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Reader Commentary

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 14:10

Healthy and civil discussion needed

In response to your article “Concept of social justice actually perpetuates societal injustice” (Oct. 22):

In his 2010 commencement address at the University of Michigan, President [Barack] Obama noted the need for, “a basic level of civility in our public debate.” He went on to say, “We can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. ... You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody’s views and their judgment without questioning their motives.”

At Brandeis, we take particular pride in fostering an atmosphere that supports discourse and debate. There will always be topics, how- ever, that we find particularly sensitive, especially when the views espoused challenge our community values or practices. These challenges are, perhaps, even more difficult to con- front with civility in an online environment.

Both student newspapers recently published opinion columns that highlight such challenges. It’s important to bear in mind that these sections of the paper are not considered areas of “reporting,” they are meant to foster discussion. Editorial boards often select pieces for publication precisely because they raise questions, and give weight to opinions that may be in the extreme minority. This is one of the strengths of freedom of the press—that minority views can be reviewed and debated, even when they are not accepted, or possibly even acceptable, to large portions of a community.

There is, of course, a careful balance that must be struck between protecting the expression of minority opinion and establishing guidelines for communication that is unacceptable to a community in any forum. I will leave the debate of the drawing of such lines to another day and focus instead on the response to columns that, while challenging our values, are clearly not crossing these boundaries.

In reviewing responses, online and else- where, to the recent columns, I was dismayed to see our community seeming to stray from what most would consider civil discourse. Comments became unfortunately personal regarding the authors. I was saddened to read comments on both sides of discussions on each topic about not feeling safe and felt I needed to share how much those concerns trouble me.

Brandeis first and foremost is a community of scholars. Please be respectful of one another, and remember that whatever our disagreements, we should strive to maintain civility in our discourse. I am proud to be part of this amazing family, and hope that we will all continue to work together to ensure that no one at Brandeis, student, faculty or staff member, should ever feel unsafe.

—Andrew Flagel

Andrew Flagel is the senior vice president for students and enrollment.

Evaluate what should be published

In response to your article “Concept of social justice actually perpetuates societal injustice” (Oct. 22):

Twice this semester articles were written challenging the idea of diversity and the concept of social justice in attempts to advocate for the false rhetoric of “reverse racism” in which white people feel as though they are being discriminated against as people of color slowly begin to obtain basic human rights. Not only am I highly offended, but these articles had no facts to support their absurd claims and seemed more like students who are threatened by the implications made by “diversity” and “social justice,” uplifting disadvantaged communities and making sure all humans have basic rights.

I am appalled and disappointed that the Justice would allow these things to be published, and as an African-American female at Brandeis, I feel very uncomfortable existing here. I can’t help but to think I am somehow a threat to privileged, cisgendered white males here. I have also felt very ashamed to be here and I cannot understand why. I am beginning to question the credibility of the Justice as a whole and wondering if the publishing of such absurdities is an attempt to fire up the student body and create drama. Either way, it is rather disgusting, and the Justice should review and refuse to publish such poorly crafted material, and also re-evaluate the content before distributing it. This newspaper represents all of us, and some are feeling left out. This is highly problematic and certainly tarnishes Brandeis’ reputation. There is obviously a lack of diversity on the Justice editorial team, because, if there wasn’t, such ludicrous and offensive material would not be printed. It’s disgusting.

—Khadijah Lynch ’16

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