Friday, June 11, 2004

Yesterday was an endless day of meetings and lectures, including one of the worst I ever heard (a student whose advisor turns out to have been a fraud who claimed degrees he did not have) and one of the best (Adi Shamir on some new ideas in cryptography -- what a great lecturer he is). But it was the beginning and the end of the day that evoked passions by highlighting the subtle interplay between midas hadin and midas harachamim. The day began with a meeting of the vaadat mishma'at (in charge of punishing alleged cheaters) at the august institution of higher learning that employs me. This is difficult work. Think about a case like this (and there are lots of them): a student admits cheating but explains that she is divorced and supporting a child by working two shifts as a cashier, receives no support from her ex-husband or her parents with whom she has a strained relationship, has suffered a nervous breakdown from stress, her distracted state has lead to several car accidents that landed her in the hospital, and that she is working towards her degree so she can get a decent job and restore her self-esteem. An opportunity to expel her, you think? Don't worry, we wouldn't. But what should be done?
The cruelty of some members of this committee astounds and angers me every time. Some simply assume that every student is a liar and cheater. Yesterday a student denied the charge made against him outright and, to my ears, sounded quite believable. I suggested that since the issue was one of reliability, we'd have to hear the testimony of the complaining teacher in person (not from a written report) so that we could ask some questions to determine the truth. Oh, the righteous indignation this evoked. Did I dare impeach the integrity of a colleague?! Daggers were drawn. They are prepared to destroy this student's life for fear of being made to look like fools. ("Ma, ani freier?") Of course, it's all couched in the language of principle: upholding standards, sending messages, exercising our mandate, protecting reputations, blah blah blah. No rachamim here.
My day ended with an azkarah marking the first yahrzeit of a little girl tragically killed in a car accident. It was marked with divrei torah, songs, artwork and reminiscences each of which reflected such profound sorrow, such dignified restraint and such a love of human beings and life. In the midst of midas hadin, it was all rachamim. Redemption.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell me where you live. I'd like to move there.

5:45 AM  
Anonymous danithew said...

Do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with thy God ...

It sounds to me like you have a reasonable and merciful heart. Good for you. Don't let the "daggers that get drawn" drag you down. Keep on going ...

7:00 AM  

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