Tony Kushner and the Corporatisation of CUNY

The taboo surrounding critical discussion of Israel in the United States never ceases to amaze me. But when the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) recently decided not to grant an honorary degree to Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner because of his views on Israel, it felt personal.

Three months ago, I found myself at the center of a similar controversy over my appointment to teach a course in Middle East Politics at Brooklyn College, a CUNY school. Lacking any evidence to support the charge, a local politician described me as “pro-suicide bomber” and pressed for my dismissal. Within 48 hours and before I had held a single session of the course, the college administration intervened to cancel my appointment. My case set off a groundswell of support from academics and activists around the world and Brooklyn College eventually reinstated me just in time for classes to begin. Continue reading Tony Kushner and the Corporatisation of CUNY

Letter to the CUNY Board of Trustees, Re: Tony Kushner

Dear members of the board:

I am writing to protest your vote to overturn John Jay College’s decision to grant an honorary degree to the award-winning playwright Tony Kushner. I’m sure you’ve been inundated with messages of support for Mr. Kushner, but I would like to add my drop to the flood and urge you to reconsider this ill-conceived decision.

I recently experienced the same kind of vicious, irrational attacks that have been leveled against Mr. Kushner as the target of controversy surrounding my firing and rehiring at Brooklyn College. At the time, your colleague and fellow trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld made disparaging comments about me and my scholarship to the press. Apparently he’s back at work enforcing ideological conformity on Israel by snubbing a world-renowned playwright. Continue reading Letter to the CUNY Board of Trustees, Re: Tony Kushner

The Ongoing Attack on Academic Freedom: Which Way Forward?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011, 6.30 PM
Light Refreshments 5:30-6
PSC-CUNY Union Hall
61 Broadway, 16th floor
(photo ID required)

Keynote speaker:

Frances Fox Piven : Professor of Political Science and Sociology, CUNY Graduate Center, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America

Additional speakers:

Anita Levy , Associate Secretary, Academic Freedom Dept., AAUP on the national context
Blanche Wiesen Cook (invited) on political implications
Clarence Taylor on the historical context
Kristofer Petersen-Overton on the vulnerability of contingent faculty
Stephen Leberstein, moderator

Refreshments at 6 PM, program at 6:30 in the union hall.

Academic Freedom & Palestine

Friday April 8th, 2011 @ 7:30 PM
The Brecht Forum
451 West Street (that’s the West Side Highway) between Bank & Bethune Streets
NYC 10014
(212) 242-4201

Join us for a conversation on the fightback against academic repression and its connection to Palestine, Islamophobia and academic freedom on US campuses. The story this past semester of Kristofer Petersen-Overton at Brooklyn College will be a focus as we connect that story to the bigger issues.

Speakers:

Kristofer Petersen-Overton is a doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center. He has a Masters of Social Science in Development Studies from Aalborg University in Denmark. He worked for five months for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza in 2007-2008 and was back in Palestine in 2009. Currently he is teaching a masters-level course in Middle East Politics at Brooklyn College.

Joel Kovel is an activist, a widely read author, and a former professor at Bard College. He was the Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senator from New York in 1998 and sought the Green Party’s nomination for U.S. President in 2000. His numerous books include The Enemy of Nature (2002; 2nd ed., 2007) and Overcoming Zionism (2007).

Ellen Schrecker is a professor of American History at Yeshiva University. She is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on McCarthyism in the academy. Professor Schrecker is the author of numerous books including No Ivory Tower (1986) and, most recently, The Lost Soul of Higher Education (2010).

More information @ brechtforum.org

Popular Uprisings: Mid-East to Mid-West

Friday, March 25, 2011, 6-8 PM
Light Refreshments 5:30-6
PSC-CUNY Union Hall
61 Broadway, 16th floor
(photo ID required)

Speakers:

Ervand Abrahamian : Professor of Iranian and Middle East History, Baruch College, CUNY
Yoav Peled : Professor of Political Science, Israeli politics, Tel Aviv University, currently visiting New School
Kristofer Petersen-Overton : Adjunct Lecturer of Political Science, Palestinian politics, Brooklyn College

Respondent:

Barbara Bowen : President, PSC-CUNY, recently returned from Wisconsin’s political struggles

Panel Discussion: Academic Freedom and the New McCarthyism

March 14, 2011 @ 6.30 PM
CUNY Graduate Center, rm 201 (basement level)
365 Fifth Avenue
B/D/F/M/N/Q/R to 34th St-Herald Square

Our university is once again under attack. Such vitriolic opponents of academic freedom as Fox News pundit Glenn Beck and NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind have recently targeted City University of New York faculty members Frances Fox Piven and Kristofer Petersen-Overton, respectively, in the worst academic witch-hunts seen in years. A defense campaign for Petersen-Overton successfully demanded that the Brooklyn College administration reinstate him after he was fired on egregious grounds, while Piven’s situation is now eliciting national concern for what these threats portend for left-wing academics at universities everywhere. Continue reading Panel Discussion: Academic Freedom and the New McCarthyism

Academic Freedom Day at Hunter College

March 2, 2011 @ 1.00 PM
FDA Lounge 8th floor, West Building
Hunter College
New York, NY

Come hear from Kristofer Petersen-Overton, Adjunct Lecturer of Political Science at Brooklyn College who was fired from his position as an adjunct professor at Brooklyn College one week before his course on Middle East politics was to begin. We will also discuss the implications for Academic Freedom at Hunter.

“Academic freedom is a bedrock principle of higher education. Without the freedom to pursue lines of inquiry wherever they may lead, faculty cannot truly contribute to the vibrant exploration of ideas that makes college a place of learning.” Professor Barbara Bowen, President, PSC/CUNY Continue reading Academic Freedom Day at Hunter College

New York College Racked Over ‘Pro-Palestinian’ Reading List

NEW YORK // The Palestinian-Israeli conflict inspires political activism on college campuses across the United States, but rarely has the issue so regularly affected academic life as at Brooklyn College, which has large numbers of Orthodox Jews and Arabs in its student body.

It has been less than a year since a book by a Brooklyn College professor, Moustafa Bayoumi, How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America, was made required reading for first-year undergraduates in the college’s writing programme. The decision sparked a national controversy after a conservative blogger, Bruce Kesler, a graduate of the college, labelled Mr Bayoumi a “radical pro-Palestinian” and the country’s conservative media seized on the issue as an example of political correctness allegedly run amok. Continue reading New York College Racked Over ‘Pro-Palestinian’ Reading List