When Brandeis University classrooms reopened on January 13, senior Daniel Mael was free to move around campus without restriction. That is because on January 9 university officials rescinded a No Contact Order on the student journalist, Dean’s List student, pro-Israel activist and athlete. The order forbade Mael from being in the same physical location as another student who had petitioned the university administration to “hold Mael accountable” for comments Mael had posted on the website Truth Revolt.org.
It all started after the death of the two New York City police officers who were ambushed and murdered in seeming revenge for the unrelated killings of two black men by policemen. When Brandeis junior Khadijah Lynch, an African and Afro-American Studies major who served as an adviser to other undergraduate students, tweeted on December 20, “I have no sympathy for the NYPD officers who were murdered today,” and, I hate this racist f******g country,” Mael wrote an article at TruthRevolt.org, a conservative website he regularly contributes to, republishing these and other Lynch tweets.
Previous Lynch tweets referenced the rioting in Ferguson, Missouri in August, stating, “the fact that black people have not burned this country down is beyond me,” “amerikka needs an intifada,” and “I am in riot mode.”
The text of Mael’s article is located at truthrevolt.org/news/studentleader- no-sympathy-executed-nypd-officers.
“She was a student leader,” Mael said from Jerusalem, where he was vacationing over winter break, explaining why he wrote the article. “I think students on campus deserve to know if there are members of the community who make calls for violence and intifadas in America.
“I write for TruthRevolt because I believe there are important messages to get out. As a journalist, I believe I spread those messages successfully,” he said.
His article, shared widely on social media, had over 500,000 hits and scores of comments maligning Lynch. Lynch’s supporters rallied to her defense. Lynch threatened to sue Mael for slander.
On December 22, Michael Piccione, a Brandeis senior and member of the 2014-15 student conduct board, sent a mass email to Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence, administrators, faculty and students.
The subject line read, “VERY IMPORTANT: Holding Daniel Mael accountable, and other threats to student safety!”
“Hello to all,” it began. “… The safety of one member of the Brandeis community, Khadijah Lynch, has been compromised by another Brandeis student, Daniel Mael.” The email stated that Mael’s TruthRevolt article “has exposed Khadijah to the largely white supremacist following of the website on which he posts, which has led to harassment, death threats, rape threats and excessive hate speech directed to her personal Twitter.”
Piccione continued, “The most pressing concern ought to be the safety of our students” and ended by calling for Mael to be held accountable for his actions. He claimed that Mael had potentially violated multiple parts of Brandeis’ Rights and Responsibilities, including one prohibiting stalking.
Mael had never met Piccione.
Not one Brandeis faculty member or student leader publicly defended Mael. “I was very saddened, but I think it speaks volumes for the current state of affairs at a modern university where there are certain dissenting views that are oftentimes discouraged. People feel intimidated about speaking freely,” Mael said.
Mael did not think he violated Brandeis’ Code of Conduct when he republished Lynch’s tweets. Neither did Alan Dershowitz, the American lawyer, jurist, author, political commentator and outspoken pro-Israel advocate. He published an article on December 27 for newsmax.com titled, “Brandeis Student Shows No Sympathy for Ambushed Cops and Her Critic Is Attacked.”
“Mael had the right — and was right — to expose Lynch’s public words for assessment and criticism,” Dershowitz wrote. “Imagine how different the reaction of these same radical students would be if a white supporter of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) had written comparably incendiary tweets.”
During winter break, Brandeis responded to Piccione’s complaint by slapping a No Contact Order on Mael, forbidding him from being in the same physical location on campus as Piccione. Mael received a phone call and follow-up email from Jamele Adams, Dean of Students, on December 23.
“You are to have no contact with Michael Piccione in any way, shape or form. Please be aware that the same applies to Michael…These measures will remain in place until further notice,” the email stated.
The punishment was imposed without any due process, according to Mael. “My movement on campus was restricted because I wrote an article,” he said.
While the No Contact Order was in effect, President Lawrence wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he stated, “Our university has an unyielding commitment to free speech and expression of ideas. No student would ever be sanctioned for holding a specific point of view. In the spirit of our namesake, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, we will staunchly defend every student’s right to advocate for causes they hold dear.”
Kenneth L. Marcus is president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under the Law, an organization he founded in 2011 to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism in American higher education.
“This is outrageous in so many ways,” he said when he learned about the No Contact Order. “When civil rights principles are abused in this way, the victims are not only the Daniel Maels of the world, but also those people who truly are harassed and whose claims will be taken less seriously as a result of the distortion of legal principles.
“But I do think that Daniel will emerge from this stronger than ever, and that it will increase his national exposure in ways that I hope will be useful to him down the road,” Marcus added.
Mael has been interviewed by over 25 publications, including The Times of Israel and on television by Fox News’ Fox & Friends about the Lynch episode and its aftermath.
He was advised by local and campus police to take precautions and not walk alone. “I know the facts,” he said. “We’re in a perilous time. There is racial tension in this country. There are extremists who call for violence and support cop-killing.”
In a meeting with Brandeis public safety officials to discuss threats made against him, he was advised to consider changing his dorm room and that it was a reasonable expectation that his car would be vandalized. It was also recommended he purchase mace.
“My last semester will be sharply changed,” the May 2015 graduate said. “I’m going to take everything on that basis to make sure I’m safe and able to function as a student.”
On January 9, four days before spring semester classes would start, Mael received another email from Dean of Students Adams. This one rescinded the order. The time of the email was a few hours after The Washington Free Beacon broke the story about the restrictive order on freebeacon.com.
“Thank you for respecting the No Contact Order between you and Michael. As there have been no reported incidents from either side of attempting to contact one another, I do not see justification for continuing the (NCO) into the spring semester,” Adams wrote.
Mael transferred to Brandeis as a junior in 2013 from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, after a 2012 Birthright-Israel trip made him realize he wanted access to more Orthodox infrastructure. He said that “never in my wildest dreams” did he imagine these kinds of events happening to him.
Still, he has no regrets, either about transferring or about writing the article for TruthRevolt. org.
“I’d like to believe from the overflowing level of attention that I’ve been successful in being able to connect or at least give a voice to certain people who would otherwise remain voiceless,” he said, pausing.
“I’m just very thankful for the encouragement and support from the community, especially my mother who has been tested in a trying situation and has done her best to be there for me. I am appreciative and thankful,” he said.