A city divided, a campus united

The recently published opinion article by Caelan MacTavish [“A City Divided,” Oct. 18] has caused much concern among us, the Jewish Student Union, and many other people in the university community: faculty and student, Jew and non-Jew alike. We are concerned not only with the content of the piece, but also the apparent lack of review on the part of the Vanguard editorial staff.

The writer attempted to argue his case for diplomacy in Jerusalem. Your readers received instead a very undiplomatic article that offensively presented a false history of Judaism and Jewish culture, and made a mockery out of the Israel-Palestine conflict and any honest attempts at making peace.

The writer’s justifications for the Holocaust are appalling, as well as the reference to it as “The Great Burning.” He was factually wrong on numerous accounts, including statements such as “Nobody can really convert to Judaism-you are born Jewish, or you are not.” There are in fact several converts to Judaism within our student group alone. There are too many false statements to address here.

This kind of hurtful literature has no place on campus, especially in a student-run newspaper. One person said in their online response to this article that they are reconsidering their choice to come and study at PSU. Another pointed out that “when any one minority group, such as Jews or Muslims is made to feel unsafe, then other minority groups across the whole campus begin to feel unsafe too.”

As students we have a responsibility and a right to attend classes in a safe and hate-free environment. The Code of Conduct states that, “the University recognizes the intrinsic value of individual differences and diversity. The University supports the right of all people to live and learn in a safe and respectful environment that promotes the free and vigorous expression of ideas. Policies and procedures are designed to protect these freedoms and the fundamental rights of others. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with these principles.”

Freedom of opinion is allowed, as long as it does not impinge upon another’s right to that “safe and respectful environment.”

In that spirit, the Jewish Student Union would like to encourage more constructive dialogue about religious and cultural difference, especially among student groups, with the support of our professors and the administration. We are proud of our beliefs and our way of life. We also respect the beliefs and rights of others. But the presence of multiple beliefs and cultures is worthless unless it is partnered with an ongoing dialogue that acknowledges the differences, and then celebrates them.

To the editorial staff, we would like for the article to be retracted, and for the Vanguard to work towards establishing better journalistic standards that will meet the needs of all students.

Shalom (Peace)