Letter from the Editor: Put Morton in His Place

Photo by Cary Lee.

By Charles Rollet

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article, our beloved President Morton Schapiro co-wrote that he would never consider signing a student petition.

“In our experience, there is little correlation between the merits of the argument in a petition drive and the number of signatures or media attention it receives,” he wrote.

Now, this statement is not necessarily wrong. If, by moral principle, Morton thought university presidents should not involve themselves in matters of public policy, then he would of course be right to refuse petitions.

But Morton has involved himself in controversial issues before, having personally lobbied Congress for stricter gun laws. He seems to think that only *he* can decide what is worth lobbying for on behalf of Northwestern, rather than students.

Petitions, although flawed, are an accurate barometer of students’ concerns. So if, like Morton, you decide to involve yourself in controversial issues as a university president, paying heed to petitions is important.

Even though I don’t support the Divest NU campaign, I think Morton showed them and other activists a good deal of unnecessary contempt in his WSJ piece, snarkily calling for a “petition against petitions” or something of the sort.

I wonder how our campus can accept that – a university president who openly mocks his own students.

But I am not surprised Morton wrote this. I think it is all too revealing.

Unlike many other students at this university, I have never bought into the “Morty” cult. I refuse to call him by this nickname, which makes him sound far too personable, no matter how many silly re-mixed videos Sherman Ave makes of him singing “All the Single Ladies” or whatever.

Indeed, the most scorn I’ve been treated with at this university was by Morton himself. After he dismissed my article on NU-Q student Usama Hamed at a Faculty Senate meeting (without explaining *why*), I attempted to ask him on his way to the parking lot why he thought the piece was incorrect. He did not look me in the face once, tersely replying “I didn’t read it” (even though I had emailed it to him prior) and “talk to Dan [Linzer], talk to Dan” before scurrying to his car. His demeanor was one of extreme irritation, quite contrary to his alleged approachability.

I’ve got a thick skin, and as an aspiring journalist I could not care less if a source is rude or dismissive to me. But when that source is our “Professor and President” Morton Schapiro, it makes me doubtful of how much he truly cares about our student body.

He does not care about the petitions of students who are sincerely trying to make our campus a better place. And he certainly does not care about a Northwestern student who was beaten, jailed, and charged with being a “Syrian spy” at our branch campus, which he just visited. Our president’s attitude in the WSJ is entirely in keeping with the “real Morton” I have known in my short time here.

Perhaps if our students and campus media were less fawning over “Morty” and adopted a slightly more critical attitude, he would realize that as President, his first duty is to *us* rather than the other way around.

It’s time to put Morton in his place.

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