To the Editor:
It should be noted that Dan Tapiero’s BA '90, MA '91, and 1989 Associate Managing Editor of the Herald, Oct. 22 letter in The Herald was sprinkled with rose-colored views of a mythical Brown University. When he wrote, “I recall that at one time Brown was considered a breeding ground for CIA recruitment. We did not possess the arrogance nor the stridency to opine upon matters that we had not researched, that we knew very little about as students,” he conveniently leaves out both the 1981 student protest during a lecture delivered by CIA Director William Casey and the 1984 student protests of CIA recruiters. To claim that “the Brown community has always been a place where fair, balanced, thoughtful and researched ideas were welcome, from whatever side,” falls into a fairly uninspired trope of bothsidesism. The well-documented history of student protests against the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, Apartheid and police brutality shows that students have always been capable of using moral and ethical principles to guide research and action to achieve a more equitable future. In many of these cases, it is the administration and the leaders of the University who realign to match the more egalitarian vision of the world students have imagined.
So on the topic of Kanders, it’s evident that a coalition of students and alums continues to build on the work laid out by both artists and the activist organization ‘Decolonize This Place.’ They have posed the question: Should prestigious educational institutions associate with companies that make tools to perpetuate violence? It is a complicated question given how interconnected and labyrinthine the flow of global capital has become. For me, it does seem worth answering especially when considering that our phones barrage us daily with videos of violence committed by militarized police around the globe.
The words of former Border Patrol Agent, Francisco Cantú, whose comments appeared in the same issue as Mr. Tapiero, suggest a way forward: “In the end, our feelings and our tears are useless unless they compel us to act in a way that might someday improve (migrants’) situation.” Those raising the question of Kanders’ role in the University are clearly compelled to say Brown does not have to associate with tear gas production. The Herald (along with students from many other universities) has clearly been compelled to demand renewed clarity in donation protocols that could prevent scandalous and unethical donations from entering the University’s endowment. What I wonder is how will Mr. Kanders feel compelled to act?
Joey DiZoglio MD ’20