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Vandalism at University of Minnesota Law School Prior to LDB Presentation
Jennie Gross Brandeis Blog
October 25, 2016

 

Last week, I visited the University of Minnesota Law School to deliver a lunch lecture on anti-Semitism in higher education. It was one of a few campus visits I made this fall, and until now, the law students have been gracious hosts.

This was different. The flyers announcing my lecture were torn down, apparently by one or more people opposed to any discussion of campus anti-Semitism. Twenty flyers were posted in the student locker room and on the law school’s information boards, all in compliance with school rules. All twenty flyers were torn down, while flyers announcing other events remained in place, undamaged.

The flyers announcing my talk could not have been more innocuous. They simply announced, “JLSA Presents: Jennie Gross and the Rise of Anti-Semitism on College Campuses,” the date, place and time of the talk, and the logos for The Brandeis Center and Minnesota Hillel (and a local sandwich shop). There was no mention of international issues, and no condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement in the flyers. Whoever tore them down responded only to the topic of anti-Semitism on college campuses in the United States.

The irony was not lost on me. Invitations to talk about anti-Semitism on campus, sponsored by campus Jewish groups, were torn down. A fitting example of the topic of the lecture.

It is also an example of a rising trend on campus: the attempt by opponents to silence speech they disagree with. We saw this happen at San Francisco State University last spring, when visiting speaker Nir Barkat, Mayor of Jerusalem, was shouted down by anti-Israel protesters for over half an hour, until he finally gave up and left the venue while protesters cheered. We again saw it happen at the University of California, Irvine, when approximately fifty protesters surrounded a room of approximately ten Jewish students who had gathered to watch a documentary. The loud, aggressive protest disrupted the small event, and did not end until the police directed the protesters away from the building, watching them while other officers escorted the students inside away and to their cars.

It is likely that this vandalism was the act of just one or maybe a small handful of people. I know it is not a reflection of the broad and diverse student body at the University of Minnesota Law School. The lecture went forward as planned and was very well-attended by bright law students that asked thoughtful, intelligent questions. They did not attack me or each other. That is not to say that they are all in agreement on the issues of the day. But those students who actually attended the lecture were not afraid of hearing (and responding) to divergent points of view, and they treated everyone with respect. That is more than I can say about whoever who tore down the flyers.

Today, Dean Garry W. Jenkins issued a statement to the law school community, condemning the act of vandalism. His statement says, in part:

People may disagree and they can even disagree strongly, but ours is an environment where lawyers, lawyers-in-training, and those interested in law and legal institutions engage in dialogue. Diverse opinions are not only welcomed, but encouraged. Any efforts to shut down communication, including removing notices, undermine the values of our school and our profession.

. . . .

Our uniquely collaborative and supportive culture is one of our great strengths. I hope all of you will join me in deploring this act of vandalism and rejecting attempts to silence or marginalize. This purposeful community must remain welcoming and inclusive, and only together can we build, support, and sustain it.

I thank Dean Jenkins for his statement, and I thank the students that welcomed me to the University of Minnesota Law School.


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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Todd F. Braunstein, Esq.
Todd F. Braunstein is a counsel in the Investigations & Criminal Litigation practice group at the law firm WilmerHale, LLP. As a former federal prosecutor, he has years of experience in all phases of the investigative process, on both the government and the defense side.
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