Monthly Archives: December 2013

Have a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2013

Have a Happy New Year! See you in 2014.

Senior Campus Coordinator at CAMERA Writes to Hampshire College President, Calling on Him to Condemn the ASA Boycott

December 30, 2013

In light of the ASA boycott of Israel, Senior Campus Coordinator at CAMERA Samantha Mandeles wrote a letter asking the president of her alma mater, Hampshire College, to condemn the ASA resolution.

 
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The text of her letter is below:
 
Dear President Lash,
I hope this letter finds you well.

My name is Samantha Rose Mandeles, F’06. As a proud Hampshire alumna, I am appalled that the American Studies Association recently voted to boycott Israel’s (and only Israel’s) academic institutions. I am equally appalled that a Hampshire professor, Margaret Cerullo, has signed her name to this assault on academic freedom.

I remember the relief and pride I felt as a Hampshire student when President Hexter and Sigmund Roos clearly stated that Hampshire did not and would not divest from Israel.

I urge you to follow this example, and the example of the many universities who have rejected the ASA boycott. I urge you to ensure that Hampshire continues to live up to the standards that make it a safe, wonderful place to learn for students of all nationalities and religions, and reject this boycott as a bigoted political tool designed to do nothing but marginalize the world’s only Jewish State.

I would expect no less from my alma mater.

Kindest regards,
Samantha R. Mandeles

The Response:

Dear Samantha,Thank you for writing. Hampshire College is not a member of the ASA, played no role in its deliberations on the boycott, and has not taken a position on it.  The College is committed to the protection of academic freedom and the rights of individuals to articulate differing views in open and respectful debate.

Warm regards and happy new year,
Joanna

Joanna L. Olin
Chief of Staff
Office of the President
 
To read more about Samantha’s experiences at Hampshire College, read her September 2013 piece in the Algemeiner, here.

Review of Fall Semester 2013: Gil Cohen-Magen at Ohio State University

December 27, 2013

CAMERA Fellows and CCAP group leaders wrap up the semester with a number of successful events. Read on to learn about Gil Cohen-Magen’s event at Ohio State University.

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Students Listen Closely to Gil Cohen-Magen

CAMERA Fellow at Ohio State University Madelyn Grant reports back on Gil Cohen-Magen’s event this fall called “A Photographer Under Fire.” The event took place on November 7. About 36 students came to the event, and the mix of people in attendance was impressive, said Madelyn. Adults over age 50 and students from a diverse number of academic departments such as Middle East Studies, photography, sociology, political science and others attended the event. Both men and women were well represented, as well as both Jewish and non-Jewish individuals.

Gil Cohen-Magen started off with a short documentary about photography. Cohen-Magen himself was in a scene that was very moving, which served as a great way to start the event. Afterwards, Cohen-Magen told students about himself and his work. He showed students a number of of his pieces. The photographs spanned the spectrum from disturbing photographs depicting violence in the midst of war to close-ups of Israeli politicians. Cohen-Magen shared the unique story of each photograph, and what he had to endure to actually snap the photo. He discussed what it is that motivates him to go to great lengths to capture his photos, and how he works to record the personal stories of the people he photographs. 

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An Example of Gil Cohen-Magen’s Work

Madelyn shares that she received positive, moving feedback from many of the participants of the event. Folks told Madelyn that they had never been to an event like this one before, and that Cohen-Magen’s photos and the stories behind them were truly inspiring. Sometimes it was hard to digest the contents of the photos depicting conflict. However, people certainly “were able to grasp the importance of the work that Gil does and how hard it is,” said Madelyn.

Students left the event feeling that both their minds and hearts were touched by Cohen-Magen’s powerful photography. One student told Madelyn, “This event was amazing! Thank you so much for putting this together. It was a privilege to be able to meet Gil!” Madelyn is looking forward to more inspiring event next semester, as she strives to show her peers the human face of Israel and to encourage others to learn about Israel too.

Visit Gil Cohen-Magen’s Website

 

Review of Fall Semester 2013: Sgt. Benjamin Anthony at George Mason

December 26, 2013

CAMERA Fellows and CCAP group leaders wrap up the semester with a number of successful events. Take a look below to learn about Sgt. Benajamin Anthony’s lecture at George Mason University from this fall. 

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Sgt. Benjamin Anthony

Sgt Benjamin Anthony spoke at George Mason University at a lecture entitled, “My Israeli-Arab Conflict.” The event took place on November 5th. The CAMERA Fellow at George Mason University, Ian Campbell, reported back saying that the event drew an audience of 70 people. Unfortunately, though, around 30 of the audience members were students from the group Students Against Israeli Apartheid, and they staged a walk-out of the event within five minutes of Sgt. Anthony’s lecture. However, whatever disturbance they may have caused was quickly forgotten as soon as Sgt. Benjamin Anthony began to tell his story. The audience members that stayed on to actually listen to the lecture included some Jewish students, students involved in Greek life, students enrolled in ROTC, and others.

Sgt. Anthony discussed his personal experience in the IDF, and how he grappled with a number of moral issues throughout his experience. He also discussed the importance of defending Israel. Sgt. Anthony, with his exceptional oratory skills, roused an emotional reaction from his audience. Campbell explained that his goal was to “increase interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and decrease the apathy that existed among students that had connections/alliances to Israel (Jews, ROTC cadets, supporters of democracy).” He said that many people approached him after the talk to express that the lecture was insightful and thought-provoking.

Campbell reported that audience members asked a variety of questions, and that many of them focused on how to effectively respond to those that paint Israel as an apartheid state. Sgt. Anthony replied by saying that everyone in the audience should educate themselves on current events, and must take time to study the history of the conflict.

The event was an overall success, and offered the Israel Student Association at George Mason to reach out to many students. A great number of students joined the ISA e-list and will be notified directly of future events. Ian Campbell is looking forward to great events come next semester with large turnouts.

Review of the Fall Semester 2013: Israel Awareness Week at the University of Houston

December 24, 2013

CAMERA Fellows and CCAP group leaders wrap up Fall Semester 2013 with a number of successful events. Take a look below to learn about Israel Awareness Week held at the University of Houston this Fall. 

Cesar De Gracia Morales, a CAMERA Fellow at the University of Houston, reported back on a multi-day event called “Israel Awareness Week” held October 21st­ through the 25th, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The biggest event took place on Friday, where some 70 students attended a lecture given by Israel’s highest ranking Muslim diplomat, Ishmael Khaldi.

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Ishmael Khaldi

Israel Awareness Week offered the opportunity for students to learn about Israel from a number of perspectives. Monday’s event offered students a fun way to learn about Israel’s vibrant music, dance and party scene through a “beer” pong tournament (grape juice rather than beer was served). On Wednesday, Cesar and his peer screened the Israeli comedy “A Matter of Size.”

Cesar was particularly pleased how the final event featuring Ishmael went. It was fantastic that Palestinian students, Muslim students, Jews, and unaffiliated students considered the event a success. “They were delighted and were looking forward to more events. I believe it was mainly because the Muslims and Arab students are used to hearing just one side of the story, this was the first opportunity they got to make a comparison,” commented Cesar.

The audience asked numerous questions, one of which related to the matter of why Israel was building settlements, and whether or not this indicates that Israel does’t want peace. Ishmael responded saying that settlements are an issue more to Israel than to the Palestinians, that there is no country that wants peace more than Israel, and that no one is more pro-Palestinian than Israel.

Cesar is glad that the group is now registered as a student organization with official recognition on campus. He looks forward to organizing many more events in the coming months, including a Syrian Refugees Awareness, so as to show that being pro-Israel means being a humanitarian. He hopes, as a leader of the campus pro-Israel organization, Speak Up!, to be able to partner with other student organizations on campus, including the Muslim Students Association.

Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg Pull Out of ASA Program in Response to Boycott

December 23, 2013

American Studies Association resolution to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions an affront to Academic Integrity. By Ariella Charny

This past Monday, a third of the American Studies Association’s (ASA) members, of which there are some 5,000 members, voted in favor of boycotting Israel’s research and academic institutions. The resolution states the ASA’s refusal as an institution to collaborate with Israeli universities or their official representatives. The ASA stated that it would not prohibit cooperation with individual Israeli academics. This boycott of Israel comes at the heels of a similar boycott approved by the Asian American Studies Association (AASA) last spring. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), with a nod to the ASA and and the AASA, has also announced its boycott of Israel this week.

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So far, Brandeis and Penn State Harrisburg have both pulled out of the ASA program. The resolution of the ASA, the largest academic association to boycott Israel, is a major wake-up call to all those who care about freedom, democracy, innovation and academic integrity. Israel de-legitimization is on the rise, and the ASA, in boycotting Israel and singling it out for condemnation, reveals its collective ignorance of history and facts on the ground, and reveals some distinct anti-Semitic undertones. Why have there been no votes regarding boycotts on notorious human rights offenders such as China, Russia, Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia?

Moreover, boycotting Israel means boycotting vital Israeli innovation in medicine, agriculture and digital technology, inventions that improve the lives of billions around the world. Not to mention the fact that Israeli academic institutions are home to thousands of Arab students (Arabs comprise 12 percent of the undergraduates at Israeli Universities.)

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A BDS Protester

The ASA resolution is limited in terms of having a substantial effect on Israel’s academic institutions, as the ASA is quite small and has very limited ties to Israeli scholars. However, it is the symbolic weight of the resolution that is serving a critical role in bolstering the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, both of which deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The ASA boycott has been met with great disappointment from students. Sarah Trager, a recent graduate from Wellesley College with a double-major in American Studies and Jewish Studies, commented, “I felt very disheartened when I first heard about the boycott because I really enjoyed my American Studies coursework, and now I feel that my association with the ASA is somehow conflicting with my connection to and support for Israel. I also feel that ASA’s leadership has no business in using the association to promote their political views–especially about a region that does not fall under the American Studies scholarship.”

Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas

What’s more is that the ASA, in its more-Catholic-than-the-Pope move, is completely missing the point that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas articulated recently to South African reporters at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. He stated that “no, we do not support the boycott of Israel, but we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories…but we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself.” Abbas added that “we have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”

Well, suffice it to say that the ASA seems to think it knows what is better for the Palestinians then Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel, despite the despicable efforts of the ASA, will continue its brilliant, innovative work at its world class academic institutions, and continue to bring the world the solutions that will save and improve the lives of billions. 

Learn more here:

Commentary Magazine: The Iran Foray of the ASA

New Republic: The ASA’s Boycott of Israel Is Not as Troubling As It Seems

Inside Higher Ed: Against Academic Boycotts

The Tripod: CAMERA Links in 3 Languages Dec. 9-19

December 20, 2013

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Ha’aretz and the Conception of the Jewish State
What is a Jewish State? As seen through three generations of Ha’aretz op-eds. (Presspectiva)

Diskin, Netanyahu and the Media
Who was responding to whom? (Presspectiva)

BBC explains why it did not report on toddler injured by stone-throwers
The BBC reassures a complainant that it views an incident it failed to report as ‘serious’ and ‘important’. (BBC Watch)

BBC claims Ben Gurion “opposed” the Partition Plan
The historical inaccuracies continue in BBC News website backgrounders. (BBC Watch)

Mandela and Israel
Correcting some misconceptions about Mandela’s attitude to Zionism and Israel. (Presspectiva)

Gaza Rocket Attacks No Laughing Matter
Students protested a Noam Bedein event by handing out a flier which compared rockets to harmless yelling from “an emotionally disturbed person banging on the door screaming.” This great piece, published in the campus paper, explains the situation. (in Focus)

President of Campus Palestinian Group Wants to Stab Israeli Soldiers
San Francisco State University has suffered from a rash of anti-Israel extremism, including the glorification of the murder of Israelis. (in Focus)

Israel’s Minister of Intelligence Speaks at Boston University
Mr. Steinitz spoke about the Israeli perspective on the interim deal that has just been struck with Iran.. (in Focus)

Abbas: Abu Jihad was a “model of a true fighter”
While the president of the Palestinian Authority consecrated Abu Jihad, responsible for the deaths of at least 125 Israelis, including women and children, the Spanish speaking media remained silent. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Shalom Aper Event at UCLA Celebrates Israeli and Armenian Cultures
Bruins for Israel of UCLA teamed up with the Armenia Student Association to organize a successful event that celebrated Armenian and Israeli cultures as well as their unique intersection. Natalie Bakhshi reports back to CAMERA with the details. (in Focus)

7 Steps Away From “Freedom and Equality”
Students at the University of Michigan from various dorms across campus woke up to a mock eviction notice from the University of Michigan Housing Department. CAMERA Israel trip participant Molly Rosen responds. (in Focus)

Michael Leitner Presents: “Playing for Peace” at Concordia University
Concordia students learn about the innovative program that brings Jewish and Arab youth together to play soccer. (in Focus)

The Fake Mandela Letter That Celebrated a Bar Mitzvah
An op-ed by the head of Amnesty International Israel quotes a fake Nelson Mandela Letter (Presspectiva)

Another Boycott That Never Happened
Did Veolia really cancel a bus line on Route 443? (Presspectiva)

Less Hamas More Hummus Event at Arizona State University: Dr. Jonathan Schanzer and Screening of the Arab World in Its own Words
Where did Hamas get its power? A Less Hamas More Hummus Event at Arizona State. (in Focus)

A day in the life of former Palestinian prisoner Muhamad Hilal
Testimonies from former Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel describe much better living conditions than those described by the Spanish speaking media. (ReVista de Medio Oriente)

Noam Bedein at UC Berkley and UC Irvine.
With the help of CAMERA and our great students on the ground, students at UC Berkley and at UC Irvine learn about the rocket attacks against Israel. (in Focus)

Swarthmore Hillel Defies Hillel International Guidelines for Israel Campus Speakers

Swarthmore Hillel votes to defy Hillel’s Policy pertaining to Israel programming; Hillel President rejects the Swarthmore resolution and insists that any group carrying the Hillel name abide by Hillel’s Standards for Partnership.

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Matters heated up recently within Hillel when, on December 8th, Swathmore Hillel Student Board announced it had voted unanimously to defy Hillel International’s policy on Israel activities. With that, Swarthmore has become the first college to join the Open Hillel movement, whose aim is to pressure Hillel International into changing its “standards for partnership” and allow Hillel chapters to sponsor speakers or groups that do the following:

Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.”

Swarthmore Hillel Student Board Communications Coordinator Joshua Wolfsun contacted Hillel International President Eric D. Fingerhut, informing him of the board’s resolution. In response, Fingerhut drafted a response, stating that Swarthmore’s resolution to partner or host with any group or speaker at the discretion of its board, regardless of Hillel Israel guidelines, is unacceptable.

In the response, President Fingerhut restated the crux of the Hillel Israel guidelines, as stated above, adding also that the guidelines state that “Hillel is ‘steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders as a member of the family of nations.’ ”

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According to the Hillel website, Hillel operates in 55 countries; there are 550 colleges/universities in the United States with an active Hillel, and 55 Hillels serve students outside the US. Hillel is a vast organization and is composed of members from a variety of backgrounds. Yet there are certain principles that Hillel has carefully laid out in order to unify Hillel chapters worldwide and to protect Hillel’s core mission of nurturing the Jewish identity of young people. That is why, as President Fingerhut wrote, “Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines. No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.”

Assaults on Israel’s right to exist, BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns against Israel, and Israel Apartheid Week on College campuses are gaining prevalence. That said, it is of paramount importance that Fingerhut unequivocally insist that all Hillel chapters abide by Hillel’s Standards for Partnership. While debate on Israel and inclusiveness should be encouraged, there is a line: Those who call for the dismantlement of the Jewish State, whether directly or implicitly, should have no stage in a Hillel-sponsored forum. Unfortunately, Swathmore’s Joshua Wolfson fails to understand this when he commented that “It’s not that we all support BDS or even that any of us support BDS, but we want to make room for everybody who does.”

Read More Here:

Swathmore Hillel Sparks Battle Over Campus Groups Israel Guidelines

Noam Bedein at UC Berkley and UC Irvine

December 19, 2013

Noam Bedein, director of Sderot Media Center, was welcomed to the UC Berkely and UC Irvine campuses. On each of the campuses, Noam discussed his work of sharing Sderot’s story with the rest of the world. Alana Corre, CAMERA fellow at UC Berkley, and Daniel Narvy, CAMERA fellow at UC Irvine, share what you need to know about Noam Bedein’s message.

The event title at the UC Berkley Campus was “Noam Bedein from Sderot Media Center”, and the event took place on November 6th. The event title at the UC Irvine campus was “Southern Israel Experience”, and took place on November 7th.

Alana of UC Berkley says that her target audience members were Berkeley students who support Israel or students who do not know enough information to take a stance. The majority of attendees were freshmen who had never been involved with Tikvah: Students for Israel, which means that there may be great opportunities ahead to get more students involved!

As Alana says, “the focus of the event was on the rockets which hit cities like Sderot and what effect they have on the people of Israel and their ability to live their lives.” The fact is, the at-times daily barrage of rockets from Gaza on Southern Israel, including the city of Sderot, hardly attracts media attention, and so it is the mission of Noam and CAMERA fellows to expose the truth and to give it as much critical attention as possible. No one should live under the threat of rocket attacks from a terrorist organization. The psychological and physical trauma endured by the people of Sderot, Ashdod and other Southern Israel cities must not be ignored.

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Alana Corre and Noam Bedein

Alana says that she was pleased with the trunout for the event. “I hoped that people who have never heard of Sderot could be educated and begin to really understand what it means to grow up with terror and fear,” says Alana.

Alana also says that Noam was an excellent speaker and presenter, and that he certainly connected with the audience. He was well versed on all the facts, and explained the situation clearly and passionately. Noam not only spoke but he also showed short video clips, some of which offered actual footage of rockets falling into civilian areas. Alana notes that she thinks that “people felt kind of shocked when seeing actual videos of rockets being fired into playgrounds, but it is important that they have now been exposed to it.” 

Members of the audience asked a few questions. One such question was, “If Sderot has all these rocket attacks, why are you advertising that we should come and visit?” Noam’s reply was that it is critical to know what is happening on the ground in Sderot–to see it with your own eyes. He wants students to meet the strong people of Sderot who live in a place where one has 15 seconds to run to a shelter. A note to mention is that many areas in Sderot are fortified against rockets, and that if one were to visit Sderot, maximum precautions would be taken to ensure their safety. Many CAMERA fellows have already visited Sderot, and have had very positive experiences there.

The day after Noam’s event at UC Berkley, Noam came to speak at UC Irvine. CAMERA fellow Daniel Narvy says the purpose of the event was “to raise awareness on what life is like in Sderot under constant rocket fire.” Daniel went on to say poignantly that “Our campus talks about the disproportional response of Israel, so the purpose was to show that Israelis live in constant fear of rocket attack; this story does not make the news.”

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Noam Bedein Shows a drawing by a child from Sderot

Daniel reports that the event itself went smoothly, and that several organizations (Act for America, Leaders After God’s Heart) expressed interest in advertising for AFI’s upcoming events. AFI–Anteaters for Israel–is the pro-Israel group on the UC Irvine campus. This was the first strictly political AFI event since 2011. He also says that AFI recruited a new members who is looking forward to getting active.

Many audience members expressed concern for the people of Sderot, and asked Noam questions about the demographics of Sderot, among other questions. Daniel says that Noam was “incredibly well informed on topic, and gave very informative answers; the audience was very happy with speaker.” The fact is, as Daniel says, “the story of Sderot has a very strong personal element, so people who attended felt personally connected and inspired.” One of the students who attended the event felt very intimately connected to what Noam was discussing since she has family in Ashdod. AFI is hoping to see her join the executive board so that she may be more involved.

Overall, Alana of UC Berkely and Daniel of UC Irvine received positive feedback for the event. They both successfully raised awareness on the issue of Sderot, and will continue their critical work of educating their fellow students on the facts on the ground in Israel, and to show the human face of Israel to fellow students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less Hamas More Hummus Event at Arizona State University: Dr. Jonathan Schanzer and Screening of the Arab World in Its own Words

December 18, 2013

CAMERA fellow at Arizona State University Samantha Weinberg shares about a recent More Hamas Less Humus event held on campus, featuring Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, and offering students a partial screening of the film, “The Arab World in Its own Words”

The More Hamas, Less Humus event took place on November 12th. The majority of the audience was composed of members of Sun Devils for Israel as well as students in the Jewish Studies department and the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies. The event consisted of two segments: The first, a partial screening of the film The Arab World in Its Own Words, and the latter, a discussion with Middle East expert Dr. Jonathan Shanzer.

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Dr. Jonathan Schanzer

Prior to Dr. Schanzer’s lecture, students watched the Jihad section of the film, “The Arab World in its own Words.” After the screening, Dr. Schanzer discussed the history of Hamas. Dr. Shanzer is an expert on Middle East history. He holds his Ph.D from Kings College London, and joined the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) in 2010, where he conducts extensive research on the Middle East that has lasting impact on politics in Washington and abroad

As Samantha reports, Dr. Schanzer “explained how they [Hamas] started, how they got into power, and answered any questions the audience had. The focus of the event was to educate the attendees about Hamas and the Middle East.”  Indeed, it was important to give students a better understanding of politics in Israel in the region, and the role Hamas plays as an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Samantha added that she hopes that “people walked away feeling like they were better educated on the subject of terrorism in the Middle East; I know I did personally.” Samantha expresses that students reacted to the event with great interest, and it certainly seems that they walked away from the event having learned a lot on Israeli and Middle East politics.

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Students listening to Dr. Schanzer

 

The fact that the audience at the event was not large meant that students were able to ask all the questions they wanted, and to have them answered by Dr. Schanzer. Many interesting questions were asked, and they only thing that got in the way was the fact that time ran out by the end of the night! Dr. Schanzer facilitated a discussion that truly engaged the audience.

Samantha says that she “received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees. Our program ran longer than expected because there were so many good questions being asked. I couldn’t end it and Dr. Schanzer was more than happy to continue answering them. Many people came up to Jonathan afterwards and thanked him for the wonderful presentation.”

While Samantha is pleased with the overall turn-out of the event, she wishes that more people had been in attendance. In the future, she would like to ensure that as many students as possible attended her events. Samantha says that “although the size and discussion nature of the event was what made it work so well, I wish that more people would have had the opportunity to learn from such an expert in counter-terrorism. Other than that it was a great event and one that everyone enjoyed.”