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Monday, January 22, 2007

Carter questions questioned



About 1,700 students, faculty, and other members of the Brandeis University community will attend a university forum tomorrow afternoon to hear Jimmy Carter discuss his controversial new book about Israel, but their questions will be limited to those selected by a committee that invited the former president.

After weeks of furor over Carter's visit to promote his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," students and faculty will be allowed to ask at most 15 questions, said members of the committee, composed of five faculty and one student sympathetic to Carter's views. They added that no follow-up questions would be allowed.

The committee has selected the questions -- which will follow a 15-minute speech by Carter set to begin about 4:30 p.m. -- from more than 100 submitted to a campus website posted about a week ago, said Gordon Fellman , a professor of sociology and member of the committee.

"It would be chaos to open the questions to all 1,700 people who want to ask questions," said Kevin Montgomery , 22, a senior majoring in politics who started a campus petition to invite Carter and is the student on the committee. "We've tried to represent all points of view. I would say roughly two-thirds of the questions challenge Carter, and about three are softballs."

Some faculty and students, however, worry the screening and lack of follow-up questions will hamper a free exchange of views on the predominantly Jewish campus, where many hoped Carter would debate Alan Dershowitz , a professor at Harvard Law School who has criticized the former president's book.

"I think the format they've chosen is outrageous," said Morton Keller, an emeritus professor of history. "It's like a Soviet press conference."

You can read more about the debate over Carter's Brandeis appearance in the Globe City & Region section.

-- David Abel

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