An Open Letter to The New School and Parsons on Linda Sarsour
Dear President Van Zandt,
My dream was always to attend a school like the Parsons School of Design, currently housed at The New School. I am committed to a career in fashion design, and I know that Parsons would provide me with a phenomenal education in this field.
And yet today, I am making one of the most painful decisions of my life thus far. Despite spending significant time on my application and design project, I will NOT be proceeding with my application to your prestigious school.
The impetus for my decision is the recent choice by The New School to host Linda Sarsour as a member on a panel discussion on the topic of antisemitism. In case you were not aware, Linda Sarsour has applauded convicted Palestinian terrorists and murderers like Rasmeah Odeh, and has proclaimed that “nothing is creepier than Zionism” and that “Zionists could not be true feminists.”
It’s crucial for me that you understand the following: I do not aspire to hide in a “safe space” during my university years. Quite the opposite. My upbringing and my schooling has taught me to embrace dialogue and nuance, and to seek to understand opinions across the spectrum — especially those that are not my own.
I believe in the marketplace of ideas, and I want to trade in that marketplace. I believe, wholeheartedly, in the protection of free speech as a core civil liberty.
And yet … there are times to take a stand. And the offensive decision regarding Sarsour makes this one of those times.
As a young Jewish person, I worry about the recent spike in antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment across America, and what it means for my generation. For me, it strikes the most personal of chords. It speaks to the travails of our Jewish past — and the uncertainty of our future.
Linda Sarsour is salt in all of those wounds. She has demonized my community and people. She has spoken recklessly and hurtfully about Jewish people and the Jewish state. Does Ms. Sarsour reserve the right to express her views? Absolutely. But not in this setting. Putting her on a panel to address antisemitism is an appalling, egregious decision.
Harvey Weinstein is entitled to his opinions about women, but should he be invited to speak on a panel about feminism? Should David Duke speak on a panel about black people and racism? Wouldn’t it be our responsibility to speak up about the hypocrisy of such an appearance?
It’s preposterous to imagine that Linda Sarsour could speak about solutions to a problem that she is at the very center of. By allowing her to participate in the panel, your university is seriously undermining the credibility of this panel, the goals it claims to be in service of, and the venue that has chosen to host it.
When researching this issue, I have found that it is not the first time that Parsons has been on the wrong side of the topic of antisemitism. As an Asian Jew who was born in China and raised by Jewish parents, I am a double minority — and I must be an advocate. This is my moment to do so, and I hope it might compel the school to change its ways.
For me, this was an agonizing choice. Attending The New School would be a dream beyond words. But there are values more important than personal ambition. The voice that compels me to send this letter is the voice of conscience, the voice of responsibility for myself and for my people. For most of us, the day comes that we must speak not just with our words — but with our actions. For me, that day is today.
Class of 2018
Shalhevet High School
Los Angeles, CA