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: To my fellow adults in the classrooms

Courtesy of Bradley Bird

Dear fellow Emerson faculty, 

Like many of us, I have much I’d like to say in regards to the genocide in Gaza, the college’s handling of that issue, and their treatment of students who are demanding accountability. But after the brutal police treatment of our students on April 25, I feel compelled to ask my fellow faculty to demand the resignation of Jay Bernhardt and his administration and to step up in support of our students as they continue to fight for an end to genocide. 

Instead of engaging with these students in good faith, Jay Bernhardt and his Emerson administration have chosen to deflect and dissemble. For those of you who are unaware of the students’ demands, you can find that information from the AP here. In solidarity with students from Columbia and other universities, Emerson students demand that their administration be transparent about funding sources and support, and to end any such relationship that accepts from or contributes to a state actor that is committing genocide. They also demand that Emerson’s president unequivocally denounce genocide and call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. 

Before the police brutally cleared the encampment, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the organizers, and they stressed the ideas of disclose, divest, drop, and call. Disclose financial relationships, divest from any relationships that come from or support occupation and genocide, drop charges against Emerson student activists, and call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. 

These are utterly reasonable demands, and all of us at Emerson should join these students in demanding them of our leadership. We are teaching the values in our classroom that Emerson cites as “inspiring and non-negotiable,” but we need to actually practice them in our community. 

Jay Bernhardt and his administration claim they did not have the ability to stop the City of Boston or the Commonwealth from forcefully removing these students, a measure that required and sanctioned state violence against our students. We crossed our fingers or sent our hopes and prayers that the violence would be minimal. We were wrong. Now we can join our voices to support those of these students and demand that Jay Bernhardt and his administration accept that they could have ended the encampment whenever they chose. They had the opportunity to keep our students safe. 

They failed. 

That failure became zip ties so tight they cut into our students’ flesh. That failure became police batons striking our students’ bodies. That failure became our students pressed into the pavement as police knelt on them. That failure became students being assaulted by police in an Emerson space; a space where they are supposed to be safe; a space where we have a responsibility to keep them safe.

As faculty, we have also failed them. I have heard from my students that I’m one of the only faculty they have that even discusses the situation in my classroom and gives them a space to process what’s going on. My students are responding to me with a desire for acknowledgement; a desire for connection; a desire for validation; a desire to be seen as people. We are failing them when we do not provide these basic needs, particularly in moments when they need them most. We are the adults in the room, and we should be holding ourselves and our leadership accountable to the values we espouse. When students have to place their learning aside and put their bodies on the line to effect that change, we have utterly failed them. When they take that action and we are silent, we become complicit in the traumatic consequences they face at the brutal hands of the state.

Thank you to all of the faculty and staff out there already supporting and fighting for our students. Thank you to all of the faculty and staff who have continuously fought for students long before today. Your example educates and inspires me. I hope it shakes our colleagues’ consciences and inspires them as well.

Emerson has the opportunity to be on the right side of history by providing transparency for all funding and support relations and ceasing any that come from or provide support to states committing genocide. We can, and should, unequivocally condemn genocide and use our voices to call for a ceasefire. Jay Bernhardt and his administration have shown they are unwilling to do these immensely reasonable and just things. They must be replaced with people who uphold Emerson’s values—with people who value all of our students’ safety. 

We have a responsibility to use our positions to demand change that will help keep our students safe. 

These courageous students are showing us the way. As their faculty, as the adults in the room, we should use all of our available resources to keep them safe while supporting their righteous calls for Emerson to adhere to its own principles of social justice and global responsibility

With hopes that you’ll join me in supporting our students, 

Bradley Bird 

Bradley Bird is an adjunct faculty in WLP who has taught at Emerson since spring semester in 2021. 

View Comments (7)

Comments (7)

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  • M

    Mitchell / May 8, 2024 at 9:37 pm

    This so-called professor is a blatant antisemite and I fear for any student, especially any Jewish student, that has the misfortune to take his class. He is emblematic of the problem with higher education today.

    If he thinks divesting from Israel for a so-called “genocide” (which it is not) is “reasonable,” why isn’t he also advocating for divestment from China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, CAR, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or any of the repeat offenders of human rights? Sorry but you’re not the adult in the room. You’re just an enabler of terrorism and a hypocritical Jew hater.

  • M

    Marty Goldman / Apr 29, 2024 at 11:22 am

    I am very concerned that Mr. Bird considers himself the Adult in the Classroom with my student, especially considering he teaches writing, literature, and publishing and cannot properly use the work genocide. Israel is not engaged in genocide, it is not trying to exterminate the Gazans, it is trying to exterminate Hamas – a terrorist organization. Hamas that perpetrated a brutal attack on on Israel’s sovereign territory, murdered 1200 of its citizens and kidnapped over 200 more. It has the right to defend itself. Hamas uses the citizens of Gaza as human shields. We know that ordinary Israelis believe their government are not pursuing the best strategy for the recovery of their citizens; anyone with a heart knows that the suffering is Gaza is intolerable and needs to stop. As Americans, we find it troubling when Iranians march through their streets calling for Death to America; and we call them terrorists. Now there are people here saying the same about another country and somehow that is noble. It’s hypocrisy.

    The administration has one job, provide a high quality education for students. I appreciate that the administration can provide transparency. Not because it’s anyone’s business how or where it invests resources or that the students should have say. They can have a say by choosing institutions that better reflect their values if they disagree with the school’s investment philosophy. For the record, Israel is just about the only place in the Middle East where there is science, discovery, and innovation. Is is the only society with tolerance. There is no LGBT+ community in Gaza.

    I ask Mr. Bird the same question as was posed by the Rabbi in Boca Raton this weekend:

    Let’s imagine that you were the Prime Minister of Israel and Hamas attacked you as they did on October 7. What would you do in response to an attack of thousands of missiles directed at civilian targets, of more than a thousand murders of people sheltering in their homes or dancing at a music festival, where women were slaughtered after enduring rape, whose genitals and bodies were mutilated? What should the Prime Minister of Israel do when an enemy who is sworn to your destruction carries off more than 250 people, including infants and small children, elderly men and women, and hundreds of other innocent people?

    When Hamas declared war on Israel on October 7, what was Israel supposed to do?

    Let’s not pretend what is happening in Gaza is a result of single incident. As a teacher, a leader, someone shaping the minds of our young people your role, responsibility, and obligation is to tease out the nuance, teach them to think critically, understand little is as it seems and that life is long and complex and not easy. Good things require hard work. Blaming Jay Bernhardt is an easy way out; I’m sure he has some piece to own; but as someone in the classroom you had a chance to educate and show a bigger picture and you blew it.

  • A

    Annalisa / Apr 28, 2024 at 3:27 pm

    So well said. Thank you, Professor Bird.

  • M

    Mark M Stewart / Apr 28, 2024 at 12:27 am

    Not a word about the Jewish students who cowered in their dorms for their safely due to the utter nonsense that and your ilk propagate? I weep for the institution that made such an impact on my life and for which I worked so hard, giving my sweat and treasure since my graduation. We were well educated in propaganda techniques thanks to Walt Littlefield. I see glittering generalities, card stacking, and the big lie here. Do you even understand the definition of genocide as defined by the United Nations? And what gives you the right to discuss your political views to your students during class time, when you should be focused on the lesson plan?
    Emerson has managed to survive, no thrive, over the years but I fear for its future with “adults in the room” such as you. The arrested students were well warned in advance by the President that you condemn that they would be arrested by the City. They ignored him. The BPD tried to reason with the students and let them know that their party was over. Their response was a bullhorn with the “Free Fee Palestine” chant. The unfortunate result is not properly laid at the President’s feet, but at the feet of the young adults who made their bed and then learned the consequence of lying in it.
    Two major insults resonate with me. The first was that this Bolshevik wanna be crowd blocked a Jewish woman student from getting to her dorm. The other was the desecration of the statue of Norman Lear, who may be the most consequential and most liberal of Emersonians.
    The most telling sign that I read was “My school failed me”. Indeed it did, but not in the way that Lenin’s “useful idiots” see it.
    Mark M. Stewart, Esq.
    Cum laude, class of 1977
    Past President (8 years) So Cal Chapter Alumni Association

    • I

      Illona / Apr 28, 2024 at 12:36 pm

      And what about the Jewish students who were at the encampment fighting for justice and were beaten brutally by police?

      • M

        Matt Labov / Apr 30, 2024 at 2:43 pm

        And what justice would that be, exactly?

        The definition of genocide is the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group. IDF is not committing genocide, it’s actually the other way around but so many of these faux protesters have their collective heads up their asses so far, they don’t see any light, just shit. Wake the F up already and stop being followers, this herd mentality must stop!

        ML, Class of 1990

        • A

          Alumnus / May 3, 2024 at 7:57 am

          Wake the F up? You think because you use the first letter that you are not using abusive language. Delete this comment.

          And genocide is actually happening.

          35,088 Gazans dead since Oct. 7. Of that number, 14,500 are children and 8,400 are women.

          And mass starvation is next bc the IDF isn’t allowing supplies in.

          Students don’t support Hamas. No one does. Stop conflating calling for the end of an apartheid state to antisemitism. It’s ignorant to say that considering Palestinians are Semitic people.