LETTERS

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November 18, 2003

Letters to the Editor - 11.18.03

Racism debate rages

That you would dismiss the actions of the students of the Black Student Union at Brandeis University as "inappropriate and ridiculous" is as insensitive as it is misleading, particularly towards blacks. The way in which you structured your article not only demeaned the significance of groups such as the Black Student Union, it also perpetuated the same feelings of resentment and anger that "these types of organizations" (as you so degradingly put it) continue to fight so hard to prevent. I do not know much about you or where you are from; however, it is safe for me to assume from your article that you are obviously not someone who is consciously aware of the reasons why the minority community, demands equality through affirmative action and other like programs.

How can you "seize the opportunity" if those who are in control of what you consider an "opportunity" refuse to allow you to do so through institutional racism? How do you get a job when you aren't called back for an interview because her name sounds "too black"? How do you react when you meet the department head of you proposed major, with whom you have been in contact throughout the summer at this University, and the person says, "Oh, I didn't realize you were..."? Tell me Barney, what do you say to someone who constantly reminds you of your color? The goal is not assimilation, but acceptance. Assimilation can only occur in a perfect world where no one acknowledges color or any other difference. We unfortunately do not live in that type of world, much less that type of society. Our job then is to accept persons of all colors and backgrounds in every aspect of life with respect and integrity. Until then, minority groups such as the Black Student Union at Brandeis, the Organization of Black Students, the Organization of Latin American Students, and any other minority groups on campus continue to have a "cause" for which they fight daily.

What disturbs me even more is this. How can you reduce the civil rights movement to having "no place in our language anywhere for the ‘n' word?" Please, take a step back and reread your article for what it's worth, for you may have offended countless individuals.

Milca Pierre

University of Chicago, 2005

Soul Umoja, Director

Organization of Black Students,

Umoja Chair (2002-2003)

I was sorry to hear that the Organization of Black Students felt that my remarks were racist in tone and character. I assure you that they were not meant that way and I apologize if anyone was offended the remarks. I do not deny that there is such a thing as "institutional racism" and that it still exists in the U.S. today. I simply thought the organization's actions at Brandeis did not help stimulate a constructive racial dialogue.

I was not too clear on the details of what happened at Brandeis. The sports editor received the article and forwarded it to a copy editor without reading it. The copy editor caught the insensitive comment, but sent it back too late to make the necessary change. This was a veteran columnist of Brandeis' staff, so perhaps it slipped through the cracks. Again, I am not making excuses for the writer. I did not want to "belittle" black student organizations, which I think are an important part of gaining acceptance for black students. In hindsight, I agree with one student who said "assimilation" perhaps was not the correct word to use and that acceptance would have made my thought process more clear.

I am not inherently racist by character. I respect personal beliefs and open dialogue. The only thing that I would object to is when I am characterized personally as racist. I strongly object to that. I am not a racist, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be. I have my views on affirmative action and how black student unions should work because I believe that they are good ways to break through the glass ceiling that still exists. They help blacks everywhere gain the acceptance that they rightly deserve and to overcome the setbacks caused by years of slavery and oppression. These are my goals, and I make no apologies for how I or other like-minded people go about them. I was deeply moved by the hate mail that I received and wish that I had been clearer on this when I wrote my article. I wanted to draw attention to an important issue and I apologize for apparently offending so many people.

Barney Keller

Viewpoints Staff

I was disturbed to read a letter from a fellow Brandeis student in your paper. It appears that since Dan Mauer could not find an audience here at Brandeis, he decided to take his often-misguided rhetoric elsewhere ("Response to Brandeis Issue," 11/14/03).

It's interesting to see him put himself up on a pedestal of acceptance when he himself isn't the epitome of tolerance. Last year he hatched a plot to stage a hostile takeover of the United We Stand group to stifle its support for the United States during the days leading up to the war. That showed real respect for differences of opinion. Mauer himself hates conservatives and makes no secret of it. His tolerance is only for those who agree with him. It's troubling to know that someone so judgmental is co-director of the Society Organized Against Racism at my school.

Mauer criticized Barney Keller for questioning the cause that the Brandeis Black Student Union was trying to further by saying that the cause was obvious: "to have the people responsible for the comment appearing in The Justice removed and to have the campus as a whole take steps to address institutional racism." Yet the actions of the Brandeis Black Students Organization (BBSO) sent a different message. Its members went after the editor in chief of the newspaper, who had nothing to do with the statement printed, called the whole paper racist for not having any blacks on the editorial board while ignoring the fact that no blacks had applied, and claimed that the paper violate the highest journalistic ethics by printing an editorial and a letter to the editor on the front page where only objective news reporting is supposed to go. Finally, they missed the deadline for submission of their letter and demanded that the paper delay printing for three days to accommodate them. Such actions are not punishing those responsible, but are instead vindictive against the whole paper.

Of course Mauer's second claim about BBSO wanting to address racism on campus is wholly supported by BBSO walking out of a forum prior to its start designed to do just that. BBSO's actions during that week did nothing to further discussion on racism, but further strengthened the misconceptions and stereotypes that many have of blacks. BBSO's chants of "traitor, traitor" while banging gongs in the face of anyone walking into The Justice office the night of their protest certainly didn't help, and their threat to turn the campus upside down if their demands were not met did not make the situation any better.

The printing of the offensive remark is not indicative of how the Brandeis community thinks or acts. It is unfortunate that such sentiment exists here (no matter how rare), but without an open dialogue—one without intimidation—I fear that it will be hard to dispel it.

Igor Pedan

Associate Editor, The Justice

Campus suicide policy

I was quite distressed to read in a front-page article in the Maroon last Friday completely erroneous descriptions of confidentiality policies at SCRS ("Student's Return Postponed After Suicide Attempt," 11/14/03). Confidentiality at SCRS is absolute. We abide by the policy on our website and to the best of my knowledge this policy has not been violated. We do ask students to sign a form before they begin treatment here indicating that they understand that we as a staff talk to each other, and only each other, about their treatment so as to be able to provide consultation and support to each other as therapists and practitioners. One aspect of this is our 24-hour on-call system in which we back each other up. We could not function effectively as clinicians without this and it is routine in all group practices, mental-health or otherwise. We do not discuss SCRS treatments or even the fact that someone has ever come to SCRS with anyone else.One part of my responsibilities, which is completely separate from my role here as a clinician, is to serve as a clinical consultant to the Dean of Students for the College. In this role, I serve as an investigator with professional expertise to advise the Dean as to when someone on a medical leave for psychiatric reasons is healthy enough to return to his or her studies. These are students with whom I have no clinical relationship; I have never almost always met them. As a result, I have no doctor-patient relationship with them. I talk to the clinicians who are treating them and get some sense of how the students are doing. The practitioners who provide me with this information must have a written release from the student before they can talk to me. I provide no information to the outside clinician. I then report back to the Dean what my impression is, based on information the student released from his or her clinicians to me.The implication of this article, that if students express suicidal thoughts or feelings to an SCRS staff member they will be asked to leave school, is incorrect and potentially destructive. Many students come to us with these thoughts and feelings. We help them. In most cases the students return to class in days, sometimes hours. It would be profoundly unfortunate if the inaccuracies in this article would hinder our ability to continue to provide this service.

Thomas A. M. Kramer M.D.

Director Student Counseling

and Resource Service

Justice confirmations

I take issue with Steve Brusatte's claims in his article in Tuesday's issue of the Maroon ("Christian Justices Face Religious Discrimination," 11/11/03).

It is untrue that judicial nominees face discrimination on religious grounds. Bush has appointed 172 federal judges, and all but four have been confirmed.

Though no statistics are available on the religious affiliations of those confirmed, it's safe to say many of them have been Christians. The Democrats' real objection regarding the unconfirmed four is that their written opinions reveal a right-wing extremism that even unnerves most Republicans. They repeatedly defy long-established legal precedents despite knowing they will be overturned on appeal. Such actions cast doubt on these nominees' ability to fairly decide cases based on the law rather than their ideologies.

Next, Brusatte questions the method by which Democrats have blocked these nominees, calling the filibuster "dangerous" and "little used." But the Senate makes its own procedural rules, so it could eliminate the filibuster it wished; the Senate has it for decades because it acts as a check on the majority. The filibuster is not little used, though it is threatened more often than it is actually undertaken. In fact, Republicans used it to block 65 of President Clinton's judicial nominees, along with numerous appointments to other offices—including ambassador nominee James Hormel because he is gay and Surgeon General nominee Henry Foster because he performed legal abortions as an obstetrician. Many of Clinton's nominees were Christians; maybe Senate Republicans secretly hate Christianity?

Even President Washington was not treated with such deference that all of his judicial nominees were confirmed. Opposition parties can and should make reasonable use of the filibuster to reject nominees who are unqualified or ideologically extreme. Brusatte's claim of religious discrimination is a dishonest ad hominem attack on Senators who are performing admirably in blocking four odious nominees.

Chad M. Gerson

Second-year law student

Youth support for Republicans

Barney Keller's article in this Tuesday's Maroon ("Republican Support Growing Among Youth," 11/11/03) speaks for the growing number of Republican college students who are concerned with "liberal baby-boom politics and the Democratic party." However, the concerns raised in that article, speaking for only the 31% of Republican college students, still have a lot of winning-over to do before they can speak decisively for our generation. Moreover, neither these nor any other progressive concerns can take root in our generation if we create an "us" vs. "them" situation of Republican vs. Democrat, as done in the article.

When Keller says "us," he does not refer to our whole generation but rather to Republicans, who include supporters of gay rights, education, further privatization of public schooling, and fiscal reform. These ideas may be fresh and popular; they're certainly ones with which our generation must wrestle.Yet they are not just Republican ideas, for our own Republican President and the Republican Party—not just the crazies—have largely failed to promote gay rights (just one of the issues). And neither are all these ideas contrary to the Democratic Party, for it was Democratic candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley who almost brought "civil unions" to the White House in 2000.

These not-just-political ideas of our generation must know something more than the divisive "us" and "them" of the traditional Democrat-Republican feud. We must earnestly come together as a generation, listen to each other, and express our own thoughts. If we label ourselves, others, or institutions as "liberal," "Republican," or "racist"—labels not dissimilar to those applied to the Republican Party, for which Keller's article expressed hatred—I feel that we will cheat ourselves of participating in an earnest generational discussion. And it seems that we have already begun to do just that.

Allen Cooper

First-year in the College