Anti-Arab flyer, anti-gay graffiti spark concern
Anti-Arab fliers hung around Rabb last week and promptly removed have soliticited the concern of students and administrators. The anonymous 8.5 by 11 in. sheets began, "Who took Moshe Goldschmidt, castrated him, put out his eyes and murdered him?" and followed with seven similar questions, finally stating, "The Arabs; doing in 1929 what they would do today - if they could."The flyers were brought to the attention of the Department of Student Life, including Assistant Dean of Student Life and Coordinator of Diversity Services Nathaniel Mays Thursday morning. The flyers solicited a written statement from Mays, distributed via the all-student e-mail list, yesterday that was preceeded by a brief remark by President Jehuda Reinharz.
"Whether the flier originated with someone from within the Brandeis community, or without, is not certain," Mays wrote. "One thing that is certain is that our public safety officials are aware of this activity and are keeping a watchful eye for anyone who might try to do anything to disrupt our community."
Meanwhile, an incident of anti-gay slander earlier in September will be the focus of a community meeting tonight at 9 p.m. in Swig Lounge. The meeting will address three instances of anti-gay graffiti written on doors in one, all-male East Quad hall. During the first week of September, "faggot" was twice written on a dry erase board on a resident's door. The incidents were brought to the attention of East Quad Director Luigi Solla on Sept. 12 when the same slur was written in Russian on another door on the same hall.
Director of Public Safety Edward Callahan said the University is uncertain who perpetrated either incident, but expressed concern over both. "The University doesn't tolerate that type of discrimination in that type or in any form." he said about the flyer. "We're asking members of the community if they have seen anybody putting this type of flyer up or if they have any information to let us know."
Callahan also said that several individuals have been interviewed about the East Quad incidents, but added that nothing certain has come out of the investigation so far. Callahan added he believes the individuals whose doors were written on were specifically targeted but that they face no imminent, physical danger. Solla, however, said he believes the individuals were targeted randomly, calling the incident one of "immaturity."
Calling the flyers "mean-spirited," Mays said the University welcomes "honest attempts at dialogue," but said that no conversation can occur since the statement was unsigned. "The overall responsibility for the flyer on campus has been and will continue to be a disdain for this kind of communication."
Mays has been communicating with student groups, including the Society Organized Against Racism (SOAR), the International Cultural Club (ICC) and the recently-chartered Arab Cultural Club (ACC). He said he is encouraging groups to work together toward one, comprehensive event.
Peggy Eyssallenne, co-coordinator for SOAR and Student Union Community Integrations Coordinator, said she believes student action is not enough. "I think the administration needs to take a very strong stand on issues of diversity and hate," she said. "I also think the whole student body should take a strong stand, not just students of color - which is usually who takes a strong stand for diversity and against issues such as the flyer and the graffiti written in East against homosexuality and the Sherman incident" (See related on page 2).
Triskellion General Coordinator Leslie Meltzer '03, however, said she feels too great a burden rests on students to catalyze change and that in the past the community has overly relied upon Triskelion when incidents have occurred. "It's not the responsibility of Trisk to deal with such situations," she said. "We're a student-run organization and when there's a serious incident on a hall where someone is in danger or has the potential to be in danger, it's really the responsibility of the (Office of) Residence Life staff to see that something happens about this."
"I think people think it's a joke. They say a word like 'faggot' and they don't think anything of it," she said. "As liberal as the school is, there are people who rampantly homophobic and they don't think anything of that word."
On Sunday, Class of 2005 Senator Michael Corwin brought forth, and the Senate approved, a resolution "condemning anti-Arab hate speech of Sept. 26, 2002."
The resolution was supported by leaders of several student groups. It called the flyers "both a racist attack on the Muslim and Arab populations on campus and as severely divisive to the student body."
"(The incident) feels hypocritical, being in a school that says we embrace diversity," Co-coordinator of the ACC Nour Al-Sabeeh '05 said. "You're never going to change how people think - you're only going to create awareness."
ACC's Co-coordinator Ayham Bahnassi '05 estimated that about a dozen Arabs attend Brandeis at the undergraduate level.
Speaking out against the flyers at the Senate meeting, ZaHaV Chairman Mitchel Balsam '05 emphasized, "The demeaning of any group and the generalizations of any ethnicity is abhorrent and simply not negotiable here at this institution we love."
"Our main mission is to give Zionism the good name it deserves," he added. "While it seems to be natural to assume we did this, being the most pro-Israel group on campus, I can assure you that the first time anyone in my group knew about this was after many other people had already been offended at least as much as we were.