Introducing FIRE Intern Daniel Ortner
June 22, 2009
by Luke Sheahan
Daniel Ortner is a senior at Brandeis University, where he is triple majoring in History, in Sociology, and in Health, Science, Society, and Policy and is minoring in Legal Studies. He has been involved in study abroad programs in England, China, and Israel. While at Brandeis, Daniel has been Forum Editor for The Justice, an independent student newspaper, where he has covered FIRE's Red Alert case involving Professor Donald Hindley and other FIRE issues. He is currently an officer for The Advocates, a student rights club on campus. On his dedication to free speech and why he came to FIRE, Daniel writes:
Attending a school that is on FIRE's Red Alert list has given me plenty of exposure to the dangers of stifled free speech and a campus traumatized by an administration without regard for students' rights or interests. In my three years thus far at Brandeis, the Hindley case along with several other free speech fiascos—such as the self-censorship of campus media publications and attempts to stifle or limit the ability to bring "controversial" speakers such as former president and Nobel Prize winner Jimmy Carter to campus—turned me into an outspoken and staunch free speech advocate. As the Forum Editor of The Justice, I worked to ensure that view points would not be suppressed and penned columns lampooning the lack of accountability and the absurdity inherent in certain decisions by the administration. This experience brought me into contact with FIRE, which spoke on campus regarding the Hindley case and wrote opinion pieces that I published. I was impressed with FIRE's strong presence and efficient advocacy. Over time, I have become even more impressed due to its unflinching and unceasing argumentation even as the Brandeis administration has stood continually unwilling to allow for a reasonable resolution.
Yet, the reasons for my strong support for the causes of FIRE are not just institutional but also deeply personal. As a left-wing, conscientiously objecting Israeli American, I have always found my right to speak challenged even by my immediate family members. I am often told that because I have not served in the army, for instance, I do not have a right to speak about matters of Israeli policy and foreign affairs. I have always recoiled at such a suggestion and sought to defend my individual right to speak out on matters relevant to my life and the world around me. One of things I value most about the United States of America is that because of our stringent protection for free speech and our "melting pot" ideology, I have never had my rights of citizenship or speech called into question. It is because of this freedom that I have been able to freely consider and evaluate my political, social, and religious views so deeply and thoroughly. It is because of this blessing of liberty that I have been able to change my points of view so dramatically on fundamental matters of conscience, moving from Judaism to Atheism to being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints without fear of persecution or opposition. It is solely because of this right that I have been able to grow into the person I now am.
My schooling, at both public high school and private university levels, has been instrumental in expanding my horizons and bringing me further in my pursuit of truth. Even in the relatively unfree high school environment, my mind was enlightened by historical, cultural, and social theories that changed my fundamental life perspective. This is doubly true on the university level, where incredibly intellectual opportunities await if only we are willing to fight to defend them. FIRE's mission to protect fundamental rights in the institutions that are meant to be the bastions of our liberty is an especially just and worthwhile one.