Green’s Speech Inaccurate, other letters
To the Editors:
Aryeh Green made many false claims in his talk [on Nov. 14]. I address two of the most egregious:
1) “The Wall is like airport security”
Keating’s [Nov. 18] article [“Speaker Seeks Middle Ground in Israeli Politics”] is unclear about whether this analogy references the Wall or checkpoints. I consider each:
The Wall is like airport security, but all Palestinians are on the no-fly list except ones with medical emergencies, farmland on the other side or high-up Israeli contacts. Of these only very lucky ones get the necessary permits.
The Wall causes tremendous suffering — far more than the inconvenience of airport security. This summer, in Palestine, I spoke with Jamal, a Tulkarm farmer whose land is cut off from his home. There is one gate he can theoretically pass through. In Qalqilya and Tulkarm these farmers’ gates open daily from 6 to 6:15, 12 to 12:15 and 6:45 to 7. Sometimes soldiers arrive on time, sometimes (very) late, sometimes early — in all cases the gate is open for only 15 minutes. Jamal is forbidden from crossing with a car or with people (even family) to help, so he can only gather a fraction of his olives. Jamal told us what bothers him most is that for the soldiers it’s a game. Remember, the soldiers are 18-year-old kids taught that Palestinians are the enemy.
Checkpoints are like airport security except some Palestinians aren’t allowed to move from one Palestinian area to another. Driving from Tulkarm (Palestinian West Bank city) to Bethlehem (Palestinian West Bank city), a soldier turned our taxi around because our driver was from Tulkarm. It took five hours to travel 70 miles (one hour at 70 mph) from Tulkarm to Bethlehem. Airport security is something you encounter on a trip, not every day. Imagine crossing the equivalent of airport security to reach class in the morning or three times to get to Cleveland.
2) Palestinians suffer because of PNA Corruption
The PNA has problems with corruption. (Israel does too — Sharon’s son is embroiled in a huge scandal.) However, Israeli decimation of the Palestinian economy is the real cause of Palestinian economic suffering.
Green’s claim that the Palestinian economy has shrunk because of corruption is ludicrous. The Palestinian per-capita GDP (total income per person) grew 6.1 percent in 1995 (when the PNA took over) and 8.6 percent in 1999 (the economy was improving). Only with the Israeli repression following the intifada did this reverse. In 2001 GDP suddenly shrank 24.4 percent and in 2002, 22.1 percent1. While one might think massive corruption coincidentally began simultaneously with Israeli repression, it’s slightly more probable that Israeli government policies destroyed the Palestinian economy:
-Israeli destruction of infrastructure — cars, houses, factories — reduced earning capacity.
-Curfew (when Palestinians are forbidden to leave home) causes GDP to plummet — if you can’t leave your house, you can’t go to work.
-Palestinians working in Israel had made a significant economic contribution. This was forbidden in 2000.
-Time waiting at checkpoints is money lost (in Gaza crops often went bad at checkpoints).
-Mass arrests target adult men — the majority of workforce.
-The city of Bethlehem, whose economy is based on tourism, had 92,000 tourists in 2000 and only 7249 in 2004 because of fear caused by Israeli aggression.
Israeli policies are also at the root of Palestinian political, military and psychological suffering.
There is nothing moderate about Aryeh Green...except that he “quotes Ghandi and Sakharov.” Everyone wants peace. The real question is what’s necessary to build peace? The Israeli state needs to renounce its colonial designs on Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, evacuate settlers and military and pay reparations for the devastation it has caused.
To the Editors:
I am writing in response to your article on Aryeh Green’s talk. I was not present at the talk, but I am responding directly to your article, and the claims made by Aryeh Green as quoted by your reporter, [Joshua Keating] on Nov. 18. In particular I would like to address the statement that the Wall is like “airport security.” As an international student, I have been subjected to screening at the airport. I’ve been patted down, I’ve taken off my shoes and I’ve even had my bag swabbed for traces of chemical explosives. All of this was unpleasant, inconvenient and often smacked of racism, because as a person of color and a foreigner I was singled out for this kind of treatment.
This, however, pales in comparison to the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli military at checkpoints. This summer my grandmother, who lived in Gaza, Palestine, had a stroke. My relatives outside of Gaza could not visit her in the hospital, because it was sealed by the Israeli military. My uncle had to cross illegally into Gaza, risking his own life so he could spend two days with my grandmother. She died this fall and only two of her 12 children could be with her, because of travel restrictions.
My family’s story is not unique. These kinds of tragedies continue to play out each day. People can’t see their families or otherwise live a normal life. Whether you call it a “fence” or a “wall” does not change its function — which is the daily brutalization of a population ostensibly for “security.” Comparing it to “airport security” is absolutely absurd. Furthermore, Mr. Green’s position is absurd and contradictory — he positions himself as a reasonable individual and yet he advocates measures that are devastating and criminal under international law. Supporting the wall is self-defeating, because the long-term security of Israel is wrapped up in its treatment of its neighbors.
We, in the Oberlin community, need to go further than parroting simple epithets about “security” and reject support for militaristic approaches to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
–Rasha Al Sarraj
To the Editors:
As a former editor at the Review with a year as editor-in-chief; as a two-year member of the College Educational Plans and Policies Committee and as an Asian American, I vehemently decry the administration’s handling of the faculty reductions that lie in direct opposition to the College’s laughable Strategic Plan.
I did not support the short-lived faculty cut of an Asian-American history position, but it is ridiculous to blame the faculty council for testing the waters with this drastic move. Instead, I place all responsibility upon the hypocritical and backstabbing behavior of the Nancy Dye administration.
Let me be clear: the Board of Trustees and the administration are the sole decision-making body on campus capable of delivering a mandate as unprecedented as eliminating faculty. The method the administration has used is coercive power to divide-and-conquer the faculty and the faculty with the student body, and it is sickening.
Two weeks before the end of school last year, well into the downsizing fiasco, I wrote a detailed article analyzing the process leading up to the mandate for faculty cuts. (The article can be found here.)
In that piece, I posited this question: “As faculty begins the self-executing task of thinning its ranks under an administrative directive, a simple question has underpinned the ongoing friction: are these reductions a choice or a necessity?”
This “administrative directive” was never a necessity. In the article, I detail how the administration crafted the aura of necessity, which never really existed.
When I wrote that article in May, I was not harsh of the administration — after all, as computer science professor Bob Geitz noted, “Maybe we do need to reduce faculty.”
On EPPC, myself as well as my faculty and student colleagues embarked on an unprecedented survey of the College curriculum. Not only did we send questionnaires to each department head and catalogue each faculty position to the best of our ability, but we pored into the departmental peer reviews and spent well into Finals Week discussing the strengths, weaknesses and possible axable positions for each of the several dozen departments.
What we discovered is the “bloated” department idea is a complete myth. One reasoning: There are generally two types of departments on campus, the academic workhorses — English, math, sociology, biology and the newer, more groundbreaking departments — CAS, third world studies and environmental studies. Let us argue that that the department landscape forms a pastry. If we, say, remove biology lab or Shakespeare, we’re removing the center of the pastry, and what we have left is a doughnut. On the other hand, if we remove multicultralism or environment and society, than we lose the richness and substance of Oberlin’s historical mission.
So either way, whatever is cut will result in some community on campus screaming bloody murder. That’s life. But it’s certainly not the faculty’s fault for that way of life. That reality lies squarely on the shoulders of the administration.
If faculty cuts are necessary, than President Dye should support her belegeured faculty who have been handed this ticking grenade. If faculty cuts aren’t crucial, than she should call the whole process off. Either way, Dye needs to quit the rhetoric and take some responsibility for the unrest she’s instigated.
Now that the process has begun, I admit I may have misjudged how painful and divisive this process would be. I don’t believe cutting faculty in a set time frame is the way to go. Unlike what’s going on overseas, there should be no timetable for these cuts.
How the administration behaves during the next raucous over cuts will say a lot about whether they believe in the democratic committee assignments, or simply want to pull the puppet strings without taking an iota of responsibility.
To the Editors:
We are writing in response to Rebecca Popuch’s letter to the Nov. 18 Review, wherein she criticizes Oberlin students’ response to recent violent crime. We were quite disturbed by Ms. Popuch’s suggestion that students are somehow responsible for violence against them.
In condemning the Nov. 11 Review’s editorial response to the attack on two students with a shotgun, she compares the Review’s outrage to the outrage felt on a larger scale after acts of terrorism, which she notes are often committed by people who think they are being oppressed. But a drunken miscreant with a shotgun is not a politically-motivated terrorist, and this analogy, we think, introduces town-gown politics into an event due in vastly larger part to the excessive consumption of alcohol by the perpetrator than to the actions of the College or its students.
Furthermore, this analogy conflates the responsibility held by the leaders of nations facing terrorist “blowback” from oppressive foreign policy with that held by the nations’ citizens. The thesis that American foreign policy helped provoke the 9/11 attacks does not imply the belief that the actual victims in the World Trade Center were oppressing anyone, and similarly, instances of poor treatment of the town by the College are mainly the fault of the College administration, not that of the students.
Throughout Ms. Popuch’s letter, the theme of “entitlement” looms large. Ms. Popuch condemns the Nov. 11 editorial’s “racist and classist assumptions about our ‘right’ to remain insulated and unperturbed during our College stay.” Personally, we can see nothing either racist or classist about assuming a general right, of both students and townspeople, to be “insulated” from being shot at.
The letter ends with the statement that “it is incumbent on Oberlin students to change the way we treat Oberlin and its residents.” Whether this statement is true is largely an empirical question, but it has always been our impression that, while there certainly exist colleges whose students like to behave obnoxiously when in town, Oberlin is for the most part not one of them. It is true that there are often real, serious conflicts between College policy and town interests, e.g. the College’s struggle the year before last to obtain permits to build on Union Street. It is important and admirable to explore these issues and come down on the side of social justice. Suggesting, however, that these conflicts mean that student victims of violence are at fault is simply blaming the victim.
To the Editors:
This past election left us with many reasons to celebrate. Because of the work and votes of both students and citizens of Oberlin, we now have more money for our schools and libraries while our parks and children’s service centers will continue to be funded. In the aftermath of these successes, however, it seems that there are some determined to create divisions between the town and the College; evidence of this is seen most strongly in an article in the last issue of the Review titled, “Obies Impact Elections, For Better or For Worse.” A few of those interviewed in the article made incorrect and unfounded accusations against student participation in the election. In my interview for the article I was not made aware of these accusations and was therefore not given an opportunity to respond. I’m taking that opportunity now.
The most blatant distortion in the article was a reference to an Oberlin College Democrats-hosted “candidates forum”; the article asserts that many candidates weren’t notified until two hours before the event and therefore at a disadvantage to those who got the opportunity to prepare. While it pains me to reply to an assertion made by those who don’t have enough confidence in the accuracy of their accusations to be cited in the article, I feel compelled to set the record straight. The Oberlin College Democrats did not hold a “candidates forum,” we simply invited those running to come to one of two meetings to speak to our membership. Every candidate who was on the ballot when voters went to the polls in November was given the choice of two dates, meaning that everyone had at least a week to “prepare”; not that it would have done much good, as the meetings were informal.
The article also quoted Sharon Soucy, who claimed that she had not been contacted and invited to a meeting. The truth is that we attempted to call her and left a message on an answering machine attached to the number we had for her. Whether our number was incorrect or whether she just never got the message is not the issue. What is important is that Sharon Soucy never attempted to contact the Dems about this issue and waited to air her concerns in a malicious and unproductive way. I’d like to tell Ms. Soucy that every member of the Dems has supported her right to run and suggest that maybe her anger should be directed at the Board of Elections and not at progressive student organizations.
I think, however, that this actually does get to the heart of the issue, the anger is not at one particular campaign or candidates night but at student activism. There are many, it seems, who feel that the College and the town should remain separate and that students should stay out of local political activism. In the aftermath of an election that saw a lot of positive collaboration between the town and student groups, I would like to remind both students and citizens of Oberlin that we are part of the same community and any healthy relationship requires engagement and participation on both sides of the so-called “town-gown” divide.
Congratulations to all who gave their time to work on this past election.
To the Editors:
In the movie Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear’s signature line is: “To infinity, and beyond!” My somewhat corny twist on that line sums up your purpose as Oberlin students: to progress steadily “To graduation, and beyond!” In this regard, Oberlin alumni play an important role and we look forward to you joining us beyond Oberlin. I thought it might be helpful to share with you some of the specific ways alumni support students and the College.
Alumni work with the Admissions Office as Admissions Recruiters, and for many of you, an alumnus was your first personal contact with Oberlin. The Alumni Association has an Admissions Advisory Committee that works closely with the Admissions Office staff to come up with ideas to continuously improve the recruiting and admissions process.
We also have a program that fosters alumni coming back to campus to directly participate in the educational process by giving lectures and seminars or performing. Alumni also work with the Career Services Office by serving as mentors, Winter Term Project Sponsors and as local hosts for students in need of housing for off-campus projects. The Career Services Office also maintains a database of alumni career mentors that is available to any student who signs up for access.
Our Awards Committee presents a Distinguished Achievement Award each year that brings the alumni recipient back to campus to accept the award and, more importantly, to interact with students. This year’s winner was musician and writer James McBride, OC ’79, author of the now-classic book The Color of Water.
Our Conservatory Committee keeps us in touch with current events and needs at the Conservatory and provides a means for Conservatory alumni to provide input into Conservatory programs and support for current students. Our Trustee Search Committee identifies candidates willing to serve as Alumni-elected Trustees, an important part of the governance system at Oberlin. Our College is distinct in having six members of the Board of Trustees directly elected by the alumni.
Our Communications Committee consists of alumni communications professionals that advise the college communications and public relations staff on the most effective means to communicate with alumni about Oberlin. Finally, we have a Nominations Committee that helps to identify and assign all the alumni volunteers to the various Alumni Association committees.
Your Alumni Association is committed to the notion of the lifelong Oberlin learning community. As students, you are in the first stage of this community that alumni support for you and which you will be able to support for the benefit of others when you join our ranks as Oberlin graduates. Enjoy your student years, but take comfort in the knowledge that in many respects, the best part of your Oberlin connection can happen after graduation.
–Wendell P. Russell, Jr.
To the Editors:
I was very upset by Sophia Yan’s review of Oberlin’s production of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites two weeks ago. While the review had a few points of merit, it was overwhelmingly unprofessional. To review a dress rehearsal (meaning a work still in progress at that point) is inexcusable. Also, for a student and colleague to criticize her peers for traits such as “overacting” or (my favorite) having a voice “much too shrill, much too piercing and altogether uncomfortable for the ear to handle” is unbelievable.
I attended both of the accused student’s performances, and believe it or not, my sense of drama was not offended by overacting, nor did I feel that I had listened to a police whistle for two and a half hours. In fact, in my opinion (and many others) the two students mentioned were standouts. I hope Ms. Yan feels ashamed of herself and next time she writes a review of her peers, will consider that she is talking about students who work extremely hard to improve day in and day out and need (and deserve) encouragement rather than a completely uneducated berating from a fellow student.