Students receive grant to initiate dialogue at Al-Quds
This past week yet another development occurred in the suspended relationship between Brandeis and Al-Quds University as a Davis Project for Peace grant was awarded to Eli Phillip '15 and Catie Stewart '16 for their project proposal entitled "Al-Quds University Student Dialogue Initiative."
According to the written proposal, "[t]he project will create a framework for long-term student dialogue between Brandeis University and Al-Quds University." This project has also been deemed consistent with University policy by the administration, despite the current suspension from this past November.
The Projects for Peace program, now in its eighth year, began when benefactor Kathryn W. Davis committed one million dollars on her 100th birthday for 100 peace projects. Each project, according to the Davis website, provides an opportunity for undergraduate students from any member school to design a grassroots peace-building project to be implemented over the summer. Each chosen project receives a $10,000 grant.
According to Prof. Gordon Fellman (SOC), who is the campus liaison for the program, in an interview with the Justice, "Brandeis used to get one [grant award] a year but three out of the past five or six years we've managed to get two awards."
In a Skype interview with the Justice, Phillip, who is currently studying abroad in Morocco, expressed his excitement about receiving the grant. "The ability to interact with Palestinians and Palestinian students would be very informative, very interesting and very positive for both campuses," said Philip.
According to Phillip, the crux of the program will be "an intensive five-day program, where Brandeis students will be based in Jerusalem with the bulk of the sessions actually taking place at Al-Quds University, with different sessions working with Al Quds students."
Phillip said that the grant money "would primarily be used toward logistical transportation, housing, sessions and other costs."
In an interview with the Justice, Stewart said that the inception of the idea behind this project occurred even before the formal suspension of the relationship between the two schools in November. According to Stewart, both she and Phillip "had never even heard about Al-Quds and the partnership with Brandeis. ... As soon as we saw it existed we did some research and saw that at one point there had been student exchanges."
Once the institutional relationship was suspended, they realized they would have to acquire funding from an outside source, like the Davis grant, in order to bring their idea to fruition.
According to the Davis Project for Peace page on Brandeis' website, "undergraduate students at any of the Davis [United World College] Scholar schools (including seniors who would complete their projects after graduation) are eligible-so long as the president of their institution has signed and returned the grant agreement form."
Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid wrote in the email to the Justice that, after reviewing the matter with University President Frederick Lawrence, this peace project "is consistent with Brandeis University's principles of academic freedom and open dialogue on challenging issues." De Graffenreid added that "[t]his project is consistent with Brandeis' policy of keeping the lines of communications between faculty and students at Brandeis and Al-Quds."
However, de Graffenreid did specify that "President Lawrence's role is to agree to the terms of the grant from the Davis Foundation, but he did not sign off on the proposal, nor would he expect to do so-these projects are evaluated independently through a process established by the Peace, Conflict and Coexistence Studies Program."
Fellman echoed this same sentiment in an email to the Justice. "[T]he president's office is not involved in this process. The PAX committee that assesses Davis applications makes the final decisions, and I, as chair of PAX and that committee, send them on to the Davis folks."
In regard to what Stewart and Phillip would like to see after the conclusion of the summer program, Stewart said that "[o]ne of the things we thought about but obviously didn't have the money for is the idea to bring Al-Quds students to Brandeis. That would be really crucial for us following through on this."
Stewart also emphasized Al-Quds' willingness to participate in a student relationship with Brandeis; "Although there was some hurt when the partnership was suspended, there is definitely a desire to work with Brandeis." Stewart added, "I think the partnership was really beneficial to the Al-Quds campus, and they realized that. There is a real opportunity to empower the moderate students, and I believe this would be the opportunity for that."