The president of Brandeis University is personally engaged in talks with representatives of Al-Quds University and is seeking “options for moving forward” between the two schools, a Brandeis spokeswoman said late on Wednesday.
The resumption of high-level discussions between the universities comes barely two months after Brandeis president Fred Lawrence publicly suspended the relationship with the school following an Islamic Jihad rally at its campus in Abu Dis.
At the time, Lawrence said Al-Quds president Sari Nusseibeh did not adequately condemn the rally, which featured men dressed in military garb trampling on the Israeli flag and holding their hands in Nazi-style salutes.
Nusseibeh did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday about discussions with Brandeis.
In December, he wrote in an email: “I do not wish to make any public statements regarding the unfortunate incident involving Brandeis... and [I] hope that cooperation between the two universities will soon resume.”
In an email on Wednesday, Brandeis senior vice president for communications Ellen de Graffenreid said the “discussions are ongoing on both campuses and continue to be productive.”
She added that “the decision was made to suspend – not terminate – the relationship to provide time for both universities to have direct and substantive discussions about these sensitive issues.”
However, when Brandeis announced the suspension of ties on November 18, it did not cite additional discussion time as a reason. Instead, the university only stated that it would “reevaluate the relationship as future events may warrant.”
It is not clear if specific “events” on either side triggered the resumption of talks.
But on December 9, three Brandeis professors wrote a stinging report criticizing Lawrence’s response to the rally. They called on Brandeis to “resume and redouble” its ties with Al-Quds.
Jason Lane, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany who studies global higher education, said this dispute underscores the challenges of partnerships between schools across the world.
“We’re seeing more and more partnerships overseas and we’re seeing a heightened awareness of cultural differences,” Lane said.
“I think that what Brandeis is doing moving forward seems to be a good step, in terms of really trying to model conflict resolution, and I think that’s important for our students to see also,” he added.