Letters to the Editor

Letter: ‘Untitled (Lamp/Bear)’ has never been uglier

By
Monday, November 14, 2016

To the Editor:

Last month, I wrote a letter to The Herald regarding former Chancellor Thomas Tisch’s ’76 P’18 P’20 defense of the University’s acceptance of the blue bear statue from Steven Cohen, the infamous investor whose firm was accused by the Securities Exchange Commission of insider trading. I will not argue that Republicans ought not be board members at Brown, so let us put aside for the moment Cohen’s donations of over $60,000 to the Republican National Senatorial Committee in both 2012 and 2011. Let us consider instead that by the end of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign in 2016, Cohen and his wife had contributed over $6 million to his super PAC.

Tisch — Cohen’s champion in this newspaper — is a longtime supporter and former board member of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a far-right think-tank best known for popularizing “community policing” along the lines of stop-and-frisk and for churning out op-eds in defense of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Wednesday morning, in light of Tuesday’s results, Christina Paxson P’19 did some lip service to our overwhelmingly liberal student body and offered a sort of safe space in the Leung Gallery. She urged us, “as an academic community,” to “aim to understand the divisions in our country and develop ways to address them,” and to “succeed in elevating the level of discourse above what we have seen in the political arena over the past year.” Her writing calls to mind a cow flicking its tail lazily at a meddlesome fly.

Here is one way we might address the divisions in our country: Stop selecting the public supporters of figures like Christie and Giuliani — President-Elect Donald Trump’s right-hand men — as the string-pullers and mouthpieces of this “academic community.” And here is one way we might elevate “the level of discourse:” Talk about the highest force of all in America — money. Until Brown’s administration puts its money where its mouth is — and not only in the form of Diversity Action Plans, but in its selection of our chancellors and board members — how can students view an email like Paxson’s as anything more than an opiate of the masses, a lazy palliative for a disease the administration has shown no interest in curing?

Marty Granoff P’93, another Brown trustee, called the original op-ed decrying the University’s acceptance of the bear statue “offensive.” Given that critical student journalism is enough to offend Granoff, I would like very much to know how he thinks an undocumented, female, Black, Muslim or disabled student feels as he or she walks by the blue bear, purchased from the same wallet propping up Trump’s bosom buddy. I pled last month that we deserve better from our administrators; now I ask only that those same administrators not pretend to empathize with the suffering of a student body ruled by the same class — the same exact people — who fund that suffering. I want Brown’s administration to know that we do not forgive support for Trump’s cronies, even if that support comes from the same wallets on which this institution depends. Who knew that the blue bear could become even harder to look at?

Margaret Shea ’19

Correction: A previous version of this letter stated that Steven Cohen’s hedgefund pled guilty in 2013 to insider trading. In fact, the firm was accused of insider trading, and one of its employees, Mathew Martoma, was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison. The Herald regrets the error.