Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Letter to the Editor: Letter to the President and Provost

Hongyu Liu
Students entering 2 Boylston Place

Dear Jay Bernhardt and Jan Roberts-Breslin,

We write to you as members of the Emerson College faculty who approach our duties with civic mindedness and a commitment to the critique of injustice. As you know, we recently proposed a Teach-In on Gaza. Our aim was to enrich the campus discussion with a perspective that would engage a diversity of opinions on this very difficult topic in a spirit of fairness and respect for all. We were heartbroken and distressed, however, to learn that the College has declined to support this event, even to permit it to occur on Emerson property. The main goal of the proposed teach-in is to expose Emerson students and community to a Palestinian feminist perspective and offer a deep historical and sociopolitical context for the unfolding situation in Gaza. It was meant to transcend the dominant binaries manufactured by the media and political discourse. The panelists are academics and justice workers with expertise on how to facilitate difficult topics. The College has argued that the event should be postponed until the spring when it can be presented alongside some other event in order that a “balanced” perspective be achieved.

We find the argument presented in defense of this decision to be spurious on two grounds. It presupposes that the views represented here are likely to be so contentious as to require “balancing” by pairing with some other view. What is the basis for this assumption? While we welcome and support all and any discussion on this topic, it is not clear to us why this event must be disallowed without its partnering with some countervailing view. We are left to wonder whether the assumption is being made that a critique of Israeli policy in Gaza is somehow controversial through its association with antisemitism — a conflation we utterly reject. Moreover, the rationale presented mentions the timing of the event, suggesting that it be moved to the Spring semester so as to avoid other end-of-semester scheduling conflicts. Again, this is confusing. The crisis to which this event responds is of a timely nature, and we, as organizers, seek to respond to this timeliness. The urgency of the circumstance (20,000 killed and counting, 50% of the infrastructures destroyed) demands an immediate response. One suspects that by delaying and placing such qualifications on this event, the College is practicing a form of soft-censorship through what appears to be an only benign administrative measure.

We find the College’s approach undermines our work as educators to raise issues of social injustice in moments such as this one. The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter on December 7th, 2023. 800 scholars of genocide and international law have described the ongoing violence in Gaza as genocide. While some of us, among the organizers, come from formerly and emergent totalitarian regimes, from genocided people, we don’t need to come from such backgrounds to understand that speaking of balance in the face of mass destruction of civilian life is itself an act of complicity. It is also important to note that equating antisemitism and critique of the state of Israel is an anti-intellectual uncritical trap we refuse to fall into. Importantly, too, equating Hamas and Palestinian people is equally anti-intellectual, uncritical, and dangerous. Both allow antisemitism and Islamophobia, often uttered and experienced in the same breath, to go unchecked. This is why we need feminist and historically contextualized grounding of our knowledge.

Like you, we welcome a diversity of perspectives on this difficult matter, and we recognize the need for sensitivity, respect and collegiality around a conversation that is traumatizing for many. Such is the Emersonian tradition of respectful dialogue that we uphold. However, the response offered by the College does not reflect this tradition. We write to convey our concern that decisions of the College in declining support for this event reflect a betrayal of the College’s commitment to academic freedom, conducted behind the veil of process, and the stewardship of the public conversation. We acknowledge that this is a challenging time for academic institutions and their administrations, who are themselves under tremendous scrutiny and pressure. However, we think the situation calls for more dialogue and discussion – not less.


Adam Franklin-Lyons, Cara Moyer-Duncan, Jaime Tanner, Mneesha Gellman, Nancy Allen, Nelli Sargsyan, Nigel Gibson, Rituparna Mitra, Rosario Swanson, Sam Binkley, Seth Harter, Todd Smith, Tulasi Srinivas, Vinoth Jagaroo, Yasser Munif

Editor’s note:

In total, 19 faculty members signed this letter to the President and Provost. These names represent those faculty members who are comfortable being identified. The remaining signatories requested to remain anonymous.

This letter is a part of wider coverage on the teach-in. Click here to read more. 

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