Speaking Truths to Kathy Power

As part of the 40th Reunion Committee, I want to applaud you on your bravery in publishing Kathy Power’s article [Turning Points, Spring 2012]. I knew Kathy somewhat while we were at Brandeis; in fact, I picked her up one Sunday when she was hitchhiking to Newburyport in what turned out to be part of the robbery plan. Many of us were shocked and disturbed by the events that followed. Nothing could ever wipe away the death of [Boston police officer] Walter Schroeder, but when she attended our reunion, it was clear that she had come to grips with her responsibility in the tragedy.

You may get some negative responses to the article, but it makes me proud to think that my university can be forgiving and allow her to publicly make her apology.

Mark Kaufman ’71
Olympia, Wash.

For all the lives that have been enriched by a Brandeis education, it remains a fact that the world would be a better place if Kathy Power had remained in what she calls her “provincial Catholic ghetto” and never come to campus. Walter Schroeder would not have been murdered. Now, Power wants to return to Brandeis.

Power’s crimes were committed against a man, a family, a city and a nation. But because her unholy conspiracy was hatched at Brandeis, we suffered collateral damage as a community and an institution. Power now regrets that she embarrassed Brandeis. Hers was a betrayal of the legacy of social justice that was the hallmark of Justice Brandeis and the university that taught us about ourselves and the world, a world we are called to repair.

Consider another promising Brandeis student who never graduated because of political terrorism. In 1995, 20-year-old junior Alisa Flatow ’96 was among a bus full of people killed by Palestinian Islamic jihad. If someday a political settlement is reached and the conspirators who murdered Alisa roam freely in society, I still will not choose to break bread with them. Our place, our loyalty, our hearts should be with victims of violence and their families.

I have no quarrel with individuals who choose to renew old friendships privately. But Brandeis must consider, as a community and as an institution, where we will stand, and whom we count as our neighbors. What does this say to students, staff and alumni whose lives have been damaged by violence? Or to the citizens of Waltham, where Mrs. Schroeder raised her nine fatherless children? Do we care about the feelings of the Brandeis police? Or of Brandeis alumni in law enforcement, including the district attorney who prosecuted Power?

I don’t expect much from Kathy Power, but I do expect the best from Brandeis. It is unconscionable that a university publication would provide a public forum to someone who is still on probation for armed robbery. Another article in the Spring issue of Brandeis Magazine is titled “(How to) Do the Right Thing.” For this, my reunion year, doing the right thing means redirecting my usual contribution to the Brandeis scholarship fund to a scholarship fund for children of fallen police officers. Boycott is the sort of nonviolent political action I learned at Brandeis.

Margaret R. Sullivan ’82
Boston, Mass.

In 1970, I worked at the bank robbed at gunpoint by three members of Kathy Power’s armed dissident band. As they escaped, a fourth associate providing cover from across the street murdered policeman Walter Schroeder before shooting at me and others through the building’s glass facade. Power’s collaborators were apprehended, but she, who helped plan the crime and drove the robbers to temporary safety, fled to Oregon and a distant, mendacious double life. One of the few women ever on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Power tells a story that apparently ends happily: By 1993, when finally she surrendered, she claims to have begun a full reversal, admitting her dreadful actions were wrong and hurtful, then willingly going to prison for them.

Yet Power’s tone and words here and elsewhere suggest another agenda. Like a sacrificial lamb, she writes of having “offered my body” and “offered my suffering,” adding omnisciently how she “surrendered my innermost self to the deeply humiliating experience of … looking at my deeds through God’s eyes.” She declares how she bravely attended her class reunion, reveling in the “warmth” and “embrace” of classmates. Power insists she is just folks like us (“doing what many of us do at this age”), telling everyone about her eventful life’s journey (“I am a grandmother”).

One wonders, however, if Power ever attempted reconciliation privately with Walter Schroeder’s family, without the media or parole officials present, and what Schroeder might tell the grandchildren he never knew about his life’s journey. Is this mea culpa from a belatedly admitted felon sincere? Possibly, but Power’s disturbingly self-righteous narrative suggests someone who will say or write whatever she believes necessary to vindicate and re-establish herself. True humility and a degree of silence would be preferable.

William R. Levin
Professor Emeritus, Art History
Centre College
Danville, Ky.

In spring 2012, I taught an American studies class on history as theater. Students examined the traditions of documentary drama and wrote their own play, based on extensive archival research. As in previous courses, the class focused on historical conflicts of deep moral urgency. This time, our subject was the anti-war movement at Brandeis in the late 1960s and early 1970s, one outcome of which was an armed robbery in Brighton and the murder of Boston patrolman Walter Schroeder in September 1970. How was it possible that two Brandeis honor students, Susan Saxe and Kathy Power, both of them “good girls” from homes with deep religious and moral traditions, became involved in violent activities that resulted in this disastrous event?

Using interviews and original source materials, including documents in the National Strike Collection in Brandeis’ Special Collections, and transcripts of Susan Saxe’s trial, students probed the ways in which these women’s backgrounds, college influences, and local and national historical events contributed to their actions. By the end of the term, we composed a script and mounted a public reading. It is gratifying that audiences found the play “powerful, intense, unforgettable,” as one spectator wrote, presenting Brandeis in all its complexities and with balanced perspectives.

Most students began the course with a lack of sympathy for Saxe and Power and others in their band; they couldn’t “rationalize protesting a war with violence.” After immersing themselves in the documentary record and interviews with faculty, administrators and alumni, including Kathy Power, and reading her Turning Points essay in Brandeis Magazine, they developed a more nuanced understanding of the story. They came closer to understanding why history turned out as it did.

In publishing Power’s reflections about her reunion with her class, Brandeis Magazine provided a document that can help the Brandeis community better assess her story, one that reveals her urge to tell that story (as opposed to Susan Saxe, who maintains a strict policy of silence on these events) and her struggle for forgiveness. Some might not agree with Power’s narrative, and her right to a space to ruminate on her journey, but as an institution devoted to full and deep research and the discovery of new knowledge, it is our obligation to hear the voices of those who may have complicated our history, but whose actions contributed to it. What we do with these narratives, and how we learn from them, is up to us.

Joyce Antler
Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture, and
Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies

Regulations Hinder Employment

Most of us have been unemployed at some time during our lives and sympathize deeply with those who are jobless today. But Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s proposed solutions [“The Real Midlife Crisis,” Spring 2012] — more government jobs, giving government contracts only to companies that retain and promote midlife workers, growing public- and private-sector unions, increasing the power of the EEOC — would only send us farther down the road to becoming another Greece.

My experience as an entrepreneur who co-founded a company based on an idea — a company that now employs about 70 people — is precisely the opposite of the one Gullette describes. We find it incredibly difficult to find qualified people of any age to fill our positions. We hire anyone who comes along who can do the work we have, no matter what his or her age.

We don’t need yet more regulators — who have no idea how to run a successful company — to lay yet more burdens on us. Indeed, adding regulations only increases costs and discourages hiring. I know this has been said many times before, but those who don’t run companies somehow don’t seem to believe it.

Growing the size of government will ultimately result in the kind of economic stagnation and government bankruptcy that we are witnessing, not just around the world, but at the state and municipal level in the U.S. and soon, we will see, at the federal level. The numbers are quite clear for those who do the math.

Karen Bernstein ’74
Chairman and Editor-in-Chief
BioCentury Publications
Redwood City, Calif.
Member, Brandeis University
Science Advisory Council

Alumni Impact

Sometime over the last few years, I perceived an improvement in the quality of the graphics and content of Brandeis Magazine. I want to congratulate you on making the magazine more readable and relevant. It has a more professional finish to it. Of course, it is also wonderful to read about fellow alumni like Michael Sandel ’75 [“(How to) Do the Right Thing,” Spring 2012] making an impact worldwide. 

Keith F. Silverman ’81
New York, N.Y.

Reading of the accomplishments of Brandeis students, grads and faculty makes me so proud of having been a student there. Thank you.

Barbara Lambert Reynolds ’64
Chicago, Ill.