Jewish Students, Professors, & College PR
In the Fall 2019, two Jewish student leaders were contacted by Marketing and Communications with the vague request that they preview the new college commercial. This left them with the uncomfortable feeling that there were being asked to watch the commercial as Jews, and contacted some of the new JS faculty members to come. One faculty member (myself) and the rabbi joined the two students two weeks later for the screening. We weren’t told why we were there or why they wanted us to look at the commercial. After showing the commercial they asked what we saw in the commercial. Several of the viewers were reminded of Nazi propaganda imagery. At that point, the marketing dept. did their big reveal — the reason they had asked us to watch it was because it had reminded someone of the Schindler’s List red dress scenes. The Davidson College marketing dept had called on Jewish undergrads to preview a commercial to test whether or not they would visually be reminded of the Holocaust. In other words, they asked students to blindly go into an experience that might be traumatic to them as part of a focus group. The whole process was based on the assumption that young American Jews necessarily have an internalized visual repertoire of Schindler’s List symbols, even though the movie was made before most Davidson College students are born. It then became very clear that they never had any intention of changing the commercial, no matter what we said (it was airing in two days). They only reason they asked the students was to cover their asses in case someone got offended by the commercial. It was tokenizing, disingenuous, essentializing, and insensitive all at once.