In Response to Wednesday's Protest

May 3, 2019

Dear Brandeis Community Members,

I am writing to respond to the student protest on Wednesday and to the list of demands presented to the administration. The demands, presented by the protesters, addressed a list of concerns regarding the safety and comfort of Black, Latinx, Trans, and Queer students in their engagement with several university offices, including Public Safety, Community Living, Escort Services, and Student Rights and Community Standards.

Some of the concerns raised have been expressed before, and work to address them has been ongoing, with perhaps less-than-full information shared about their progress. Others are new and need to be investigated, understood, and discussed. I want to reiterate my commitment to making sure that all students, including those groups represented by the protesters, experience Brandeis as a welcoming and inclusive environment.

I am also writing to express concern about, and objection to, the manner in which the protest was conducted. The university supports and encourages students, faculty, and staff to protest openly and vociferously. Yet it expects all protests to be done in a manner that is respectful of other individuals. On Wednesday, some of the protesters subjected staff members and entire offices to loud, vulgar, and threatening tactics as the group visited offices with a bullhorn and repeatedly shouted obscenities. Such behavior is inconsistent with community standards and is prohibited, as defined in Section 7 of the University’s Rights and Responsibilities:

Section 7. Campus Protests and Demonstrations — Time, Place, and Manner: The University community is one of inquiry and persuasion. A member of the University community may protest, rally, or demonstrate, provided such protests or demonstrations do not disrupt University operations or obstruct physical movement to, from, or within any place on the campus. … Though the campus must 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.

We can, and must, do better as we address the important issues raised by the protest. As Rights and Responsibilities notes, universities are communities of inquiry and persuasion — the antithesis of intimidation. We owe our students an environment where their identities, needs, and contributions are respected and valued; we owe the same to our staff.

In terms of next steps, I have asked Provost Lisa Lynch and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Stew Uretsky to work with their respective administrative teams — Lisa with Student Affairs and Community Living, and Stew with Public Safety — to engage members of the student protest to review the submitted list of issues and concerns. This engagement, which is essential to a productive outcome, will need to occur after the end of the exam period. Some of the issues are clear, while others require further explanation and information.

It will be through meeting and discussion, rather than through demands and deadlines, that we can make progress. I look forward to those conversations so we can make our campus a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students, faculty, and staff. I wish the best to all students as they enter finals period.