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October 11, 2007 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2007-10-11

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Editor's Letter

Wayne State's Jewish Presence


We always have room for free speech, but we have no room for
hen Irvin Reid steps down as the ninth president
of Wayne State University next spring, the Detroit the rhetoric of hatred!'
The private meeting followed a tense week that included the
Jewish community will lose a friend. He supports
and values what Jewish Detroit stands for and the historic role non-campus group Anti Racist Action holding "Palestinian
Land Day." ARA called for Wayne to divest from multinational
that it has played in Wayne's growth, both physically and in
companies doing business in Israel, paraded the Nazi swastika
academic stature.
and urged the end of the Jewish state.
Dr. Reid knows the Jewish commu-
nity has prospered in part because of
the education many Jews have received Hostile Moments
at Wayne. But he realizes the university Wayne, a microcosm of the world, is not alone in seeking to
promote ideas but also curb hostility. It's a national campus
no longer is the first choice for Jewish
students like it once was. So he's com-
Just last week, the university formed a planning team
mitted to raising Jewish enrollment
that included administrative, campus police, Hillel of Metro
from 500-plus students.
Detroit and student representation to assure the safety of
Historically, Wayne has reflected
Jewish students — but not prevent free speech. Impetus
the heart and soul of Jewish Detroit.
for the team was Daniel Pipes' Oct. 8 talk before 150 people
Jewish names dot the 33,000-student
at the Undergraduate Library. Wayne's Students for Israel
campus. Wayne has no choice but to
and Stand WithUs-Michigan co-hosted Pipes, director of the
pursue meaningful alliances that serve Jewish students and
Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and a counterterror-
help keep them in Metro Detroit.
Reid, 66, will retire from Wayne after 10 productive years of ism analyst who has taken Islam's worldview to task.
ARA congregated to protest the speaker; police removed
service. Under his stewardship, Wayne doubled the number
one of its leaders who kept interrupting despite
of residential students, expanded the honors
warnings to cease. The collaborative approach
program, improved campus facilities and held a
toward security requires refinement, but it serves
$500 million-plus capital campaign. It also was
as a guidepost for handling future contentious
selected as a Partnership for the Advancement
events on campus. Some Jewish students still feel
of Collaborative Engineering Education institu-
that Wayne gives ARA too much leeway.
tion. Further, Wayne opened the Perinatology
Reid understands that as Wayne's relation-
Research Branch of the National Institutes of
ship with the Jewish community goes, so goes
Health. And it created TechTown, Detroit's only
the university to a degree. He balances that with
research/technology park and entrepreneurial
serving the other constituent groups at the urban
incubator. Rock Financial/Quicken Loan's Dan
university. Reid's predecessor, David Adamany,
Gilbert, a savvy businessman, tapped WSU to
Dr. Irvin Rei d
also embraced this important balancing act. The
house Bizdom U.
difference is that Adamany was much more of an
Under Reid's ambassadorship, Wayne is now
more of an international leader in academics and research. It's academician while Reid has been much more of a strategist
and marketer.
also a real economic engine for Detroit and Michigan.


Jewish Underpinnings
I got to know Reid when he visited with Detroit Jewish lead-
ers Max Fisher and David Hermelin and Israeli statesman
Shimon Peres at the Franklin home of Fisher's daughter, Jane
Sherman, in 2000. Reid took the time to grill his imposing
hosts about Israel's challenges, needs and dreams.
Believe it when this Jewish National Fund Tree of Life
Award winner says the bridges of collaboration and coopera-
tion that he has sought to build with the Jewish community
will continue to expand. I would wonder about a president of
our largest local university who didn't want that.
In the last few years, anti-Israel rallies have catapulted the
Detroit campus into the public glare. At times, Jewish students
have felt the rallies threatened their safety.
Last April, after Jewish students and several administrators
met in a private meeting to discuss student concerns about
rising anti-Jewish sentiment, Reid, though belatedly, wrote a
thoughtful letter to the student newspaper, the South End.
His letter defended the entitlement "of academic freedom
and free expression, tempered by tolerance and respect!' It
added, "But we do not condone those who advocate harm to
another race, nationality or ethnic or religious group, nor can
we allow the distortion of history to serve a political agenda.

Moving Forward
Eugene Driker is chair and Richard Bernstein is vice chair of
Wayne's Board of Governors. So the next campus president
will be well versed not only in the unique relationship that has
been cultivated with the Jewish community, but also the mul-
tiple opportunities to bolster this relationship.
The presidential handoff will be aided by Reid's direc-
tive calling for Dean of Students David Strauss to launch a
respect" campaign to underscore Wayne State University's
conviction that all students have the right to learn in a
respectful environment. Let's hope this campaign moderates
protests, sparks dialogue and installs building blocks for trust
amid Wayne's multiculturalism.
That's a tall order. But it's one that must be filled given the
troubling tenor of our times. I

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October 11 . 2007


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