CORRECTION APPENDED (SEE BELOW)
University President Jehuda Reinharz never expressed much enthusiasm for the idea of former President Jimmy Carter speaking on campus. Aside from ideological implications of hosting the author of a book critical of Israeli policy, the logistical concerns for such an event were staggering.
So perhaps it came as little surprise when, two weeks after the 39th president visited Brandeis, administrators began to express their displeasure with how things had turned out.
Speaking at a faculty meeting Thursday, Reinharz criticized the committee that invited Carter for leaving the University with a "huge bill" of $95,000 in security and logistical costs. And before Reinharz addressed the faculty, the University's senior administrator for fundraising acknowledged that Carter's visit has caused some donors to question their financial support. Meanwhile, at least one professor took the opportunity to criticize Reinharz's absence from the event.
Carter defended his recent controversial book Jan. 23, and was rebutted shortly after by Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. The talks, and the events leading up to them, drew international attention.
But the committee that invited Carter neglected to consult the administration regarding the invitation, the event's format, the extensive security and logistical costs or even the date and location of the event, Reinharz charged.
"Faculty members should not be allowed to invite whoever they want and leave Brandeis with a huge bill," he said. "We need to budget for these types of events."
Reinharz did concede that, "on the whole, I think [the events were] good for the University."
The committee that invited Carter initially had indicated that it would help pay for his visit, according to John Hose, Reinharz's executive assistant.
"I don't think that at the time…they had the faintest idea of the kinds of costs involved or even the kinds of arrangements," Hose said in an interview Monday.
Prof. Gordie Fellman (SOC), a member of the committee, contended that Reinharz had indicated publicly to the media including the Boston Globe that money would not be an obstacle. Fellman said he and colleagues set up a meeting with Reinharz to discuss the event, and that Reinharz rejected an offer to suggest changes to the invitation.
In reporting the concerns of University donors, Nancy Winship, the senior vice president for institution advancement, said the e-mails "kept coming and coming."
"We're just trying to repair the damage," she said during the faculty meeting. "The Middle East is just this trigger of emotions for our alumni and for our friends. For the most part, the donors who come to us come through the Jewish door.
"When you are depending on your support from non-alumni [and] friends of the University, any time you deal with the Middle East, it gets emotional," she added in an interview Monday. "It's a volatile subject."
But Winship and Reinharz both firmly rejected Prof. Susan Lanser's (ENG) assertion during the meeting that intellectual discussions and debates seem to be determined by donors' wishes.
"I know many, many faculty who do not feel that they can speak freely about the Middle East," Lanser said.
Reinharz responded: "Donors are not the issue."
Winship also denied any connection between donors and speakers. "We don't make any [academic] decisions based on donors' wishes," she said Monday.
Even as Reinharz criticized the faculty, he found himself under fire. Professors complained that he had disassociated himself from the event, and were especially upset that he had not attended, insisting he should have changed his schedule. Reinharz rejected such claims.
"I have not disassociated myself from anything," he said. "This event was set up without any consultation with me. My role is to enable faculty and students to have people on the campus as long as it's a civil and safe debate.
Reinharz was out of town on a previously scheduled fundraising trip, Hose said last month. Reinharz got in touch with Carter to request that the former President come on a different date, according to Hose.
"If it was important to the faculty for me to be there, they would have told me the dates beforehand," Reinharz said at the meeting. "My schedule is set a year in advance."
Looking ahead, Reinharz expressed concern that, following Carter's and Dershowitz's visits, students and faculty are extending invitations to inflammatory speakers on the Middle East, referring to current efforts to bring Daniel Pipes and Norman Finkelstein to campus.
"I have a fear that these people who are being invited are weapons of mass destruction," Reinharz said.
Hose elaborated Monday on Reinharz's point: "These are people who tend to inflame passions, whose mission is not so much discussion and education as it is theater, a show."
Hose encouraged the community to utilize the Middle East experts and scholars at Brandeis to engage the campus in discussion.
"If [students] want theater, then it's best to go to Spingold," he said. "But if you want serious discussion, there's lots of resources available for that already at Brandeis."
(CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, the article specified incorrectly the day of the faculty meeting at which Reinharz spoke. The meeting was Thursday, not Friday.)