Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. served as a revolutionary figure in the progression of African-American civil rights and the use of non-violent protest. Upon King’s visit to the University on Apr. 3, 1957, he encouraged nonviolent protest and reinvigorated the culture of inclusion that characterized the then-recent founding of the University. As King fought for African-American rights and inclusion in society, the University was founded to guarantee members of the Jewish community inclusion in higher education. Reflecting on King’s memory and leadership, this board commends the efforts of student activists on campus, whose work aligns with both King’s message of nonviolent protest for achieving social equality and the University’s commitment to social inclusion. 

Students in Ford Hall 2015 exemplified King’s strategic civil disobedience. Last semester, Brandeis activists mobilized to combat institutional racism. Activists hosted an 11-day sit-in in the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Building until the University addressed a list of 13 demands to increase black representation at the University. These demands were largely addressed in an eventual new resolution. 

King expressed the importance of civil disobedience in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an influential Civil Rights piece, in which he famously remarked, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 

The Brandeis Asian American Task Force demonstrated a similar spirit of activism when they called on Interim President Lisa Lynch and other University administrators to support the creation of an Asian American studies department. The push resulted in the creation of a core course in the field of study by Fall 2016 and the continuing  development of an Asian American Pacific Islander Studies minor. 

The movements’ successes show the efficacy of nonviolent protest and commitment to equality. This board applauds the student body’s commitment to active protest for racial justice and encourages other student movements to model their efforts on King’s commitment to nonviolence and civil rights, which spurred on his success in revolutionizing the 1960s America. 

In memory of King’s service and Brandeis’ founding, students should continue to uphold a shared commitment to diversity, respect and nonviolence. We commend the efforts of student activists to work toward marked change through nonviolent protest campus-wide and recognizes student commitment to both King’s message and the morals the University was founded upon..