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THE JUSTICE

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NOAH ZEITLIN/the Justice

TAKING A STAND: Concerned Students 2015 organized a protest of DCL and Public Safety's policies. They also released a list of demands to the University.

RALLY: Protesters call for racial justice CONTINUED FROM 1 13 “in solidarity” with the initial protest, according to a statement they put out after their demonstration. In the statement, they referred to themselves as #StillConcernedClinicians and said they “feel it is [their] duty and [their] role to amplify the voices of these students” and are working to “understand the role that systems of oppression can have on the mental health of the students [they] serve.” The organizers of the May 1 rally and march also asked for increased “transportation equitability and accessibility for students of color” through the establishment of transportation options for students without the financial ability to go home for breaks, as well as expansion of transportation routes to Market Basket Plaza for low-income students. They also asked for use of “more sensitive” transportation options than a police cruiser for student emergency situations. The fourth demand pushed for DCL and Public Safety to stop excessive policing of students of color, require Brandeis police officers to wear body cameras and “strengthen community engagement methods with students of color.” A student who read the demands at the Public Safety office said, “You want us to trust y’all, but we don’t, because we don’t know y’all. Y’all are just like white people on this campus with guns.” Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan did not respond to request for comment from the Justice. The final demand urged Liebowitz to issue a statement in solidarity with “students at John Hopkins University organizing against the funding of [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] contracts, and those at Yale University organizing against racialized police brutality in their local community.” The organizers said that they “expect a clear statement of action” to be publicly issued by the administration by May 14 at 12:00 p.m. Liebowitz responded to the demands in an email to the Brandeis community on May 3. He wrote that some of the demands brought up at the rally had been raised by students before and were already being addressed, and that other demands “need[ed] to be investigated, understood, and discussed.” Liebowitz added that he asked University Provost Lisa Lynch and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Stew Uretsky to work with the Division of Student Affairs and the Department of Public Safety, respectively, on negotiating with the student organizers. “It will be through meeting and discussion, rather than through demands and deadlines, that we can make progress,” Liebowitz wrote. In the same email, Liebowitz criticized the way the protest was conducted. He wrote that some of the protestors used “loud, vulgar, and threatening tactics,” such as using a bullhorn and shouting obscenities, and that he “expects all protests to be done in a manner that is respectful of other individuals.” Liebowitz wrote that some of the behavior at the protest violated Section 7 of the University’s Rights and Responsibilities student code. He quoted Section 7: “Though the campus must

NEWS

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2019

ISRAEL CUBE: Spray painting leads to potential student conduct charges

#STILLCONCERNED

be open to the free exchange of ideas, the University may limit the time, place, and manner of demonstrations. All members of the community are expected to conduct dialogues with dignity and courtesy.” Liebowitz and Dean of Students Jamele Adams did not respond to requests for comment from the Justice. Director of Media Relations Julie Jette did not comment on the May 1 rally or the protesters’ demands. The five core organizers of the rally, who requested that the Justice identify them by their first and last initials and class years, held a forum on May 2. One organizer, MR ’20, said that their criticism of DCL and Public Safety was not targeted at any individual staff members or incidents, but rather at the institution. “I want people to be honest with themselves about ways they are [complicit] in … racism,” CC ’19 added. CC explained that many of DCL’s actions and policies made her feel uncomfortable on campus, saying, “I don’t feel safe.” She said that DCL policies were created largely by white communities and that people outside of those communities felt isolated. “Our ways of life are separated,” she said. CC specifically named DCL’s policy regarding religious candles as an example of a policy that was not equitably implemented. She said that DCL had granted permission for students to use Shabbat candles, but not candles associated with African and indigenous religions. CC also cited her experiences with social gatherings led by students of color being more heavily policed — even when they had been approved by DCL — as one example of of racialized policing. The organizers also talked about how the rally was in solidarity with students at Johns Hopkins University and Yale University, who were engaged in similar efforts to better the campus experiences of Black and Brown students. DF ’19 said that she received an email from Johns Hopkins students asking other universities to stand in solidarity with their efforts to stop their administration from creating a private police force and to push them not to have contracts with ICE. CC talked about the rally’s connection to Yale University. According to an April 24 CNN article, on April 23, a Yale police officer stopped a car, believing that the Black man in the driver’s seat was the perpetrator of a recent armed robbery. A Hamden County police officer shot into the vehicle multiple times. The woman in the passenger’s seat was injured, neither she nor the man were arrested and no gun was found in the vehicle. “Solidarity is necessary for all Black Lives Matter movements,” CC said. Several of the students also expressed how exhausting it was for them to keep fighting. “It feels like running on a hamster wheel,” MR said, explaining how she felt like she was constantly putting in energy and not seeing substantial change. CC added, “I’m sick of it. I take pride in knowing that people fight for me, but people shouldn’t have to fight to get an education.” CC continued, “I’m so eternally grateful for my ancestors and the work that they’ve done, but why are we still fighting?”

called Hillel’s coverup of the initial graffiti “irresponsible” and wrote, “As a university committed to social justice, we should be promoting dialogue, not suppressing it.” The group’s premise is to be a coalition of “progressive young Jews” who are against the “occupation” in Palestine, with its message centering around the idea that the state of Israel is “lying to young Jews” about what is occurring in occupied territories, per its Facebook page. In that vein, the statement called the cube “a beacon of propaganda and an embodiment of blatant nationalism.” The group also accused Hillel and the University of promoting a “one-sided narrative” that “stifle[d] the diversity of opinion” about Israel among Brandeis students and failed to address the “complexities of the occupation,” per the same statement. IfNotNow held a “Propaganda Cube” debrief on May 3, to start a conversation about the “art installation,” according to the Facebook event description. The Justice reached out to representatives of IfNotNow for comment and received only a referral to the group’s social media posts. On May 2, Brandeis Hillel’s Student Board put out its own statement, emphasizing the “real hurt to members of our community” caused by the spray painting of the cube. For Israeli Brandeisians and those with other ties to the country, the week was a time of celebrating the country and “all of the complexity that loving Israel, like loving any country, carries with it,” the statement explained. “We wish that those who defaced the exhibition in the Great Lawn—the first time or the second time—had decided to contribute to the project rather than vandalize it.” The statement mentioned Hillel’s dedication to dialogue about the conflict, including subjects like Israeli politics that are often difficult to discuss. “Hillel works hard to offer different perspectives on the Israeli-Arab conflict. ... That is why we hosted two Palestinians this year in conversation with Israeli Jews – to model respectful disagreement and dialog,” Rabbi Seth Winberg, Brandeis Hillel’s executive director and the senior Jewish chaplain, wrote in an email to the Justice. Other organizations made statements about the situation, though not involved. In an email to the Justice, Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee Vice President Jillian Fisch ’21 expressed BIPAC’s “disappoint[ment] to see that the original artwork of the artists was vandalized.” Fisch, however, emphasized that if the spraypainters graffitied the wall designated for student expression, she would have had no problem with the speech, because that “could have helped spur a conversation in a much more effective and constructive way.”

board to discuss racial issues, with one commenter saying students “give more fucks about a piece of WOOD than the black brown trans queer students of all legal statuses telling you they don't feel safe here,” referencing the May 1 #StillConcerned protest. Though the two events occurred on the same day, the protest and the cube graffiti were unrelated events concerning different causes.

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ongoing conduct process.

The conduct process

Backlash over the spray painting spread swiftly in the University’s social media circles. In the Facebook group “Overseen at Brandeis,” one student posted a picture of the cube, allegedly to “spark a discussion.” In the nearly 300 comments on the thread, current students and alumni debated the nature of the graffiti and its links to oppression of different minorities. The discussion quickly became volatile and vitriolic. One commenter invoked the University’s Jewish history to dismiss views that are critical of Israel, stating, “If you don’t like Israel or Jews, then simply don’t come to Brandeis. It’s not a place for you.” Around 20 people, including some opposed to the vandalism, refuted the commenter, emphasizing peoples’ right to diversity of opinion and accusing the individual of xenophobia. Some used the conflict as a spring-

The situation was further inflamed with an email from University President Ron Liebowitz on May 15 informing the community of the results of the University’s investigation into the incident. In the email, Liebowitz wrote that the “culprit” of the initial “Free Palestine” spray painting had not been found, but that the perpetrators of the second act of covering the mural, IfNotNow’s sign, could be “going through the university’s conduct process.” While the email told of no new information about the perpetrators, the revelation that IfNotNow could be brought up on conduct charges brought a new wave of backlash from the community. In a statement provided to the Justice, Students for Justice in Palestine condemned the potential conduct charges, stating that the “precedent is dangerous and harmful, and ... establishes our university as one which does not care about freedom of expression but instead perpetuates an echo chamber of unchallenged support of the Israeli government that these students dared to question.” Liebowitz referenced the University’s “Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression,” writing that the perpetrators violated the policy. “If the messages left on the installation had been conveyed without vandalizing property and in accordance with university policy, the speech would have been protected. But this case involved vandalism targeted at a specific group,” the email stated. The group Liebowitz refers to is Brandeis Hillel, so according to Liebowitz, it “could easily lead one to interpret the acts as antiSemitic.” On May 16, IfNotNow published a second statement on its Facebook page decrying Liebowitz’s email and countering his accusations of antiSemitism. “It is because of the Jewish tradition of repairing the world (tikkun olam), and not in spite of it, that we believe in the possibility of a Jewish community that seeks freedom and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians,” IfNotNow wrote. The Justice reached out to Liebowitz for further comment and received a response from Director of Media Relations Julie Jette referring back to his May 15 email. In an email to the Justice, Muncaster explained it is University policy not to comment on the

To gauge the nature of the potential charges brought against IfNotNow, the Justice interviewed Nathan Greess ’19, a former chair of the Student Conduct Board. When an individual goes through the conduct process, they can pick from three options: an administrative agreement, an administrative hearing or a Student Conduct Board hearing. In an administrative agreement, the student accepts responsibility for their actions and works with the hearing officer to determine appropriate sanctions. In an administrative hearing, the accused party can bring witnesses and evidence to be heard before one administrative officer. The Student Conduct Board consists of three students and two staff, with the addition of a neutral overseeing conduct officer, and tends to only cover more severe offenses, because the process takes longer. A student who goes through either hearing can appeal the decision if new evidence is found or if there was a procedural mistake during the initial process. During the interview, Greess discussed Sections 6 and 7 of the Rights and Responsibilities, which is the rulebook used in conduct hearings. Section 6 concerns vandalism and respect of University property. Section 6.0 reads, “Respect, maintain, and preserve University grounds, academic and administrative buildings, residence halls, dining facilities, and associated structures, as well as faculty, staff and other students’ personal property.” Greess speculated that a conduct committee could “read it to violate ‘associated structure,’” and was certain that if IfNotNow were to be charged with a conduct violation, it would be a vandalism charge, as there is more guidance and precedent in dealing with vandalism cases. Charging the group under Section 7, which concerns demonstrations, would be more difficult, he said. Under Section 7, a demonstration cannot “disrupt University operations or obstruct physical movement to, from, or within any place on the campus.” Greess said he interpreted the section “as having to do with physical demonstrations,” such as sit-ins, and “wouldn’t know how to go about” invoking Section 7 in any other type of demonstration. Under Section 7, the University can limit the “time, place, and manner” of protests, but IfNotNow did not physically demonstrate. “I wouldn’t read it as a disruption … but I think it would be by administrators who don’t like demonstrations,” he said, explaining that the section is “written so broadly” that it creates “flexibility.” Oftentimes, the Student Conduct Board will ask for past precedent in similar cases. However, Greess said, he has no memory of the University putting protesters through conduct charges, and he believes it would have been mentioned in the recent debate. While Liebowitz will often send out emails responding to demonstrations, the administrative response has typically ended there, he said. Most vandalism charges are related to stealing University property, rather than anything similar to the IfNotNow case. Greess was surprised upon learning that IfNotNow was undergoing conduct charges, as he felt “it’s a little bit risky, because it’s such a heated issue.” He said, “My guess is it’s probably not a significant sanction, in any of the three options. … I’d be really surprised if this went to conduct board … it’s not really as severe as any of the stuff that conduct board gets.” —Editor's Note: Editor Gilda Geist and Editorial Assistant Sarah Katz are members of IfNotNow. They did not contribute to or edit this article.

On social media

NOAH ZEITLIN/the Justice

STAGE ONE:.The initial mural when the cube was constructed.

The investigation

On May 10, the University and Hillel made a joint statement condemning the incident and announced that an investigation would be launched. It was signed by Winberg and Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Muncaster and was published in BrandeisNOW. The statement mentioned the recent Chabad synagogue shooting in Poway, California and the increased public safety presence at some Jewish events. Muncaster and Winberg wrote, “We are committed to providing a safe environment for all our students, and we realize many of our Jewish students may feel particularly vulnerable during times of tragic anti-Semitic incidents around the country.” The two went on to write that the removal of the graffiti was “consistent with university policy” and that the University is “committed to freedom of expression, but … will not tolerate vandalism.”

President Liebowitz's statement

Photo Courtesy of MIA RUBINSTEIN

STAGE TWO: The cube is spraypainted.

NOAH ZEITLIN/the Justice

STAGE THREE: IfNotNow's sign on the repainted board.

Profile for The Justice

The Justice, May 20, 2019  

The independent student newspaper of Brandeis University since 1949.

The Justice, May 20, 2019  

The independent student newspaper of Brandeis University since 1949.

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