Speaking at the Gala Dedication Dinner, Tufts University President Lawrence Bacow and Jay Lefkowitz, Deputy Assistant to President Bush for Domestic Policy, provided different perspectives on the state of campus life today. Both men praised Hillel's contributions to the broad campus community and called on Hillel to go even further.
Lefkowitz called on Hillel to take the lead in promoting "moral education" on college campuses. "One of the purposes of college is to get a moral education, to gain the ability to tell right from wrong," he said. "I understand that the concept of a moral education may make some people uncomfortable but what should make people more uncomfortable is the lack of moral education."
He complained that "Unfortunately, a great deal of criticism of the United States since September 11 has come from our academic communities and from some of our universities, the very place where students are supposed to get their moral education, and some of this criticism has not been morally well grounded. After September 11, a professor at the University of New Mexico said 'whoever blows up the Pentagon gets my vote,' and a math professor at the City University of New York said 'the ultimate responsibility for September 11 lies with the rulers of this country, the capitalist rulers of this country…'"
Lefkowitz praised Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz and Harvard President Lawrence Summers for speaking out against anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments. He said that Hillel should be a strong advocate for Israel and against anti-Semitism on campus.
Praising its work at Tufts, Bacow called on Hillel to shape the debate on Israel on campuses across the United States. "Hillel is an important voice for Israel on campus," said Bacow. "It can shape the tone of the debate. We don't need more shrill voices. Indeed we need more reasonable voices."
Bacow, whose academic specialty is conflict resolution, said, "I was shocked by the incident at San Francisco State and we must condemn such behavior in the strongest possible terms. Universities must be and need to be places where we debate ideas passionately and vigorously and we cannot allow advocates for any position to silence others."
He said he was impressed by the level of attention gained by the divestment movement because no university president has been presented with a divestment petition to date. He condemned the divestment movement, saying "Where reasonable people can differ it is highly inappropriate to use the university's investment policies to endorse one position or another. I believe that the divestiture petition and those who support it actually seek to quash open and vigorous debate and not to encourage it and that is antithetical to what we stand for as academic institutions."