Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

NEWSLETTER
Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Letters to the editor: Professors dispute Oct. 30 staff editorial

Updated: Nov. 6, 2023, 2:06 a.m.

Faculty members and the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development have submitted two letters to the editor addressing a staff editorial that appeared in the Oct. 30 issue of The Hatchet.


To the editorial board:

Nearly two weeks ago, when members of Students for Justice in Palestine projected repugnant slogans onto the exterior of Gelman Library glorifying terrorism against Jews and calling for the elimination of the state of Israel, University President Ellen Granberg led with courage through her public statements and private actions.

The editorial board of The Hatchet got it wrong when they wrote on Oct. 30 that University officials should always let students “think for themselves” and “refrain from condemning or endorsing particular messages.” Students are indeed free to “think for themselves,” but when University leaders criticize hateful speech as antithetical to the University’s values of civility and respect for the diverse groups that make up the campus, they are not silencing anyone. They are doing exactly what good leaders do — lead.

The editorial board could have vigorously defended the right to free speech while still denouncing rhetoric justifying the massacre, rape, kidnapping and maiming of thousands of Israeli civilians ranging in age from infants to seniors, most of them Jews, on Oct. 7. That it chose not to is both appalling and indicative of why the administration’s statements were necessary in this instance.

Daniel B. Schwartz is a professor of history. Jenna Weissman Joselit is the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and a professor of history. Walter Reich is the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. Barry R. Chiswick is a professor of economic and international affairs.


To the editorial board:

Although as a GW dean I am part of the University’s leadership, I write here on my own behalf. Neither President Granberg nor any member of her administration asked me to write this, and my views do not necessarily represent theirs or that of GSEHD.

I concur with the recent comment by professors Schwartz, Weissman Joselit, Reich and Chiswick. It was surprising that the Hatchet board admonished President Granberg for her forceful statement condemning the electronic graffiti on the wall of Gelman Library. The president correctly noted that this act, which at least temporarily defaced a campus property, may violate University policy.

But aside from the policies and legalities concerning our buildings and grounds, which I am glad are in the hands of our most qualified and dedicated experts, there is a deeper issue for the Hatchet board to consider. We are committed to the eradication of bigotry in all its forms and have invested in programs to promote diversity and equity and to protect students, faculty and staff from overt racism or more subtle “microaggressions.” Now think of this nightmarish scenario: In the aftermath of the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a group of students flashes the mob’s chant, “You will not replace us,” on the Gelman wall, which the president then condemns because it is code for vile racism and clearly incompatible with University norms. Would the board have objected? “Free Palestine from the river to the sea” is code for the obliteration of the state of Israel, an aggression that is neither subtle nor micro. Targeted at Jews, it should be abhorred by anyone who opposes genocide. The president was right to call this out.

As professors Schwartz et al. note, the vigorous defense of free speech must remain one of our core values. But do I understand the Hatchet board correctly, that the defense of academic freedom stops at the door of University leadership, which is expected to suppress its own expression of concern and its mandate to defend our community from the emotional and potentially physical violence caused by blatantly hateful rhetoric? We should expect more nuance from our Hatchet editors, especially during these very troubled times.

Michael Feuer is the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and a professor of education policy.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet