Over the last weekend, I sent a letter to President Frederick Lawrence after seeing a flier featuring him, along with other left-wing clubs on campus, as a participant of the “99% spring week”/”Occupy Week”/”Get a Real Education” events scheduled for this week. My letter was met with a very considerate and prompt response on the President’s obligations to participate as often as possible in campus events–however, his particular involvement as speaker for “Occupy as a National Teaching Moment” gave me pause. His offer to speak at a Brandeis Tea Party event was in his closing response to me, alongside an explanation for why he is not endorsing OWS. He did not address, however, nor express any concern, for the issues I raised with OWS in my letter…Read it for yourself, and be the judge: Were my concerns overlooked and is there more to this event series than club-blind cooperation from the administration?
April 19th, 2012
Dear President Lawrence,
I’ve come to understand that next week an Occupy series, “Get a Real Education”, sponsored by you and other departments and clubs at Brandeis, will be held on the Great Lawn and throughout campus. Although I have no objections at all with your decision, based upon your beliefs and the philosophical bent of the University, I do have to question this particular endorsement given the violence and destruction that has arisen consistently from OWS. While I will not silence student and faculty opinions on socialism, wealth redistribution, social and environmental policy, and any other principles, pedalling them through this particular brand is a dishonest liability that is hardly educational.
The particular timing of your endorsement for OWS is especially disconcerting after they announced their May 1st plan to cause “the biggest shutdown New York City has ever seen”, which would disrupt the lives of the less fortunate and hardly do anything helpful. I am fully aware that Occupy Wall Street consists of anti-capitalist proponents, willing to use central planning as a means of taking money from an unknown group of oppressive wealthy people to redistribute among the less fortunate. I also understand that their tactics are specifically focused on anti-corporatist sentiment, targetting banks and other businesses.
In terms of being educational, however, the fact that they are planning to disrupt shareholder meetings between stockbrokers and the CEOs of major companies like Verizon, Walmart, and GE is misinformed. Such meetings are the one area where everyday people who own stock can hold corporations accountable, and yet OWS is planning to disrupt this process in the name of defending the “99%” and taking on corporations. Perhaps they need a lesson about misdiagnosing the source of the problem they want to solve. While they chide the businesses that took bailouts, they paradoxically do not condemn the government for offering them in the first place. As a matter of logic, rather than ideology, this makes no sense.
The contradiction between OWS actions and message is most disturbingly highlighted by the promoted violence to “collapse the system”. You may recall that business owners were intimidated and harassed from their homes, banks attacked and vandalized, and the significant taxpayer cost of damages to public property—over $2 million, according to ABC, in Boston alone. I know that Brandeis students were at that particular camp, and the fact that their destructiveness lessened the quality of life and wallets of everyday people is unforgivable, even if you sympathize with their intentions.
The antisemitism in the national OWS movement is also worrisome and should be outright condemned, especially by Brandeis University. The most prominent example is the image Occupy Tampa recently posted to its facebook page on Holocaust Remembrance Day, in which a stereotypical Jewish man with a Star of David on his hat is driving a car with a UN wheel and Obama’s face as the shift. Regardless of your opinion on Israel’s global role, I think it is completely nonpartisan to question the specific release of this image on a day when Jews were slaughtered in genocide. The despicable association between “greedy bankers” and Jews has been similarly revisited in signs such as, “It’s Yom Kippur! Banks should atone!”, which was featured in Occupy LA back in October 2011. The prominent association between “Wall Street corruption” and “Jewish financing” has also been made with regards to Israel and America, a hateful link that is hardly educational.
As a student dedicated to principle rather than brands, I condemn an event where the information of a particular group is mischaracterized and their disparaging actions ignored and, in essence, condoned. I can only hope that regardless of your beliefs, you will at least have the integrity to be honest and toss the term “OWS”, say what it really is (socialism), and lay out every single offense that is being committed in the name of their social justice. Ignoring these atrocities would be an affront to the integrity of genuine education.
President of the Brandeis Tea Party Chapter