On Jan 25, recruiters from the Marine Corps Officer Selection Program came to Brandeis. According to an email received by students on Jan 23, this program is “a no-obligation, paid summer training program targeted at developing your leadership, confidence, and will-power, all while giving you the option of employment as a Marine Officer after your college graduation.” In response to this email, the Brandeis Leftist Union (BLU) organized a protest. According to the BLU’s Instagram, this protest was “a demonstration of our support for international resistance to global US imperialism and our own resistance to the university’s complicity in the Amerikan imperialist war machine.”
At 10:30, members of the BLU gathered outside of the Hiatt Career Center to await the arrival of Captain Austin Lorah, who sent the aforementioned email to students. When asked why they were protesting, one member of the BLU said that “Brandeis pretends to be a social justice institution but they’re cooperating with [the military].” Later, another member of the BLU added that “We are here speaking out against Brandeis harboring military recruiters here on campus. Imperialist agents who want [students] to go overseas. … A social justice university should not be harboring [soldiers].”
As students filtered through the Usdan courtyard, one BLU member announced “If you are here as a student at a social justice university you should be standing up for social justice, not being complicit in U.S. imperialism. So if you see that U.S. Marine recruiter, tell him to get the f**k off campus,” through a megaphone.
Prior to the military recruiters’ appearance, one BLU member described the recruiter as “a coward, a paper tiger and an enemy of the people,” adding that “He has not shown up because he is more scared of the power of oppressed people, students and workers than he is confident in the reactionary paper tiger of the United States and its armed forces. The power of students and oppressed people will always be more powerful than the … international pig force known as the U.S. military.”
Shortly after, the Hiatt Career Center’s Director, Jon Schlesinger, came outside. He offered the members of the BLU donuts, an offer which they quickly declined. In a short interview with The Hoot, Schlesinger mentioned that the Hiatt Career Center engages with “all kinds of employers in all sorts of different industries that students are interested in. … We have a whole team of people that connect with employers in science, healthcare, technology and education … The university doesn’t censor any kind of legitimately operating organization from coming to campus.” When asked how he reconciles with students who have moral issues with the U.S. military, he said that “students are free to apply to those organizations or not apply to those organizations. They’re certainly free to come and share that perspective with other students as they like. But, as a university, we don’t censor legitimate organizations.”
Captain Lorah and another Marine arrived, approximately 50 minutes late. When they arrived, a BLU member told him to “get off our campus.” When the Marine recruiters allegedly smiled at this protestor, the protestor replied back saying “You think that’s funny? I see you smiling, baby killer.” As the Marines attempted to find the entrance to the career center, protestors called them “running dogs of the U.S. empire” and chanted “hey Marines, you can’t hide! You’re supporting genocide!” After entering the career center, the Marines commented that they’d “[never] been greeted like that,” to The Hoot.
As the Marines and a few Hiatt Career Center administrators walked to the Shapiro Campus
Center (SCC), protestors followed with merciless chanting: “from Africa to the Philippines, stop the U.S. war machine!” When they arrived at the SCC, one BLU member walked over to the Marines and said “Have fun tabling, we’re going to be here the whole day. Hope this is a good use of your day, it’s not a good use of my tax dollars.” Members of the BLU were then asked to move away from the recruitment table by a member of Brandeis Public Safety. In a short interview with The Hoot, the officer added that he wanted the BLU to “give them a few feet. Be respectful to each of them. It doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to stand in front of them with a bullhorn a foot away from them saying what [they have] to say.” Schlesinger appeared in the SCC soon after the Marine recruiters and the BLU arrived. He again offered the BLU donuts, which they again declined.
In another short interview with The Hoot, Second Lieutenant Ian Webb, the Marine who arrived with Captain Lorah, said that their goal in coming to campus was to “raise awareness about the PLC [Platoon Leaders Class] program.” Webb added that the BLU’s protest was “their freedom of speech,” upon which a member of the BLU interjected “what about the freedom of speech of the people that you’re … killing every day without trial or accountability? What about the massacres that you’ve done in West Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq? Did their freedom of speech matter? When your buddies shot them? … What about the freedom of speech of the women and girls who are currently being trafficked at Fort Bragg? Do you care about their free speech?” In response, Webb said that he “can’t speak on behalf of the Marines … I don’t want to make any political statement in uniform. From my point of view, as an individual, most often people have problems with the [U.S.] government policies that are getting enacted around the world, whereas the Marine Corps itself is more like a tool [to that end].”
During the recruiters’ time in the SCC, Brandeis community members walked by and told the BLU “you guys are great,” and 10-20 students spoke with the recruiters over the course of a few hours.