The past few months have seen a great amount of controversy regarding the invitation of several speakers: namely, DePaul professor Norman Finkelstein and historian Daniel Pipes. These volatile men with their volatile ideas caused quite the stir amongst students, the Administration, as well as hordes of alumni, who felt that one or both of these speakers would somehow irrevocably damage the intellectual foundation of the student body as well as the institution as a whole. It was even rumored that President Reinharz had labeled the two speakers as "weapons of mass destruction". In the end, however, the two speakers came, made their respective speeches...and left. The Weapons of Mass Destruction did not wreak the damage that so many had hysterically believed—in many ways, they were duds. There are no students burning Israeli flags, or attacking Muslim students, or suddenly transforming into a batch of extremist, morally and intellectually bankrupt, automatons.
The Palestinian artwork fiasco of last year is an important precedent in the controversy that censorship can create. Indeed, the Administration did far more damage taking down of the art than when the art was actually up. In the case of the recent speakers, the several months that preceded their appearances were filled with delays, loopholes, and pressure from outside and from within. But what the Administration and the alumni should remember is that no matter who we are learning from, the Brandeis community is dedicated to differences of opinion, and truth even unto its innermost parts—no matter how "destructive" you think the sources might be.