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Noam Chomsky Gives Lecture at UMass Boston

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Intellectual Noam Chomsky answering student questions during his visit to UMass Boston on April 14. 

On April 14, Noam Chomsky gave a lecture titled “The Common Good: Assaults and Resistance” to approximately 600 attendees at the Campus Center Ballroom in the University of Massachusetts Boston, answering audience questions after. Numerous departments sponsored the event, and its integrated essay contest will publish top essays in Writ Large, the non-fiction student magazine on campus.
Chomsky rose to scientific prominence in the 1950s as a linguist, and holds the title of professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, his employer of 60 years. The internationally recognized political activist and intellectual gave a campus lecture centered on social responsibility and took a critical stance towards “neoliberalism.” After the lecture, Chomsky answered close to 20 audience questions related to politics, justice, and more.
“The assault mentioned in the title [of the lecture] is an ongoing one. It’s a form of class war where the wealthy and powerful are seeking to attain their own ends at the cost of the common good. The modern name for it is neoliberalism,” said the 86-year-old.
Chomsky makes the case that certain societal woes can be traced to neoliberalism, which has been adopted by Western nations like the U.S.
The guest speaker said neoliberalism has contributed to “externalities” like global warming, sweatshops, wealth inequality, and a political economy where the wealthy can influence politics in ways not necessarily in the best interest of the poor. Chomsky advocated for “resistances to these assaults,” referencing historical labor movements.
Over an hour was spent fielding audience questions that touched on topics like automation in the workforce and the Greek left-wing political party, SYRIZA. Two students asked similar questions about the future of neoliberalism.
“You are the only ones who can answer that. Literally,” he said.
UMass Boston undergraduate Rohan Nijhawan, a triple Math, Computer Science, and Philosophy major with an English minor, said, “Professor Chomsky’s talk was very moving and inspiring. I enjoyed his knowledge and his willingness to do something about injustice.”
“That so many of our UMass Boston students—despite their busy and demanding lives—would stay for the full three hours of engagement with Chomsky testifies to the widespread hunger for critical thinking that exists,” said the main organizer of the event, English Professor Joseph Ramsey.
It is Ramsey’s hope that the community will continue to discuss the event’s subject matter, and he encourages students to participate in the integrated essay contest. Its prompt asks students to define the “common good,” and identify its assaults and resistances. Top essays are to be featured in Writ Large, the university’s non-fiction publication born of the Honors College. The deadline is May 8. 
“The essay contest ensures that we don’t forget the words of Dr. Chomsky once we walk out of the ballroom but that we carry them with us and weave them into the fabric of what we do every day and use them to challenge us to live up to our articulated ideals,” said Honors College Dean Rajini Srikanth.
The event was jointly sponsored by the English, applied linguistics, political science, and American studies departments, as well as the Honors College, MFA Creative Writing Program, Applied Linguistics Student Association, and William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences.  
Shortly after 5 p.m., English department Chair Cheryl Nixon kick-started the event from the podium, saying, “We are an institution dedicated to connecting knowledge to action. It is so exciting to welcome Professor Chomsky, a person who represents that connection between intellectualism and action, to our public university.”
Video of the lecture, filmed by Chomsky’s associate, Charngchi Way, can be found at: http://bit.ly/1bqebJ3
More information about the essay contest can be found at: http://bit.ly/1Q8RJ6Z