Moonlighting: Non-Specialists in the News
Administration Wants to Be Notifield Before High-Profile Speakers Are Invited [on Jimmy Carter; ref. to Norman Finkelstein]
by Dan Hirschhorn
Three months after a visit by a former U.S. president ignited campus debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration has asked to be notified before students invite high-profile speakers to appear on campus.
Provost Marty Krauss made the request in a campuswide e-mail Friday, stipulating four conditions under which she wants students and faculty to notify the administration prior to issuing invitations: if University President Jehuda Reinharz would be expected to attend or participate, if security issues would be involved, if the visit would cause disruption to other campus activities or if University funding would be needed.
Though the guidelines Krauss authored leave some room for interpretation, she described them as "common sense" and stressed that they were intended only to encourage high-profile visits.
"If you're contemplating inviting a high-profile person where one of these situations exists, you'd know that," she said.
Although some students and faculty expressed reservations about the guidelines, Krauss said they would not be used to stop students from hosting events, and that their purpose is to increase coordination for such events.
"I think the guidelines convey an eagerness to have high-profile speakers on campus, and an eagerness to coordinate such visits, and I hope that they prove helpful to people," she said in a phone interview Monday.
The administration's request will not affect visits that have already been scheduled, such as next week's appearances by Norman Finkelstein and Daniel Pipes, according to Krauss.
Since former President Jimmy Carter visited Brandeis in January to discuss his controversial book, administrators have watched with apprehension as students have engaged in the early stages of what some describe as a race to invite high-profile speakers.
Such concerns led Krauss to impanel a faculty committee in February to advise students on organizing potentially controversial events. That committee was not involved in the drafting of the administration's recent request to community members.
Some of the conditions in her e-mail appear to be born out of the aftermath of Carter's visit. Reinharz was roundly criticized for not attending the event; his office said he was on a fundraising trip that had long been scheduled. And he made no secret of his dismay at being left with a $95,000 bill for the event.
"Faculty members should not be allowed to invite whoever they want and leave Brandeis with a huge bill," he said at a faculty meeting in February. "We need to budget for these types of events."
Students and faculty reacted to the administration's request with measured approval, though some had concerns that the conditions could be used to constrict free debate.
Prof. Jonathan Sarna (NEJS) described the conditions as "self-evident and obvious," adding that he thought they would make it easier to invite high-profile speakers.
Prof. Gordon Fellman (SOC) saw the request as reasonable, but still worried about the administration injecting itself into academic debate. The administration, he said, should "stand aside, and let anything happen."
"The University has been here for 58 years and always had that policy. … [There's] never been any concern before about who invites anybody to speak."
Students who are already involved in inviting such speakers were also cautious in their support.
Kevin Montgomery '07, who helped spearhead Carter's visit, said it did not seem like the administration was trying to restrict campus debate. But he added that there should be a process by which students can bring speakers without the administration's support.
"If the administration is not interested in helping bring a speaker, there should be some sort of avenue that students can still pursue on their own," he said.
Shreeya Sinha '09, the president-elect of the Student Union, expressed concern that the administration's request was somewhat vague.
"[Krauss] should have explained clearly in the e-mail what the point of this was, and how this is different from the Campaign for Peace," Sinha said. Without further explanation, she said, "It would look to me like the university was going on a censorship rampage."
-Claire Moses and Miranda Neubauer contributed reporting.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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