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President Pelton to Join Panel on Freedom of Expression


President Lee Pelton will join former Treasury Secretary and President Emeritus of Harvard University Lawrence Summers and other higher education and government leaders Sunday to discuss freedom of expression in the classroom following an Israeli Stage performance of The Hearing.

Pelton, who serves on Israeli Stage’s Ambassador Council, and Summers will be joined by Lesley University President Jeff Weiss and Boston City Councilor-at-Large Annissa Essaibi-George, and will be moderated by Laura Gordon Fisher, dean of faculty recruitment at Harvard.

The Hearing, by Renana Raz, is about a teacher who is called in for a hearing by the Education Ministry after asking his class whether there’s such a thing as a “moral army,” aggravating one of his students with his “radical” views. The play is based on the true story of Adam Verete, who, after starting a discussion about enlistment for the Israeli Defense Forces in a public high school in Israel, was publicly threatened, humiliated, and forced to resign.

Alumnus Guy Ben-Aharon ’12 is founder and producing artistic director of Israeli Stage, and director of The Hearing. He cited a study in the New York Times that found about 30 percent of millennials don’t think democracy is essential, and a Pew Research Center study of 38 nations that shows a median of just 56 percent think it is very important to live in a country where people can speak without government censorship.

The Hearing asks us, ‘How do we raise the next generation of citizens engaged in democratic practices and values?’” Ben-Aharon said. “What better place to ask this question than in the higher education context? And who better to have this dialogue with than this distinguished panel, for whom I am so grateful.”

The panel on Sunday, November 12, in the Bright Family Screening Room, is by invitation only, though Emerson students and faculty can attend by emailing Bridget Schulz in the President’s Office. A public performance of The Hearing will be held at 3:00 pm that afternoon in the Bright, and will be followed by a dialogue moderated by Bob Weintraub, faculty director of the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department at Boston University, and former headmaster of Brookline High School. There will be a third performance on Monday, November 20, at Temple Israel in Boston.

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