Letter to the Editor: Faculty letter to President Liebowitz
Dear President Liebowitz,
As members of the Brandeis faculty and staff, we are writing to express our strong commitment to Brandeis’ principles of free expression as a university founded on principles of inclusiveness.
We are concerned that you have not provided evidence to the community that Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine members have engaged in “expression . . . that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, . . . or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the university” (Nov 6, 2023 letter from the Division of Student Affairs). If the University accuses the students of actions that represent a “threat or harassment,” then it must offer them a fair hearing through the process on “Group Sanctioning” (as outlined in Rights and Responsibilities 2023–-24, Section 20).
Brandeis’ policy on free expression, which you yourself commissioned in 2018, reminds us: “The university has a responsibility to encourage the airing of the widest range of political and scholarly opinions and to prevent attempts to shut down conversations, no matter what their topic.” Our students from all backgrounds, religions, and perspectives, however unpalatable those perspectives may be to other members of our community, must be allowed to exercise their rights to free speech at Brandeis.
We mourn the deaths of all Israeli and Palestinian civilians, United Nations aid workers, and others in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. The vigil on campus to mourn the dead in Palestine went ahead on Monday with broad student support, even after SJP had to cancel it. Students who attended the event expressed fears of harassment and retaliation for their participation due to the recent incidents of doxxing and intimidation at Harvard University and other institutions. But among our students are those who themselves lost multiple family members in Gaza. Attempting to stop the vigil under SJP was interpreted by many students as a sign that Brandeis does not acknowledge that Palestinian lives are equally worthy of grief. This was the only event on campus after Oct 7 to mourn Palestinian deaths, to recognize and grieve loss, but it was organized by the students themselves.
Regarding your decision to de-recognize Brandeis Students for Justice in Palestine, we are concerned about the implications of this decision for Brandeis’ standing as a nonsectarian university committed to inclusion, justice, and — most famously —” truth even unto its innermost parts.” The chilling of free speech, especially by a university founded on principles of inclusiveness, can only harm our ability to recruit a diverse body of students, faculty, staff, and outside speakers. And ironically, current students who are not members or supporters of SJP, including Jewish students, are also now concerned that there will be backlash against the University and themselves for this abrogation of the right to speak.
Please note also that several members of the Brandeis faculty who are untenured or otherwise in non-stable employment positions have expressed their support for the sentiments of the letter without feeling comfortable adding their signatures.
Prof. Sarah Lamb, ANTH and supported by over 100 faculty signatures