Last Friday, 15 students and alumni demanded a meeting with University President Frederick Lawrence to discuss the renewal of Brandeis’ partnership with Al-Quds University. The students were led by Eli Philip ’15 and Catie Stewart ’16, the creators of the Brandeis University-Al-Quds University Student Dialogue Initiative, through which students have held insightful programming with Al-Quds. After waiting outside Lawrence’s office for an hour, the students scheduled a meeting with the president for later in the week.

This board applauds Philip, Stewart and the other protestors for continuing to draw attention to the issue of this partnership’s cessation. The partnership currently sits in an indefinite state of suspension—as opposed to termination—and the question of whether and when to officially resume the partnership must continue to be asked. Even the BrandeisNOW press release which suspended the relationship read, “We will reevaluate our relationship with Al-Quds based on future events.”

The University’s relationship with Al-Quds was suspended after then-president of Al-Quds Sari Nusseibeh responded via email to an East Jerusalem campus protest. The protest featured mock killings of soldiers and fascist imagery. 

The response was considered “unacceptable and inflammatory” by Lawrence and was implied as the driver behind the suspension between the universities. Yet, in a Jan. 14, 2014 Justice article, then-Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid stated that Lawrence was in talks with Al-Quds administration, noting the “ultimate goal of re-establishing the partnership.” Since then, however, the University has been notably silent on the issue.

Meanwhile, student activists have made significant progress on repairing the relationship. The Student Dialogue Initiative developed by Philip and Stewart sent students to Al-Quds during summer 2014 and this winter, generating more dialogue with Al-Quds than had occurred for years before. In an April 2014 Justice article, Stewart noted that she “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.” The dialogue with Al-Quds has unquestionably widened in size and scope after the suspension. 

Additionally, Lawrence announced that he would be stepping down from his presidency at the end of this academic year, and Nusseibeh left his presidency at the end of the 2013 to 2014 academic year, according to a March 27 Times of Israel article.

Presidents on both sides of the relationship have moved or will be moving on from their respective institutions.

It seems to this board that the University’s relationship with Al-Quds has been restored in everything but name. Students from both institutions engage in critical dialogue on challenging issues. All that remains is for the formal, academic partnership to be restored. 

We urge the administration to restore its partnership with Al-Quds, utilizing the infrastructure already in place thanks to Philip and Stewart to reinstate dialogue between a nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored University and the only Arab university in Jerusalem.