EDITORIAL: Respect the right to protest at campus events
At Brandeis, protest plays a vital role in securing opportunities for many students. As a result, this board is concerned by the University’s recent lack of respect for this right. During President Ronald Liebowitz’s inauguration on Thursday, the University prohibited signs and banners from the event before any student body had even expressed interest in protesting. This rule eliminates a fundamental right from members of the University community — the right to protest peacefully.
This board recognizes that protest should never be the first step toward any political cause, but the University should not limit the rights of students on campus to protest because protesting students usually have already approached the administration through more formal channels with little to no results. For example, on Dec. 1, 2015, BAATF sent a letter to administrators with the hope of establishing an Asian American studies program by this semester. Seven days later, BAATF student activists protested when the University showed no indication of action.
In the past, the University has shown willingness to work with student groups through petition — as was the case with the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative in May 2015 — but in order to maximize students’ ability to achieve change, the right to protest must also be at their disposal.
Liebowitz argued in his inaugural address that “Brandeis is a richer and more effective educational environment for students when it includes, and successfully brings together in discussion, debate and learning — students, with different life experiences, perspectives and world views.”
Eliminating the opportunity for members of the community to actively engage in dialogue through a peaceful form of protest contradicts this. This board urges the University to follow through with Liebowitz’s commendable statement.
In an Oct. 31 interview with the Justice, Liebowitz said that he would be holding regular hours in the President’s office so students could speak with him. Although this effort to engage with the community is laudable, office hours must not be the only way students can communicate with their president.
Political protest is ingrained within the University’s history, and it is essential that our University does not shy away from the values that created it.