from the RSA claiming that Conway joined the RSA with the sole intent of inviting the controversial speaker, Finkelstein was actually first introduced in an e-mail sent on Jan 18. by Professor Leslie Zebrowitz (PSYC) to the RSA, days after Professor Alan Dershowitz had been invited to rebut former President Jimmy Carter.
"Finkelstein has offered to come to Brandeis next Tuesday and provide a rebuttal to Dershowitz. One possibility would be to join Dershowitz in the same forum for a debate. Another would be to speak after Dershowitz either that evening or the next day. Another would be for Finkelstein to challenge Dershowitz from the floor during his hour on stage," wrote Zebrowitz. "The faculty whom Finkelstein has contacted feel that it would be most appropriate for an invitation to him to come from a student group, such as yours, and possibly others you would identify, since other student groups are sponsoring Dershowitz."
Duffy, who responded to the e-mail Jan. 19, said that "while I think it's a bad idea for us to invite anybody I would be willing for RSA to endorse an invitation." The next day, Conway responded to the e-mail, saying that "I am willing to submit an invitation to Professor Finkelstein on behalf of RSA, and also to organize the event. I've been following Finkelstein's work closely over the past couple years, so I know that the quality of his scholarship is top notch, and that he is a very informative lecturer, not to mention entertaining."
Later that day, Duffy responded to Conway's e-mail, stating that "anyone involved in the recently dissipated group would probably want to talk about it and learn more about this fellow before he spoke… However RSA is not owned by anyone except those who are involved in it. At the moment no one is really involved at all. So I would say go ahead and use RSA's name if you have to use one. If you can just invite Finkelstein individually that would be better… Seeing the urgency of this you might as well go ahead with the event. Just don't use the RSA name unless you really have to."
The next two days sparked a flurry of activity on the RSA/SDS listserv, with several positive responses, including from the club's founder, Joshua Russell '06. Only one doubtful e-mail was sent, questioning whether inviting Finkelstein would associate the RSA/SDS with his controversial views.
On Jan. 22, Duffy sent an e-mail to Conway saying that "you should also sign up for a marathon time with the f board for money if you haven't yet." On Jan. 24, however, Conway sent an e-mail to the RSA/SDS listserv saying that "despite impressive efforts on our part to bring Professor Norman Finkelstein of DePaul University (Chicago) to lecture yesterday evening (Jan. 23rd) following speeches by former President Carter and Professor Dershowitz, we were ultimately denied because of the last minute nature of our proposal."
It was only on Jan. 25, despite having previously sent replies on the RSA/SDS listserv Jan. 21 regarding F-Board policies for transportation costs, did RSA/SDS co-facilitator Michelle Lindstrom '06 voice the first messages of dissent. "I'm not necessarily opposed to Finkelstein coming, but typically, RSA has a much more significant discussion about [cosponsoring] events and speakers," she wrote in her e-mail. "In this case, it seems that there's been minimal discourse at best, and certainly not any that was particularly thorough. I personally am hesitant about sponsoring Finkelstein not because of any shortcomings on his part or disagreement with his politics or whatever, but because it seems to have been suggested, and then acquiescence assumed."
After several increasingly hostile exchanges between Conway and Lindstrom that day, Duffy sent an e-mail to the listserv that day, saying "Kevin, since you're a noobie you should recognize that it is customary for RSA to talk about everything in person. I call for a meeting."
For the next several days, e-mails were sent across the RSA listserv, calling for a meeting to discuss, amongst other things, the Norman Finkelstein event. The meeting was eventually held on Thursday, Feb. 15. The minutes of that meeting did not state anything regarding Finkelstein. The Finkelstein topic was not mentioned on the RSA listserv since.
Meanwhile, also on Feb. 15, Conway and the Arab Culture met with the Campaign for Peace group, who gave their approval to hold the event. On Feb. 28, the Finance Board also gave their approval, granting $959.54 to the ACC to host the speech. "The F-Board had a good meeting with RSA and Arab-Culture clubs. We asked many questions on why they want to bring him, why him, contents of the program, and, most importantly, how this event will benefit the Brandeis student body academically," said Treasurer Choon Woo Ha '08 to the Hoot. Ha added that "I have also spoken with members of Campaign for Peace committee. Clubs met with the committee members before coming to the F-Board. They discussed how to make this event beneficial."
The SDS officially revoked their co-sponsorship, according to both Lindstrom and Conway, during the SDS potluck on Mar. 4. While there was no mention of Finkelstein on the club's agenda, Lindstrom told the Hoot that "you can add things into the meeting without it being on the agenda. To begin with, we don't send out our agendas at any time—we announce meetings, and we assume that if you want to be there, you'll be there." After the SDS backed out of the event, the Arab Culture Club revoked their sponsorship the same day. After several days of searching for new cosponsors, the World Can't Wait club officially agreed to co-sponsor the event on Mar. 14.
Editor's Note: All e-mails quoted in this piece are currently available for public perusal on the Brandeis listserv website, under the archive of "rsaorganize."Note: Articles listed under "Moonlighting: Non-Specialists in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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