Put more faith in Brandeis students

Before John Stossel spoke at the Young Americans for Liberty event on Monday, April 1, Director of Student Activities Dennis Hicks read a prepared speech essentially warning students that if they were to disrupt the talk in an unsafe or blatantly rude or disrespectful way, they would be “dealt with” by university police. He pointed out a designated area for protest outside of Olin-Sang.

The students’ remarks and designated protest area seemed to be solutions without a problem—if there was any hint of interrupting dissent, it wasn’t in the room that night. In fact, any dissent to the ideas in Stossel’s talk was quite civil rather than interruptive. Those who disagreed with Stossel got a chance to ask critical questions and did so during a Q&A session at the end of the talk. The Brandeis students who attended the event acted respectfully toward the speaker in their questions and their overall behavior.

Stossel commented on Hicks’ speech shortly after, saying it is sad that statement even had to be made. We are not sure what Hicks’ motivation was for making that speech and find it unnecessary that such a speech be made at all. Brandeis should put more trust in the student body’s ability to intelligently and respectfully engage in dialogue with people whose political beliefs may differ from their own.

Brandeis has a reputation for being social justice-oriented, perhaps sometimes too much so. Often Brandeis students are criticized for their tendency to be overly politically correct, resulting from their immersion in “the Brandeis bubble.” Although this may be the case for many students, it does not mean Brandeis students cannot engage in polite discussion about politics, even if we may disagree with the other’s viewpoints.

At a university like Brandeis, which prides itself on being an institution of critical thinking and social justice, students should be trusted to think critically when a potentially controversial event arises. While there have been headline-grabbing protests at other universities, incidents at Brandeis are scattered, and even when protests occur, by and large the student body has engaged with speakers in a civil manner. Case in point: Dinesh D’Souza spoke last spring, and despite the lack of a cautionary warning by the administration, the event went on without student interruption. The administration should show that they trust the student body to be able to act appropriately in these situations rather than preemptively assume that students will interrupt an event.

In politically tense times, it is important for students to hear political speakers from both sides of the aisle and gain knowledge. Furthermore, knowing all sides of an issue and hearing different perspectives of a topic is a way to gain a holistic understanding of the issue. Encouraging political speakers of all backgrounds on campus is a way to be an informed citizen, and being able to respectfully protest is another. Free speech goes both ways.

Editor’s note: News editor Celia Young and arts editor Ben Beriss did not contribute to this editorial.

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