Home » Sections » Opinions » The (now infamous) Snyder email chain

The (now infamous) Snyder email chain

By web

Section: Opinions

April 15, 2005

An email from Brian Snyder 05 and an accidental reply from University President Jehuda Reinharz, posted by Snyder to his Brandeis web space, has provoked a firestorm of controvery and resulted in negative media attention for Brandeis in the local and Boston press (see related story, page 1).

While the Hoot has confirmed that Snyders original email contains several factual inaccuracies and mis-statements, including information about honorary degree recipiants at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, we have elected to print it here, along with the resulting chain of replies, unedited.

The controversy Snyders actions has caused and the resulting attention from off-campus media merits examination of all aspects of the incident, and we encourage readers to form their own opinions after examining the information first-hand.

President Reinharz has confirmed to the Hoot that the emails attributed to him and printed here were in fact sent by him. He has also stated that he personally reads every email he receives, and every email receives a response of some form within a few days, even when he is out of the country.

Snyder, an American Studies major, has posted these letters online at http://people.brandeis.edu/~bsnyder/president.htm.

Original Email

Date: Mon, April 11, 2005 7:39 p.m.
From: Brian Snyder
To: Jehuda Reinharz
Subject: Re: Honorary Degree Recipients

President Reinharz:

As a graduating senior I feel it is my responsibility to finally speak out against the ultimate decision made by Brandeis, one which actually has a real impact on its students. I stood idly by and watched my tuition money be needlessly spent on an ice rink, I did not step forward when my advisor (and the one professor I have had at this University who actually showed a great interest in his students lives), Professor Stookey, was fired for not having tenure, and I did not even protest Brandeiss ridiculous actions to prevent any semblance of a social life this year by giving out off-campus housing information to local police officers (thus preempting any off-campus, legal parties). However, with this recent notification of our esteemed commencement speaker, I feel like I need to speak out for all those who do not want to waste their efforts on deaf ears.

In the past two years, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania have given honorary degrees to actor/comedian Will Ferrell, actor/comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G), and rock singer/human rights advocate Bono, respectively. The students were entertained with a creative and humorous speech, while also gaining the insight of these esteemed men. Harvard and UPenn are two of the most prestigious schools in this country, and they were able to offer their students a commencement that they will forever remember. If Brandeis is simply content with being a second-rate institution, whose students either despise their four years at the school or who simply leave indifferent to their time spent there, then the Universitys actions seem appropriate. Last Fall I submitted an e-mail to you asking for Sacha Baron Cohen to deliver the commencement address. He is a Jewish comedian who has gained great fame from his hit HBO series, Da Ali G. Show. The e-mail that I received in response from your assistant was almost laughable. The guidelines that have been set forth to allow someone to be our commencement speaker all but negates anyone who might actually entertain or inspire us on OUR graduation day. We have spent four long, tiring years at this school, paid over $130,000in tuition fees, and have endured countless wastes of our money and time, I feel that the least that the administration can do is reward us for this.

Clearly Justice Marshall has led a very interesting life and accomplished a few amazing feats, but I challenge you to find one graduating senior who was thrilled to learn that she will be giving our keynote address. The easy response is to say that we all had an opportunity to submit applicants for the ceremony;

however, as I am sure you know, no one of any interest to the majority of the seniors would ever be chosen by the panel. Jon Stewart, the ever-popular Jewish satire journalist from the acclaimed Daily Show, would have likely amazed all of us with his liberal insight (something Brandeis holds very dear), his scathing reports on the war in Iraq, and his uncanny wit. He would have served as an ideal candidate, but he was obviously overlooked. I do not mean to undermine Justice Marshalls accomplishments, but again, what student will want to remember her address as the highlight of his or her commencement ceremony?

The sad part of this decision is that I did not expect anything different from Brandeis. For four years the University has found any way possible to promulgate its philosophies and goals while categorically hindering the students from actually attempting to enjoy their college lives. If these were supposed to be the best four years of our lives, I fear what is to come. You can be assured that I will never donate a single dollar of my money to this University, and unfortunately that is a fairly popular sentiment among the students here. Unless the administration actually attempts to change its actions to at least TRY to benefit the students, Brandeis will be faced with great problems in the upcoming years. Thank you for your time, I look forward to seeing you for the second time in my college career at commencement.

Sincerely,

Brian Snyder 05

First Reply

Date: Mon, April 11, 2005 8:20 p.m.
From: Jehuda Reinharz
To: Brian Snyder
Subject: Re: Honorary Degree Recipients

John,
find out if he is on scholarship

Jehuda Reinharz, President
Brandeis University
415 South Street, MS 100
Waltham, MA 02453
(781) 736-3001
(781) 736-8699 FAX

Second Reply

Date: Mon, April 11, 2005 9:43:02 p.m.
From: Brian Snyder
To: Jehuda Reinharz
Subject: Re: Honorary Degree Recipients

President Reinharz:

I mean no disrespect by this e-mail in any way, but I wanted to let you know that I received the letter you sent to John. To answer your question, no, I am not on scholarship. Have a good evening.

Sincerely,
Brian Snyder

Third Reply

Date: Thu, April 14, 2005 8:58:24 a.m.
From: Jehuda Reinharz
To: Brian Snyder
Subject:

Dear Brian,

I am taking this opportunity to respond to your letter of Monday, April 11, 2005.

It is now common knowledge that you feel that the university failed to deliver on many or most of your expectations as a student at Brandeis University. In reading your letter I found it extraordinary that you are just getting around to communicating your complaints five weeks prior to graduation. It is sad that you have failed to understand that a college education is a partnership one that exists between outstanding students and faculty, and is supported by a dedicated staff.

In order to answer your email, I attempted to learn more about why you might feel that Brandeis had failed you. It was within the context of that inquiry that I mistakenly sent to you an email clearly intended for my executive assistant. I regret this, of course. It was a mistake.

I found your characterization of Brandeis disturbing and wondered what could have transpired to create your huge sense of dissatisfaction. And, I also wondered how you could have waited so long to seek out an audience for your many grievances with the university. It was disheartening to read how unusually narrow your experience at Brandeis may have been. I wish that we could have communicated one-on-one sooner. I feel that you have by your recent rash and extremely public actions committed a disservice to your classmates, alumni and the Brandeis community. This public e-mail display is not productive.

Brian, you may not agree with the university's choice of Commencement speaker;

and, you are free to express your opinions. It strikes me as disingenuous, however, that one who professes such alienation from the University should take up this issue with such passion.

Sincerely,

Jehuda Reinharz

Jehuda Reinharz, President
Brandeis University
415 South Street, MS 100
Waltham, MA 02454
(781) 736-3001
(781) 736-8699 FAX

Menu Title