Monday, February 14, 2005

Jewish Student Objects to Nazi/Sniper jibe

In the wake of controversy following the Marquette Administration’s banning of the Collge Republicans’ “Adopt A Sniper” program, Engineering Professor William Brower took a rhetorical shot at the College Republicans by brandishing a bracelet that he said had the inscription “Adopt a Nazi.”

This comparison of American snipers to Nazis, as well as the implication that Republicans support Nazis, was certainly offensive. But a Jewish student who heard of the incident first-hand had his own, very personal, reasons to be offended. The following is his letter:
Fr. Robert Wild
O’Hara Hall, 101
Marquette University

Fr. Wild,

I am writing regarding the actions of Dr. William Brower, a professor in the College of Engineering. It was brought to my attention that on Friday, February 4th, Dr. Brower opened his Mechanical Engineering 60 class by joking about the controversy over the University’s recent decision to shut down the College Republicans’ Adopt-A-Sniper fundraising table in the Alumni Memorial Union. Dr. Brower then lifted up his arm to reveal a yellow bracelet similar to the “Livestrong” fundraiser bracelets. On this bracelet, Dr. Brower had written the words “Adopt A Nazi.” He made it a point to share this with the class.

I write this letter because I am appalled at the actions taken by this member of Marquette’s faculty. I am Jewish, and my maternal Grandparents are Holocaust survivors. Though they survived the camps, they both lost numerous siblings, countless cousins, and other close family members and friends. My own family’s loss is just a small sliver of the six million Jews and 11 million overall who were innocently slaughtered at the hands of the Nazis.

Being a Jesuit institution, Marquette teaches Catholic values, and governs the University by these values. In fact, that was the administration’s reasoning for shutting the Adopt-A-Sniper fundraiser down in the first place. One of these values is tolerance and respect. What Dr. Brower showed was a complete lack of respect for the 11 million killed in the Holocaust, and to trivialize the event into a joke about a local issue on campus is unacceptable conduct for a member of Marquette’s faculty. In addition, the comments disrespect the American snipers serving overseas, as Dr. Brower is comparing them to Nazis. I support our troops, and I also know from my own family history the atrocities of the Nazis, and I am horrified by this comparison.

I am asking the University to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter, and take whatever disciplinary action deemed necessary. Dr. Brower at the very least should apologize publicly for his actions, and in my opinion further action should be taken as well. Marquette has always been an environment in which that I feel welcome and comfortable. Regardless of the fact that my religion differs from that on which the University is based, I have always been treated as an equal, with the respect and dignity all members of the Marquette community deserve. For a faculty member to act in this matter, regardless of his views on the Adopt-A-Sniper issue, is a blatant disregard of the ideals that make Marquette such a great place. This is not an example we want the outside community to think of when Marquette University comes to mind. With that I ask you to please take the appropriate actions to rectify this situation.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter.

Sincerely,

Danny Manson, ‘06
The letter was copied to Provost Madeline Wake, to Prof. Brower and to the Chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department.

In spite the University’s usual stonewalling of the College Republicans, the Administration was reasonably responsive to this complaint. Not only did Manson get a call from Provost Wake on the day after he sent the letter, Manson met with the Dean of the Engineering College, who was quite sympathetic to the complaint.

Brower, it was explained, has tenure and could not be seriously disciplined for this incident, but he has been urged to make an apology. He has not, so far, done so.

The notion that American Snipers can be compared to Nazis and that Republicans are supporters of Nazis reeks of political correctness. As we noted in our original article on the incident:
This might be dismissed as a “casual” or “offhand” comment. But what would be the result of a professor making a “casual offhand” comment implying that blacks are less intelligent than whites, or that all homosexuals are child molesters?
In spite of the solicitude that the Administration showed to Manson, it remains the case that, at Marquette, one can make the most scurrilous statements about America's soldiers and American Republicans with impunity.

We believe, as much an anybody, that professors should have the freedom to make controversial statements. But directly insulting students goes too far.

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