There’s an ugly tempest brewing at Brandeis University and it’s based, at least in part, on free speech, tolerance and student safety. The storm grew out of a more generalized anger with the state of public discourse and of the safety of individuals in our society at large.
But at this point, one black self-described revolutionary and one Jewish conservative journalist, both Brandeis students, are the figureheads in a battle for the soul of an institution.
That institution, Brandeis University, was founded so that Jews, barred from most colleges by anti-Semitism, could find an open door to attain the education they desired. The school was named after the Supreme Court justice Louis D. Brandeis, whose distillation of the essence of freedom of speech has stood for decades as the lynchpin for America, and, in turn, much of the western world.
It was also Louis Brandeis, in an earlier incarnation as a lawyer, who brought humanity into the justice system. His famous “Brandeis Brief” for the first time opened the way for courts to consider human facts, not just legal doctrine, when making decisions about the lives of those people.
DEATHS BY POLICE OFFICERS FOLLOWED BY DEATH OF POLICE OFFICERS
The deaths of black unarmed men at the hands of police officers, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City this summer led to days of protests which increased in fury and exploded in violence after grand juries in both cases declined to indict the police officers involved.
Those deaths were followed by the execution-style murder of two random New York City police officers by a man pledging vengeance for the murders of Brown and Garner.
In response to the death of the two officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu on Dec. 20, a Brandeis junior, Khadijah Lynch, tweeted the following: “i have no sympathy for the police officers who were murdered today.” She followed that bleet with another, the next day: “lmao, all[,] i just really don’t have sympathy for the cops who were shot. i hate this racist f[expletive deleted]ing country.”
Justice Brandeis might have been first in line to offer to defend Lynch if she were threatened with expulsion for expressing her views publicly. But no one made any such threats. Instead, another Brandeis student took what Lynch placed in the public arena, and wrote and published an article about it for his site that same day. Daniel Mael, a Brandies senior and journalist for the site TruthRevolt.com, merely sent out further what Lynch had already launched.
What Mael wrote was little more than a description of Lynch and what she tweeted. All facts. All taken from public information. All fair game. And then some commenters to Mael’s article posted some seriously ugly talkbacks. Also free speech. Also fairly common in the world of Internet websites with any political orientation.
PUBLIC REACTION BY BRANDEIS COMMUNITY
It was at this point that certain members of the Brandeis community decided to rally ’round Lynch, raising the issue of “community” and “safety.” But it was too late for such hamishe invocations. Once Lynch chose to make her views public by using social media (one that could have been set on private, but was not), she left the cocoon of the university; her righteous defenders were unlanced. But that did not stop them.
No Brandeis Lynch defenders publicly praised her lack of sympathy for the murdered police officers, but one student, Michael Piccione, sent an email on Dec. 22 to more than 200 members of the Brandeis community. Piccione’s statement condemned Mael for “compromising” Lynch’s security and for continuing to endanger her. What Piccione demanded, in his own and in the name of others, was that “action [be] taken to hold this student accountable for his actions.”Lori Lowenthal Marcus