Brandeis University: A People's History
Anatoly Sharansky
Visit by a Former Refusenik
He had been trained as a mathematician, but when Anatoly Sharansky came to Brandeis as a visiting professor in the spring semester, it wasn’t his skill with numbers that attracted attention. Sharansky had once been the Soviet Union’s most prominent refusenik; after refusing his request to emigrate to Israel, Soviet authorities charged him (falsely) with spying for the CIA and sentenced him to a 15-year prison term in 1977. In 1982 he began a hunger strike that lasted 110 days, ending only when his jailers force-fed him. Four years later, he was finally allowed to leave the country. At Brandeis, Sharansky spoke on a variety of topics in several different venues, including two open lectures, one entitled “Poverty and Race in the United States” and one on “The End of Communism.”


Alum Arrested in China

Shen Tong, ’91, head of the Democracy Fund for China based in Newton, Massachusetts, was arrested while visiting home. Shen, who had been a leader of the 1989 student revolt in Tiananmen Square uprising, was preparing for a press conference at the time of his arrest.

The news of Shen’s detention brought an immediate response from the Brandeis community. President Thier wrote to members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, urging them to press the State Department to act on Shen’s behalf, and students held a rally for his release. The public displays of support were effective; Shen was freed after two months and allowed to return to his graduate work at Boston University. He has returned to public advocacy for democracy in China, speaking on his experience during the uprising and his subsequent arrest, as well as the changing conditions in the country.


Founders’ Day ’92: Celebrating New Beginnings

Two major new initiatives served as the focus for this year’s Founders’ Day celebrations: groundbreaking for construction of the Volen Center for Complex Systems and the inauguration of the Jacob and Libby Goodman Center for the Study of Zionism. The Goodman Center, “designed to promote deeper understanding of the Jewish national renaissance movement,” filled a significant gap in Jewish studies, according to then-Provost Jehuda Reinharz. Famed Israeli diplomat Abba Eban provided the keynote address for the opening of the new program, declaring, “Zionism is at the heart of what I would call the Jewish mystery.”


East Asian Studies Program Established

This year the university established the Undergraduate Program in East Asian Studies. By the 1997-98 academic year, 27 students would be enrolled.

— Prof. John Schrecker, History
Chair, Program in East Asian Studies