Actions speak volumes more than words or apologies
Andrew Carnegie once stated, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” As I reflect over the recent readme fiasco over the “New Hauschwitz” story, I can’t help but wonder how Carnegie might feel about these events and the various players involved.
Sadly, the actual author(s) of this failed attempt at satire have chosen to maintain both their silence and their anonymity. One can only hope that they will find the courage to turn their hurtful words into positive action as demonstrated by students in years past. In that sense, one would wonder why Chris Kier, the editor of readme, neglected to publicly apologize for his own acquiescence to willfully slandering the good name of Tartans for Israel as the supposed authors of the “New Hauschwitz” article. His lack of action here sends a resounding message that nearly negates his carefully worded apology, making it seem half-hearted and insincere.
In the weeks since the publication of “New Hauschwitz,” there has been an outcry from many students for a sign of justice beyond mere words. Stated differently, while we can’t wish this incident away, our actions can indeed put this whole episode into the proverbial dustbin of history... if actions were louder than words.
This concept of “deed over word” is a deeply rooted concept in Jewish tradition. For example, Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right path. The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” It is interesting to note that Anne did not write “their own words,” but rather “their own hands.” Frank, like Carnegie before her, intuitively understood that it is our actions, above and beyond our words, that we should be judged upon.
A prime example of this idea can be encapsulated in the way that Carnegie Mellon University’s administration dealt with this issue. While quickly moving to publicly condemn the article for its insensitivity, the dean of student affairs, Jennifer Church, got involved to meet with the students at readme to work together with them to mentor a solution for all sides. In her wisdom, Dean Church’s words were both rebuking as well as nurturing. This is an important point, especially for those members of our wider community who are less familiar with the world of Student Affairs and were quick (not unjustifiably so) to seek a punitive solution.
In our field, our goal is first and foremost to educate, and in this matter there was much to learn from all sides. Navigating these waters, for the multitudes who were hurt and offended, was no easy feat. But we can feel proud that, in the end, it was the students themselves who came up with their own solution to ensuring that an incident like this will be less likely to occur again.
Going forward, the editors of readme have decided of their own accord to bring these kinds of articles not only to their own board, but to a wider community outside of readme for further review, in order to ensure that future attempts at satire will not be made at the expense of others. Is this the perfect solution? No, but justice, like everything else in this life, is seldom perfect. Rather, there are shades of justice and sometimes, if you have thoughtful individuals on both sides of an issue and a willingness to move beyond mere words with the courage to take action, you can get very close.
While there is no doubt that Frank would find little funny and satirical in the “New Hauschwitz” piece, I feel quite sure that Carnegie would have paid attention to what “people have done” on this campus. This incident shows that education often takes place as a result of student action, rather than from an educator’s words alone.