Monday, April 15, 2024

The Call Came from Inside the Building

**I will issue the disclaimer (and warning?) here that this post has very little to with Academic Support and does talk about violent world circumstances. I have tried (feebly, I admit) to tie this into status issues, student self-advocacy, and the importance of belonging to student success, but again, it is extremely tangential. I promise that next week’s entry will be about exams and how you should register for the AASE Conference.**

About a week ago, I returned from Israel. I had been there to celebrate my nephew’s wedding[1].  It was surreal to be sitting in a lively European-style square next to a stunning sea having coffee[2] while also knowing that the white wispy looking lines over the water were patrol drone trails. It was similarly implausible to be at a wedding where we engaged in most of the usual marriage rituals[3] but also noting that one of the photographers had what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun somewhat cavalierly tucked into the back waistband of his pants. There was no holster or covering; it was just positioned there for a right handed person to draw quickly. Sun, sea, joy, family, and yet an undercurrent that this was only a façade.

My brother-in-law is a faculty member at a law school in Israel. He told me how their semesters are completely off schedule due to the war. Students, faculty members, and administrators have all been called into military service and returned at times that are not in sync with the usual academic calendar. Even COVID didn’t do this. And yet, I would be entirely remiss if I did not also say that schools in Gaza are completely shut down due to the war and continued violence. Inconvenience is not the same as rubble. The destruction of schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure that assists civilians to live their lives is repugnant.

So, we went to the Saturday night anti-war protests in Tel Aviv. There were thousands and thousands of people there.[4] We were at least four teeming city streets away from the speakers, but we could see and hear everything on screens set up along the way. We stood in the shadow of IDF headquarters and loudly told them that they were doing terrible things. It was by far the most comfortable place I have sat with my feelings about this entire conflict. I could say what I thought about the egregious behavior of the Israeli government without ever having to engage my (now 24/7) filter to determine where and when some of the protests cross the line into abject anti-Semitism.  It was oddly freeing.

For context, about a  week before making this trip, I had been approached by a fellow faculty member to join a group of “like-minded” colleagues in a Faculty for Justice in Palestine group at my law school. This was not a public invitation to all the faculty; it was more of a recruiting whisper network, and I was invited because I had expressed my dismay to one colleague who fully knew about my family in Israel as well as my internal conflict. I had shared this with someone I respect and trusted. Part of me thought, “wow, they think I am cool enough to do this!,” and part of me said, “nope, I will not be their token Jewish person.”  A third part of me thought I would get listed on Canary Mission and get turned away at the border unable to attend the wedding. I am still not sure how I feel about the invitation or the people who sent it, but nonetheless, I politely declined. I can say that I felt almost completely comfortable in the space of my workplace until then and now that security has been frayed. I’m not saying that I was threatened in any way, I was not, nor am I now.  I just feel less like I belong there and, honestly, really sad about that. The folks who invited me vote on my contract.[5] The folks who did accept the invitation to attend their information session also vote on my contract.

Even as someone who always encourages students to advocate for themselves, I am at a loss as to how to repair this set of circumstances for myself. If I had tenure, I would have forwarded the email I received to everyone on the faculty and administration or asked to put it on the agenda at the next faculty meeting, but I do not feel that I can or should do that. And here’s another truth: I really do not want to know which of my colleagues did accept the invitation because I want to continue walking the halls feeling like I belong. We know, as ASP professionals, that belonging  begets community which in turn begets success.

This past Saturday night, far from the protests, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday in Rhode Island while drone strikes from Iran targeted Israel. Luckily very few hit anything before being intercepted. And even luckier, my family is fine-not that anyone who asked me to join them weeks ago inquired.

(Liz Stillman)

 

[1] And really, does anything make you feel older than that--short of grandchildren?

[2] And the most amazing pistachio croissants I have ever eaten-seriously, ask me about them at the AASE Conference and bring a paper towel for the drool.

[3] It was different than American style weddings, but most of the usual components were there: the aisle, the vows, the officiant, the dancing….

[4] Real thousands, not Trump thousands.

[5] Which luckily isn’t scheduled to happen again for another five years.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2024/04/the-call-came-from-inside-the-building.html

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