Office of the President

Update on Campus Vandalism

May 15, 2019

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As many of you know, two acts of vandalism defaced a temporary art installation that was erected on the Great Lawn as part of Brandeis Hillel’s Israel Week celebration. In one of these acts, graffiti that read “Free Palestine” was written on the installation. In the other, a sign that read “Stop lying to young Jews #FreePalestine” was affixed to its side.

Because of the vandalism, the university initiated an investigation into each case. The first act was committed before sunrise, and there were no witnesses; as of today, we have not identified the culprits. Students who committed the second act of vandalism took credit on social media and made their identities known; these students are now going through the university’s conduct process.

The targeting of Hillel, a Jewish organization, could easily lead one to interpret the acts as anti-Semitic, and the university strongly condemns anti-Semitism.

These acts of vandalism violate the university’s recently adopted principles of free expression. 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.  

Simply put, the culprits have violated the free speech of those who created this installation. Free speech does not allow one to destroy, deface, or disrupt the free speech or activities of others, including those with whom one disagrees.

Brandeis University stands for the open and constructive exchange of ideas. It stands against efforts to prevent this exchange.