Life After Re-Appointment: Adjunct Lecturer Petersen-Overton Back at Brooklyn College

The start of a new semester is frequently charged with excitement and a sense of fresh beginnings. But for Kristofer Petersen-Overton, an adjunct lecturer of political science at Brooklyn College, the beginning of this Spring semester brought the shock of discovering that he was unemployed. Making matters even more con­fusing, he was notified of his sudden termination less than two days after he had signed all of the paper work and formally accepted the college’s offer to teach a Master’s class at the college in Middle East politics.

When later pressed by the New York Times for an explanation of why Petersen-Overton had been fired, col­lege spokesman Jeremy Thompson pointed to Petersen-Overton’s qualifications — or lack thereof — to defend Brooklyn’s decision to let him go just days before the start of spring classes. “Mr. Petersen-Overton was not sufficiently credentialed to teach at this level,” Thompson noted. “The course is an advanced [master’s] course and he is only three semesters into his doctoral studies.” Continue reading Life After Re-Appointment: Adjunct Lecturer Petersen-Overton Back at Brooklyn College

In Switch, Brooklyn College Will Hire Adjunct on Mideast

Brooklyn College on Monday reversed an earlier decision not to hire an adjunct professor to teach a seminar on Middle East politics, a decision that the professor and others called politically motivated.

In a statement issued Monday evening, Karen L. Gould, the college’s president, said she had endorsed a recommendation from the political science department that the adjunct, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, teach the class this spring.

On his Web site, Mr. Petersen-Overton, who is a student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, called the decision “a victory for academic freedom and an outcome I think we can all be proud of.” Continue reading In Switch, Brooklyn College Will Hire Adjunct on Mideast

Academic Freedom Under Fire at Brooklyn College

I had some misgivings about teaching at Brooklyn College. Having worked for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip, and having written works critical of modern Zionism in the past, I knew that some students might take issue with my political views. Anticipating this, I devoted one of the earliest meetings in my course to the place of objectivity and humanism in scholarship—issues we all must confront and which I hoped might instigate a serious classroom discussion. Indeed, I never imagined that my affiliation with a group that combined the words “Palestinian” and “human” in its title would become suspect. Nor did I imagine that an analysis of martyrdom and its place in Palestinian identity would be crudely associated with admiration for suicide bombers. But most of all I did not expect to be dismissed before having been given the opportunity to hold a single session of the course. Continue reading Academic Freedom Under Fire at Brooklyn College

Brooklyn College Revokes Instructor’s Appointment to Teach Mideast Politics

85C1383F-EE22-446C-B82F-73F6F145AC85.jpgLast fall, it was an assigned book that brought the Israeli-Palestinian conflict home to Brooklyn College. A wealthy alumnus said he was cutting the college out of his will because all incoming freshmen had been asked to read “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor there.

This week, it was a course — a graduate seminar on Middle East politics scheduled for the spring semester. The focus of the dispute was the adjunct professor who had been appointed to teach it, a doctoral student whose writings raised hackles even before he set foot in the classroom. Continue reading Brooklyn College Revokes Instructor’s Appointment to Teach Mideast Politics

Press Release

CUNY PROVOST INTERVENES TO CANCEL APPOINTMENT OF CONTROVERSIAL BROOKLYN COLLEGE ADJUNCT: GRAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR ACADEMIC FREEDOM

Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a political science doctoral student at the CUNY Graduate Center, has been fired from his position as an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College one week before his course on Middle East politics was slated to begin. The case was taken up by the Brooklyn College administration after a student enrolled in his course raised concerns that Mr. Petersen-Overton’s alleged pro-Palestinian bias would prevent him from conducting a balanced seminar. The student expressed these concerns with the political science department but agreed not to pursue further action until after the course actually began. However, this student contacted state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who then characterized Mr. Petersen-Overton as “pro-suicide bomber” in a letter to the college President.

In a response sent to Hamodia newspaper on Wednesday, Mr. Petersen-Overton expressed concerns “that a state official would denounce my work so strongly without, apparently, having offered it more than a cursory reading. [Hikind’s] press release … is slander pure and simple.” Mr. Petersen-Overton emphasized that his work has little to do with suicide bombers and that Mr. Hikind deliberately twisted his conclusions to make it appear otherwise.

“I was not contacted by Brooklyn College administration at any time during their decision-making process. This politically motivated action undermines CUNY’s longstanding legacy as a stalwart defender of academic freedom,” Mr. Petersen-Overton said.

The allegations against Mr. Petersen-Overton center on time he spent in the Gaza Strip working for the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and on an unpublished scholarly paper that analyzes the symbolic place of martyrdom in Palestinian nationalism. Petersen-Overton’s detractors also took issue with the fact that, according to his personal website, he still maintains “close contact” with the Palestinian activist community. Mr. Petersen-Overton’s academic work deals broadly with issues of identity formation in Israel and Palestine.

Media Contact:

Kristofer Petersen-Overton

kpetersen-overton (at) gc (dot) cuny (dot) edu

347 837 7635

Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice & the Signification of Palestinian Identity

DACC22B3-58AD-4E55-AA9F-33D390978BC1.jpgI’ll be presenting my paper “Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice & the Signification of Palestinian National Identity” at the upcoming MPSA annual conference (March 31-April 3, 2010).

Abstract:

Sacrifice and struggle constitute two of the most important themes for contemporary Palestinian national identity. Physical displacement, exile, military occupation, and especially the struggles and sacrifices undertaken in resistance to these forces inform the narrative upon which Palestinian society imagines itself. This paper attempts to problematize Palestinian national identity by exploring the ideals of struggle and sacrifice as manifest in the concept of martyrdom. Continue reading Inventing the Martyr: Struggle, Sacrifice & the Signification of Palestinian Identity

Peace Philosophy in Action (finally) published

55CD55D5-D227-4796-83A9-8E78BE775691.jpgThis book documents recent and historical events in the theoretically-based practice of peace development. Its diverse collection of essays describes different aspects of applied philosophy in peace action, commonly involving the contributors’ continual engagement in the field, while offering support and optimal responses to conflict and violence. This study has never been timelier, as the omnipresence of conflict and the widespread opportunities to respond to them with nonviolence and peace practices … {read more}