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.”

The college’s initial decision not to accept the political science department’s recommendation to hire Mr. Petersen-Overton came under scrutiny because it came shortly after Dov Hikind, a Democratic state assemblyman from Brooklyn, expressed concern to the college president and the chancellor of CUNY about the “slanted nature” of Mr. Petersen-Overton’s works, saying that his views on the conflict in the Middle East were one-sided and anti-Israeli.

But Jeremy Thompson, a spokesman for Brooklyn College, denied that politics were part of the initial decision not to hire Mr. Petersen-Overton, nor part of the college’s change of heart.

“There was no political motivation behind this at all; it was always a question of credentials and process,” he said.

Mr. Thompson said last week that Mr. Petersen-Overton did not have the credentials to teach a graduate-level class; but on Monday said that additional academic references had convinced the college that he was indeed qualified.

Mr. Hikind could not be reached for comment on the reversal.

The spring semester began last week, but the seminar, for which more than 20 students have registered, was not scheduled to have its first meeting until Thursday, so no sessions were missed, the spokesman said.

Brooklyn College has been involved in several incidents tied to Middle East politics in the last few months. Last fall, a wealthy donor withdrew support from the school because all incoming freshmen had been asked to read the book “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor at the college whom the donor considered a radical pro-Palestinian.

And in November, there were tensions between campus Jewish groups and a pro-Palestinian student group that had set up a mock Israeli checkpoint on the campus.

Hamilton Boardman
New York Times

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