Fwd: Message from President Cohon

May 15, 2013


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: "Carnegie Mellon University" <tseidel@andrew.cmu.edu>
Date: May 10, 2013 1:22 PM
Subject: Message from President Cohon
To: "simonstudio.com@gmail.com" <simonstudio.com@gmail.com>

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To the Carnegie Mellon Community:

Last week, I wrote to you about the university's process for dealing with the incidents of student nudity during the College of Fine Arts' Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby on Carnival Weekend. I promised to write to you once the internal process had been completed. In this message I describe how the matter has been resolved and the rationale for the outcome.

Let me begin by quoting the university's freedom of expression policy which can be found in its entirety at http://www.cmu.edu/policies/documents/FreeSpeech.html:

"Carnegie Mellon University values the freedoms of speech, thought, expression and assembly—in themselves and as part of our core educational and intellectual mission. The university must be a place where all ideas may be expressed freely and where no alternative is withheld from consideration. The only limits on these freedoms are those dictated by law and those necessary to protect the rights of other members of the university community and to ensure the normal functioning of the university."

Our policy makes it clear that Carnegie Mellon is committed to the rights of its students to express controversial views, while recognizing some key restrictions on that expression—including those dictated by law. This policy was revised six years ago in a widely consultative process with input from all parts of campus including faculty, students, staff, the administrative leadership and the Board of Trustees.

We relied on this policy to frame our decision making in this matter. In this situation, the issue is public nudity by two students, one woman and one man, at an open event which members of the public historically have attended, without warning to or protection of anyone who might unwittingly be witness to that exposure. This is a violation of Pennsylvania law.

Carnegie Mellon's Campus Police, who are commissioned by the state to enforce the law, have filed misdemeanor charges for indecent exposure against the two students. Final disposition of these charges will occur through the Allegheny County justice system, not through university channels. There will be no separate disciplinary action pursued through the university's internal process.

The students took part in a campus art event and, in the case of the student who portrayed herself as the Pope, made an artistic statement which proved to be controversial. While I recognize that many found the students' activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas. But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action.

I understand that this resolution may not be supported by those who believe that there can be no limits on the freedom of artistic expression. Others who were particularly offended by the incident may be distressed that more severe action is not being taken.

There are competing values at issue here: Carnegie Mellon aims to be a place where ideas can be expressed and debated openly, but also where people of all backgrounds, faiths, and beliefs feel welcomed and supported. Unavoidably, the expression of some views will offend some people; that is the price of this freedom. However, if in the expression of these views, people in our community come to feel that the campus is intolerant, then the other of our cherished values is challenged. In such a situation, the institution may find it necessary to reassure those offended of its commitment to tolerance and inclusion. In doing so, I do not believe that the institution is compromising freedom of expression. Similarly, it is reasonable to expect individuals to consider the impact on others in expressing their views and how they choose to express them. This is responsibility, not censorship, and something that our students, especially, should learn while they are members of our community.

It is our practice in controversial situations such as this one to provide opportunities for discussion, where all sides have a chance to express their views. This has already begun on the campus. Members of our community are asking themselves the difficult questions about what happened here, and embracing their responsibility to create a context in which events like these can continue to be held in a manner which is consistent with the full range of our values. These values include, certainly, freedom of expression, but also the cultivation of an inclusive, mutually respectful environment, and respect for the law. Being aware of and acting on those values is my responsibility as your President, and, in this circumstance, the School of Art, the College of Fine Arts, and the Office of Student Affairs.

Our students, and the faculty who advise them, must have a clear understanding of the complexity of these issues. Our investigation of this incident revealed that our freedom of expression policy is not as well understood today as it was when it was adopted six years ago—especially by students, faculty, and staff who have come to the university since then. We will do a better job of making all members of our community aware of their rights to free speech and their responsibilities to the community.

I hope that, in that spirit, this incident will inspire thoughtful discussions at Carnegie Mellon and beyond, and affirm our beliefs in the freedom and the responsibility that are essential to the life of the university.

Jared L. Cohon
Carnegie Mellon University


Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
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Slanderous essay wins Carnegie Mellon University award in Pittsburgh

January 17, 2012

Ben Zoma says:
Who is wise?
The one who learns from every person…
Who is brave?
The one who subdues his negative inclination…
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…
Who is honored?
The one who gives honor to others…
(Talmud – Avot 4:1)
(fresnozionism.org)I lived for some years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is not a bad place at all, although the winters are very cold and once the sun didn’t come out for 43 days (I counted). It has several top -notch universities, including the University of Pittsburgh where I was a graduate student, and Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU).
Every year CMU runs a contest for student writing about racial issues, on the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. This year’s high school winners were a African-American girl, Erika Drain, and a Jewish boy, Jesse Lieberfeld. They are both juniors at the Winchester Thurston School, a private school whose main campus is located in the city’s Shadyside neighborhood. Tuition for the 11th grade is $23,600 at Winchester Thurston, so one assumes that they have only the best teachers and facilities available to them.
Their essays were published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here. Erika Drain’s, about being called “not black enough” because of her academic achievement, was perceptive and nuanced. Jesse Lieberfeld’s was notable for several reasons:

  • His clearly expressed disdain for Jews and Judaism
  • His completely one-sided understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • The fact that his parents, teachers, rabbi, etc. didn’t succeed (or try) to introduce at least a bit of reality into his thinking
  • The fact that CMU chose this offensive piece as one of the top two high school essays

He begins with an arguably antisemitic statement:

I once belonged to a wonderful religion. I belonged to a religion that allows those of us who believe in it to feel that we are the greatest people in the world — and feel sorry for ourselves at the same time. Once, I thought that I truly belonged in this world of security, self-pity, self-proclaimed intelligence and perfect moral aesthetic. I thought myself to be somewhat privileged early on. It was soon revealed to me, however, that my fellow believers and I were not part of anything so flattering.

One would think that someone along the way would have explained to him that normative Judaism — liberal or Orthodox — does not teach that Jews are superior to others, only that they bear a greater moral burden, that of following the commandments. It’s unfortunate if he or his family are intellectual snobs or enjoy self-pity, but the Jewish people are not responsible for his psychological issues.

…as I came to learn more about our so-called “conflict” with the Palestinians, I grew more concerned. I routinely heard about unexplained mass killings, attacks on medical bases and other alarmingly violent actions for which I could see no possible reason. “Genocide” almost seemed the more appropriate term, yet no one I knew would have ever dreamed of portraying the war in that manner; they always described the situation in shockingly neutral terms. Whenever I brought up the subject, I was always given the answer that there were faults on both sides, that no one was really to blame, or simply that it was a “difficult situation.”

Nobody told him, apparently, that Operation Cast Lead came after some 8,000 rockets were fired at random by Hamas into Israeli towns. Nobody explained to him about the Second Intifada, the suicide bombings and drive-by shootings. Nobody told him about the surprise attack in 1973, the plans to wipe out the Jewish residents of Israel in 1967, the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem in 1948. Nobody mentioned the 800,000 Jews kicked out of Arab countries after the War of Independence. Nobody explained how the Arab world had been trying to extirpate the Jewish presence from the Middle East for at least the last 100 years.
No, they just told him that “there were faults on both sides.”
And the connection to Dr. King?

In that moment, I realized how similar the two struggles were — like the white radicals [sic] of that era, we controlled the lives of another people whom we abused daily, and no one could speak out against us. It was too politically incorrect to do so. We had suffered too much, endured too many hardships, and overcome too many losses to be criticized. I realized then that I was in no way part of a “conflict” — the term “Israeli/Palestinian Conflict” was no more accurate than calling the Civil Rights Movement the “Caucasian/African-American Conflict.”
In both cases, the expression was a blatant euphemism: it gave the impression that this was a dispute among equals and that both held an equal share of the blame. However, in both, there was clearly an oppressor and an oppressed, and I felt horrified at the realization that I was by nature on the side of the oppressors. I was grouped with the racial supremacists. I was part of a group that killed while praising its own intelligence and reason. I was part of a delusion.

No one could speak out? Apparently Mr. Lieberfeld was not only allowed to speak out, but was given an award for it.
Concerning his absurd analogy, I would ask him if black people fired missiles into American cities? If they made a habit of blowing up buses on our streets? If African-Americans regularly proclaimed their desire to rid the country of whites and were supported in this by 23 neighboring nations, one of which was developing nuclear weapons? If black heroes, instead of Dr. King, were people like Palestinian hero Dalal Mughrabi, who led a bloody terrorist attack that killed 35 Israelis, including 13 children? Talk about delusions!
Was his expensive education so poor that he is unaware of the differences between the struggle of African-Americans to overcome official and unofficial racism in their country, and the viciously racist 100-year effort to kick the Jewish people out of their ancestral homeland?
Did it occur to him that his sources of ‘information’ might possibly be biased? Apparently not.
Finally, Mr. Lieberfeld gives Judaism one last chance — and it fails the test:

I decided to make one last appeal to my religion. If it could not answer my misgivings, no one could.
The next time I attended a service, there was an open question-and-answer session about any point of our religion. I wanted to place my dilemma in as clear and simple terms as I knew how. I thought out my exact question over the course of the 17-minute cello solo that was routinely played during service. Previously, I had always accepted this solo as just another part of the program, yet now it seemed to capture the whole essence of our religion: intelligent and well-crafted on paper, yet completely oblivious to the outside world (the soloist did not have the faintest idea of how masterfully he was putting us all to sleep).
When I was finally given the chance to ask a question, I asked: “I want to support Israel. But how can I when it lets its army commit so many killings?” I was met with a few angry glares from some of the older men, but the rabbi answered me.
“It is a terrible thing, isn’t it?” he said. “But there’s nothing we can do. It’s just a fact of life.”

I’d like to believe the rabbi did better than that, and that Lieberfeld was just not paying attention. But today, who knows?
I blame the family, the teachers, the rabbi, and CMU’s selection committee who validated this exercise in ignorant slander. But the responsibility for what he said lies with only one person, Mr. Lieberfeld himself. He’s old enough to accept it.
I suggest that he reread the words of Rabbi Shimon ben Zoma at the beginning of this piece, and then learn the truth about Israel — and some humility, while he’s at it. Dr. King certainly would have approved.

Update [2008 PDT]: Elder of Ziyon also discussed this essay in “An open letter to 17-year old Jesse Lieberfeld.”
Update [2011 PDT]: Jesse Lieberfeld is the son of Daniel Lieberfeld, an associate professor at Duquesne University, another well-known Pittsburgh institution. Daniel Lieberfeld has written extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (see a list of his publications here), and teaches an undergraduate course on it. From what I’ve been able to find so far, he seems to take a center-left perspective.

…my alumni email simonstudio@alumni.cmu.edu went down last week… I had such a nice talk with the Alumni house, but now I read this the next day? I try to stay positive, I hear there are opportunities for those with the diploma I have. I have not seen it. My brother is making films instead of going to college… he’s doing what they can merely talk about. Guess which one of us is living in our parent’s attic? I’ll give you a hint… the one of us who doesn’t have the diploma. Perhaps this is why. My Jewish family goes back to the very first class of Carnegie Tech. My great great grandfather by the name of Sivitz was there in the beginning of the 20th century. My great great great grandfather Sivitz (the father of the boy who was in the first class) was the orthodox rabbi in Pittsburgh… he didn’t like his son going to Carnegie Tech… I understand why. The younger Sivitz did a lot of chemistry and experiments in radioactive isotopes that led to research on Nuclear energy. His daughter my grandmother was there during WWII when the campus sororities would apparently solicit members on Yom Kippur to insure that no Jews were within it’s ranks. My grandmother’s brother, Bobby Sivitz used to travel to class in a steam pipe to avoid the Antisemitism. The 1960’s generation grew up and voted for Obama, but so little has changed.

Jewish student arrested for not having ID

November 3, 2011

Last summer I went to Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park and some guy who got jealous that I was talking to his girlfriend went and told the cops that I was a pederast and I was escorted out of the park. I was silent about the story for the most part because it was embarrassing, but now it seems that the NYPD really are over the top in the parks and I’m getting sick of this. Lucky for us the NYPD picked on some goody goody college girl from Carnegie Mellon University. They could pick on me because I fear them, but this girl fought back. good for her, but it shows how there is sexual bias in favor of women. I would of spent the week or months in jail. Lucky for me I had not actually done anything wrong and was polite as all hell, but I was really freaked out.

(h/t Republican Jewish Coalition/Your Jewish News/Gothamist) Extending the courtesy of ticket-fixing to fellow officers, pepper-spraying peaceful protesters, and planting drugs on innocent suspects to meet arrest quotas are but three of the NYPD’s less savory on-the-job exploits which have been put under the microscope via recent high-profile cases. But the NYTimes’ Jim Dwyer points us in the direction of one person’s smaller story of a particularly frivolous arrest which seems just as ridiculous as those bigger cases: a 21-year-old female student was arrested and held by NYPD for 36 hours for not carrying ID. And as Dwyer so simply puts it, once she finally reached a courtroom, “the judge proceeded to dismiss the ticket in less than a minute.” Samantha Zucker, who is from Westchester but goes to school at Carnegie Mellon University, was visiting NYC on October 22 with a group of seniors looking for jobs in design industries when she had her fateful run-in with cops. She and friend Alex Fischer were walking in Riverside Park after its 1 a.m. closing when they were confronted by police. “We’re there five minutes when a police car came up and told us we had to leave because the park was closed,” Fischer said. “We said, ‘O.K., we didn’t know,’ and turned around to leave. Almost immediately, a second police car pulls up.” The students were given tickets for trespassing, and the officers demanded their IDs. While Fischer was allowed to leave after showing his, Zucker had left her wallet in a hotel two blocks away. Police wouldn’t allow Fischer to go get it for her, and Zucker was handcuffed and forced to spend the next 36 hours locked up shuffled between a cell in the 26th Precinct station house on West 126th Street and central booking in Lower Manhattan. It’s as if she had been eating doughnuts in a playground while unaccompanied by a minor! The arresting officer, identified as Police Officer Durrell of the 26th Precinct in court papers, also allegedly made fun of Zucker while she was being held: “He was telling me that I needed to get a new boyfriend, that I should get a guy who takes me out to dinner,” Zucker said. “He mocked me for being from Westchester.” After two nights in custody, the judge dismissed all charges in seconds. Dwyer describes Zucker’s pointless arrest in poetic terms, calling it indicative of a larger cancer choking the effectiveness of the NYPD: “the staggering waste of spirit, the squandering of public resources, the follies disguised as crime-fighting.” He also connects that with the controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which accounted for more than 600K arrests last year. According to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, officers can allow a friend or relative to retrieve ID. Zucker isn’t only upset with the arresting officer however—she also blames a culture of complacency which prevented anyone from helping her during those 36 hours: “While it may have been one out-of-control officer that began the process, no other officer had the courage to stand up against what they knew was a poor decision,” she said. (image Riverside Park street stars’s flickr)

The police in NY are outrageous. I have some stories… I’ve been beat up by off duty cops working as security guards at MSG. I’ve been pulled over supposedly for gay cruising for Dominicans in Washington Heights and then asked if my pal (a Jewish doctor) was my boyfriend. I’ve been pulled over when hot women in expensive cars pass me on the right and then given a ticket as a cock block. and woah… the correction officers in jails were just plain abusive. When I worked for the Yellow Pages I knew the madame of the escort agency that serviced Bernard B. Kerik and GIULIANI and friends (it was my job to sell the advertising). I have this female cop that drives around my neighborhood in Poughkeepsie and she pulls the car over with the mother of my son in the car. Some kind of female bullshit.  I’ve always been theoretically Conservative, but Rudy G was what kept me from crossing over for a long time. The media made it seem like Rudy was picking on black folks. That wasn’t true. The NYPD picks on all young men regardless of their skin color. It’s the police… not all police… just police in general. They are horrible.  Can I prove any of what I am saying? No, probably not… though I do have a Jewish doctor as a witness from the Washington Heights claim. Point is that you can never prove the abuse of the police and many states are making it hard or impossible to record on video the behavior of the police. Any Conservative who is against people having video cameras I will reject for the same reason I want people to have guns. If we don’t protect ourselves it is asking for the police to abuse us.

University of Pittsburgh Israeli Propaganda War Rages On

March 9, 2011
Pro Palestine Propaganda
by Shepard Fairey 
who designed the famous Obama poster. 
Go figure?

Students for Justice in Palestine produced a video of their rude, immature protest of an Israeli speaker at the University of Pittsburgh. Their video was riddled with inaccuracies, out-of-context quotes and a general disregard for character or respect (not to mention shoddy camera work and even worse editing).

This is their video, but edited with subtitles to give it more context, and with the face of the speaker blurred as per his request regarding security concerns.

The entire University of Pittsburgh community has been embarrassed by and ashamed of Students for Justice in Palestine, and this video shows why.

Also, a little lawyer speak:
This video is a legal commentary production as defined under the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107.