On Thursday, as part of the Louis D. Brandeis Centennial Celebration, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg H ’96 gave remarks about Justice Brandeis’ legacy. In addition, a panel of leading legal experts, moderated by former University President Frederick M. Lawrence, discussed how Justice Brandeis shaped and changed the American legal tradition. Roughly 25 students in classes about Justice Brandeis had the additional privilege of participating in a question and answer session with Justice Ginsburg following the event.

This board commends the University for bringing Ginsburg — who was voted the most popular Supreme Court Justice in a national poll conducted by Public Policy Polling in June 2015 — to campus. She was an especially exciting choice due to her popularity and also a fitting selection to speak about Brandeis as the casework of the two fall into similar themes. Brandeis was famous for his work as a “people’s lawyer” and a defender of the First Amendment while Ginsburg was the founder of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and has continually fought for equality. The opportunity to hear from Ginsburg also allowed students on campus to reflect on timely political issues, as a portion of the panel discussion addressed Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. 

However, this board is disappointed that more was not done to show the merit of the panel that followed Justice Ginsburg’s remarks. The panelists, two active judges and two legal scholars, are all impressive in their own rights, but the lack of attention they received gave the impression that they were just an afterthought to Ginsburg. This was especially highlighted by audience attitude. A sizeable portion of the audience left as soon as Ginsburg did, missing out on further commentary she shared and insight from some of the most knowledgeable experts on Brandeis alive today. This sort of behavior, the decision to leave abruptly as soon as one assumes the main speaker is done, is rude and willfully ignorant, and this board expects better of the Brandeis community.

Seeing Ginsburg was a privilege for the University community, but that does not mean the panelists should have been ignored, both in the promotion of the event and by the audience during the event itself. This board questions the reasons that some audience members decided to come to this panel in the first place; was it to learn more about the legacy of Brandeis or was it to snap a selfie in the same room with Ginsburg to show off on social media? Showing up to an event for the sole purpose of being able to brag about seeing someone famous and then leaving en mass midway through reflects poorly on the University community and its values. This board implores our fellow community members to carefully evaluate why they want to attend in the first place.

While this board encourages the student body to more respectful of these opportunities in the future, we commend the University for a bringing such a distinguished speaker to campus.