Wednesday, November 25, 2015


The Brandeis community is up in arms again, protesting to strike a blow against the evils which Brandeis is guilty of (including, no doubt, ending sentences in a preposition). Brandeis' most recent sin? A lack of diversity.

I say again -- a school in liberal New England, with a history of social justice lacks diversity and therefore, a sit-in is required.

Attention Brandeis students who are protesting: You are idiots. My children will not attend Brandeis so I feel no need to sugar coat this. But before you protest my calling you a name or threaten to sit on my lawn until I apologize, let me explain.

a stupid person.
synonyms: fool, ass, halfwit, dunce, dolt, ignoramus, cretin, moron, imbecile, simpleton;

I hope that that clarifies things.

A school like Brandeis has certain priorities and one of them is an academic standard. In fact, academic standards are often a primary deciding factor in the admissions office because the level of rigor and intellectual expectations help define the school and craft the approach of faculty. As such, students who score lower on certain tests, or have lower grade point averages, or demonstrate a lower level of achievement in many different areas simply don't apply, and those that do, hoping that good looks and a proclivity for oboe playing and mountain climbing will pave the way, either are not admitted because they don't pass academic muster or are admitted and should receive lower grades or fail out. Unless, of course, we lower our academic demands. Is that what is being requested? I forget.

If we put race, culture, color, geography or any other criterion ahead of the academic skill (or at least potential) of a graduating high school senior, then sure, we can have diversity, but we will have a very different school, and not one which a student could be proud of being accepted to (damn those prepositions). Brandeis was founded as a haven for Jewish students but not because it would accept them all -- but because it would not outright reject them DESPITE THEIR ABILITIES simply since they were Jews. To establish racially (whatever that means) based quotas when considering applying students is to betray the opportunity for success afforded all qualified candidates historically. If, in next year's applicant pool, only green-skinned Zoroastrians apply and they are all qualified based on the various metrics by which Brandeis has historically assessed incoming students, should the university lower standards to accept blue-skinned Raelians? Should it solicit applications from Raelian districts and ensure a percentage of Raelians can then be admitted thus shortchanging those who already applied and are otherwise precisely what Brandeis is looking for? Note what the President's letter says: "the number of diverse students accepting our offer of undergraduate admission has been in steady decline during the same period." Those under represented minorities have chosen not to come to Brandeis. The school's overarching atmosphere attracts certain people and not others. It always had. When accepted to 5 schools, a student uses a variety of elements and can't say "yes" to 4 of those schools. I looked for a school with a suburban feel, and the schools' greenery might have alienated students who like a city feel. Should they protest and have the school change its topography and landscaping? Is Brandeis supposed to change what it is to attract a particular audience? If so, then the school's entire character runs the risk of changing, the pendulum will swing, and in 40 years, the group which is now a majority will be, as a minority, sitting in and demanding that the school change what it is to make this new minority grow in numbers. Harvard is what Harvard is because it demands that applicants excel academically. Should it lower academic standards to ensure a demographic breakdown considered "diverse"? Wouldn't that be a form of racism -- expecting different attributes from different groups based on race?

The parallel demands for demographic diversity and alignment with the student community in the construction of departmental faculties is similarly asinine. To wit: "Increase the percentage of full-time Black faculty and staff to 10 percent across all departments and schools, as well as adding curriculum that promotes racial awareness and inclusion". One cannot control who chooses to go into a particular field and I would hazard a guess that a different group of nascent academics goes into the study of Near Eastern and Judaic literature, history and development from the ones who self-select to study African art, literature etc. If so, the department should be populated by the best and most qualified people with NO REGARD for any other characteristic. Does each department have to have in it a sampling which serves as a microcosm of the overall community? How can it unless, again, the standard for hiring is no longer the intellectual fitness and strength of the applicant. And requiring adding to the curriculum? I recall taking a class in music theory. I took one in the philosophy of math, and another in intermediate Talmud. Demanding that the syllabi of these classes expand to reflect irrelevant ideas is just plain dumb. And by the way, asking for the creation specifically of "tenure tracks for Black faculty across ALL departments and schools" would then require that there be tenure tracks specifically for each race, religion, creed et al in every department, unless the protesters don't truly believe in equality. I'm sure there are tenure quality Buddhist midgets who should be hired and retained in the Latino Studies department.

Now, on to this statement from the president in her response: "strengthening our pedagogy and curricular offerings that increase racial awareness and inclusion". I am an educator. It has taken years for me to accept that about myself, but, alas, it is true. And as an educator, I can say that that statement is unmitigated horse hockey. Whether or not pedagogical methods need revamping, review or reassessment is a separate discussion, and the question of if new or different approaches can make any difference in the overall learning process is certain worthy of debate. But the thought that pedagogical methods have anything to do with racial awareness and inclusion is just plain sad. During my time at Brandeis, I had a few gay professors, including a Gay Male of Color, some strong women, some people of a variety of religions and nationalities, and John Burt who (I say with all respect) defies categorization. Through all these classes and their varied methods and approaches, the particular ethnic background and racial makeup of the class and/or instructor was never an issue. I don't mean that as a New York Jew I didn't see it. I mean that as an educator who has reviewed and analyzed the teachers I had on the level of educator, race, religion, color and gender (among others) simply had no part of the structure of the class. Good teaching is good teaching. It is not created based on diversity unless the demographics of the class demand a different approach, and a good teacher makes these shifts not as a matter of policy or departmental mandate, but because it is part of being a good teacher.

By the way, I feel much the same way about any other attempts to change the reading canon to include a more diverse pool of texts. If those texts stand on their own as quality then, sure, we can expand. But if we include other texts simply because they are by a variety of authors or represent the experiences and values of other cultures, regardless of their merit as teaching tools (be it in the pursuit of literary analysis, or the sociological understanding or historical insights they can provide) then we are similarly foolish.

Another unbelievably immature and ignorant demand reads, "Employ additional clinical staff of color within the Psychological Counseling Center in order to provide culturally relevant support to students of all backgrounds." So when you go to a therapist, you only feel comfortable going to someone whose culture meshes with yours on the basis of skin color. Clearly, a black from Zimbabwe can, by dint of pigment, empathize more with a Comp Lit grad student from Haiti than an Asian with a background in Comp Lit. I have been a to a number of therapists in my time. Religion (and race) never seemed to come up because my issues had NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE. The assumption here is that a person can only be supported through the lens of culture and race. Also, the broad range of cultures on this planet would demand a clinical staff in the thousands, at least. God forbid I sit in session with an Ashkenazic Jew from Lithuania. I'm from Poland. How will he ever be a competent and trained professional?

There are 2 other items on the demand list which are similarly stupid. The first demands a wage increase of 15% in salaries. It is admirable, but why stop at 15%? Why not 30? And what will the reaction be when tuition is raised to pay for these increases? And why only for "hourly paid university employees"? Do Black professors not deserve a raise? And wouldn't this also help out white employees who are hourly paid? Some of them might even be Jewish! Can't have that...

And the apology to Khadijah Lynch? You are kidding right? She gloated over the death of two police officers. She publicly stated a lack of sympathy at the death of two other human beings. All the vice president did was say that attitudes like that, like, you know, laughing at the loss of life, are not consistent with "our institutional values.” Is he supposed to say, "Sorry -- you were right...Brandeis stands for hatred and celebrating death."

So here I sit, as an alum married to an alum and child of 2 alums, ashamed to tell people where I went to school. These "demands" are not of the ilk which drove protesters on campus in the 60's and 70's (and yes, even the EARLY 80's). These demands are selfish, shortsighted, ignorant and offensive. I have no closing joke other than

"the state of Brandeis University today"

1 comment:

  1. Rich, spoiled, lazy crybabies and cause-heads trying to find meaning in their empty lives.


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