CUNY & Friends Support Kushner

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Dr. Benno Schmidt, Chair Board of Trustees City University of New York 535 E. 80th St.  New York, NY 10075 Dear Dr. Schmidt, We are writing to express our grave concern co ncern over the CUNY Board o off Trustees’ decision to  block the honorary degree offered to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner and its serious implications for this University and its role in our city. Unfortunately, this is not the first incident of its kind at CUNY this year. In January, Brooklyn College fired adjunct professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a Political Science student at the CUNY Graduate Center, because his syllabus for a Middle East politics class was perceived to violate some unwritten political code. After a public pub lic outcry, the school rehired Mr. PetersenOverton the following week. Such incursions into open discourse chill the climate of the entire University, and appear to be motivated by the same attempt to seve severely rely circumscribe the public conversation on America, Islam, and Israel as the even more explicitly xenophobic attacks launched in recent years against the Park 51 Community Center and the Khalil Gibran International Academy. The attempts to silence Kushner as well as Petersen-Overton, Park 51, and KGIA share a common denominator: They were actively supported by CUNY Board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, and in this most recent debacle, single-handedly organized by him. Mr. Wiesenfeld has determined, apparently on the basis of out-of-context quotations posted on the web website site of an unrelated third party, that Kushner is, as he wrote in an op-ed yesterday, “an extremist” comparable to David Duke. When Mr. Wiesenfeld allegedly calls blacks “savages” and Hasidic Jews “thieves,” condemns an anti-war teach-in at City College as “seditious,” gets into a public shouting match with a city councilman, counc ilman, or chairs a committee called “Stop the Madrassa” against a New York City public school, it is embarrassing to all of CUNY. Mr. Wiesenfeld’s biased, irresponsible behavior is cause enough for concern. conc ern. But to allow Mr. Wiesenfeld to enforce h his is extreme politics across our University is divisive, destructive and simply, as former mayor Ed Koch has put it, outrageous. The City University of New York is a public institution that offers, as it should, a range of ideas in its classrooms and in the individuals it chooses to honor. This, of course, should be true of all centers of higher learning. But the spirit of full-throated public discourse and integration with intellectual and cultural city life—of being, despite or because bec ause of our far-flung campuses, part of a neighborhood—is part of what makes CUNY the unique and invaluab invaluable le institution it is. This vibrancy is why we take pride not only in the Graduate Center and the colleges where we individually teach, but also in CUNY as a whole. Few contemporary playwrights are known for sharing that kind of enthusiasm about this or any New York civic institution, but Mr. Kushner is unabashedly forthright about celebrating the values CUNY stands for. This was an honorary degree that made a profound and satisfying kind of sense. Taking it away makes no sense at all.

 

That Mr. Kushner—without doubt one of the premier playwrights of our time and an important  part of the city CUNY serves—merits an honorary degree is beyond question. Its revocation, and Mr. Wiesenfeld’s wider use of the CUNY Board of Trustees to advance his political agenda, is a danger to all that The City University of New York stands for. We call upon you to reinstate Mr. Kushner’s degree and to remove Mr. Wiesenfeld from the Board of Trustees.

Sincerely,

Elan Abrell

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Ujju Aggarwal

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Mal Ahern

Graduate Student

Liberal Studies

The Graduate Center

Deborah Armintor

Associate Professor

English

University of North Texas

Brooke Arnold

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Computer and David M. Arnow

Professor

Information Science

Brooklyn College

Colin P. Ashley

Graduate Student

Sociology

The Graduate Center

David Bahr

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Ria Banerjee

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

 

Adam Bendorf

Graduate Student

Philosophy

Cornell University

Meredith Benjamin

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Graduate Student

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Graduate Center

Stephen Boatright

Graduate Student

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Graduate Center

Cathy Bork

Graduate Student

Sociology

The Graduate Center

Christin P. Bowman

Graduate Student

Psychology

The Graduate Center

Laura Braslow

Graduate Student

Sociology

The Graduate Center

Michael Broder

Assistant Professor

Classics

Brooklyn College

Hillel Broder

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Marissa Brostoff

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Joost Burgers

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Terri Bennett

 

  Judith Butler

Maxine Elliot Professor of Sociology and Comparative Literature

University of California at Berkeley

Mia Chen

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Patricia Clough

Professor

Sociology

Queens College and The Graduate Center

Eileen Colligan

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Lennard J. Davis

Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences

English

University of Illinois at Chicago

Brian R. Davis

Graduate Student

Psychology

The Graduate Center

Helen Davis

Professor

English

Wilkes University

Jacqueline Disalvo

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Christopher Eng

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Frank Episale

Presidential Research Fellow

Theater

The Graduate Center

 

 

Colleen Eren

Graduate Student

Sociology

Lisa Freeland

Associate Registrar

Queensborough Community College

Corey Frost

Writing Across the Curriculum Coordinator

Brooklyn College

Margaret Galvan

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

 Nicolas Gamso

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Graduate Student

Middle Eastern and Middle Eastern American Center

Bradford Garvey

The Graduate Center

Alina Gharabegian

Assistant Professor

English,

 New Jersey City University

Elizabeth Goetz

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Jack Henning

Adjunct Professor

Plant Science

Lehman College

Leon J. Hilton

Graduate Student

Performance Studies

 New York University

Joseph Hirsh

Graduate Student

Mathematics

The Graduate Center

 

  James Hoff

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Amanda Huron

Graduate Student

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Graduate Center

Miciah Hussey

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Carwil James

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Kate Jenkins

Graduate Student

Sociology

The Graduate Center

Gabrielle Kappes

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Cindi Katz

Professor

Psychology

The Graduate Center

 Nellie Killian

Graduate Student

Liberal Studies

The Graduate Center

Hunter Kincaid

Graduate Student

Psychology

The Graduate Center

LaGuardia Community College

Karlyn Koh

Professor

English

Elizabeth Koke

Publicity Manager

Feminist Press at CUNY

 

 

Martha Lincoln

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Bradley Lubin

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Linsey Ly

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Alec Magnet

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Velina Manolova

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Deborah Margolin

Associate Professor

Theater

Yale University

Steve McFarland

Graduate Student

Earth and Environmental Sciences

The Graduate Center

Zoe C. MeleoErwin

Graduate Student

Sociology

The Graduate Center

Distinguished Professor

English and Comparative Literature

The Graduate Center

Graduate Student

Earth and Environmental Sciences

 Nancy K. Miller

Keith Miyake

The Graduate Center

 

  Soniya Munshi

Graduate Student

Sociology

The Graduate Center

Marilyn Kleinberg  Neimark

Emerita Professor

Accountancy

Baruch College

Duygu Parmaksizoglu

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Kristofer J. PetersenOverton

Graduate Student

Political Science

The Graduate Center

Melissa Phruksachart

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Jonathan Rachmani

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Conor Tomas Reed

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Matthew Rowney

Pre-doctoral Fellow

English

The Graduate Center

Laura Ryan

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

 

  David Savran

R. Joshua Scannell

Talia Schaffer

Vera Mowry Roberts Chair in American Theatre

Graduate Student

Professor

The Graduate Center

Sociology

The Graduate Center

English

Queens College and The Graduate Center

Sarah Schulman

Distinguished Professor

English

CUNY College of Staten Island

Gunja Sengupta

Professor

History

Brooklyn College

Henry Shevlin

Graduate Student

Philosophy

The Graduate Center

Megan Skanse

Graduate Student

Liberal Studies

The Graduate Center

Yair Solan

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Amy Starecheski

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Seth Stewart

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

 

 

Sara Jane Stoner

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Chris Alen Sula

Adjunct Professor in Philosophy

Philosophy

Lehman College

Anais Surkin

Graduate Student

Urban Affairs

Hunter College

Patrick Sweeney

Graduate Student

Psychology

The Graduate Center

Jason Tougaw

Associate Professor

English

Queens College

Lisa Vaia

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Leila Walker

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Stuart Watson

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Alex WermerColan

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

Sociology

St. Cloud State University

Dominic Wetzel

Assistant Professor

 

  Margarite Whitten

Graduate Student

Anthropology

The Graduate Center

Jocelyn Wills

Associate Professor

History

Brooklyn College

Tim Wilson

Graduate Student

French

The Graduate Center

Michael Winetsky

Graduate Student

English

The Graduate Center

CC: CUNY Trustees Philip Alfonso Berry, Valerie Lancaster Beal, Wellington Z. Chen, Che n, Rita Dimartino, Freida D. Foster, Judah Gribetz, Joseph J. Lhota, Hugo M. Morales, Peter S. Pantaleo, Kathleen M. Pesile, Carol A. Robles-Roman, Charles Cha rles A. Shorter, Sam A. Sutton, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, Cory Provost, Sandi E. Cooper CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein Mayor Michael Bloomberg Hon. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo James Hoff, Editor, The Graduate Center Advocate  Advocate  Philip Semas, Editor, The Chronicle of Higher Education  Education 

For further inquiries, please contact Marissa Brostoff at [email protected]

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