After Tony Kushner stumble, CUNY tries to dust itself off


From NYTimes.com:

Having embarrassed themselves more than was absolutely necessary in the eyes of many New Yorkers, trustees of the City University of New York are gathering Monday evening to undo the damage.

The issue is an honorary doctorate that a university campus, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, wanted to give to the playwright Tony Kushner.

Out of nowhere, the university’s board of trustees blocked the honor last week after hearing one of its members carry on about how Mr. Kushner was not sufficiently pro-Israel — at least as defined by this trustee, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld.

The board’s action touched off gales of outrage from those New Yorkers who felt that Mr. Kushner, along with concepts of fair play and free expression, had been mugged. After all, he was to be honored as a giant of the American theater, they said; instead, he was punished because his politics did not meet the standards set by one trustee.

Read more at NYTimes.com.

Koch to CUNY: Boot trustee who attacked Kushner


Ed Koch call for the City University of New York to terminate its relationship with a trustee who engineered the denial of an honorary degree to Tony Kushner because of the playwright’s criticism of Israel.

“I can’t think of a dumber academic action,” the former New York mayor and one of Israel’s most ardent supporters said in a letter Thursday to the chairman of the Board of Trustees. “What does Kushner receiving an award have to do with criticism of the State of Israel? I am a well-known supporter of that nation. What if I were denied an honorary degree because of my strong support for that state? That would make as much sense as denying Mr. Kushner a degree.”

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a Republican appointee to the board, quoted from several Kushner statements in his appeal to the CUNY board at its most recent meeting in urging the board to remove the playwright’s name from a list of honorees.

Neither Kushner nor anyone else was invited to speak in his defense.

“Mr. Wiesenfeld and the trustees who followed his request should immediately reverse their action and urge Mr. Kushner to forgive them,” Koch wrote. “I consider Mr. Wiesenfeld’s action so outrageous as to be an abuse of power on his part requiring his resignation or removal from the Board of Trustees.”

CUNY nixes Kushner honorary degree over anti-Israel statements


The City University of New York has voted not to honor playwright Tony Kushner with an honorary degree at its commencement after a board member objected, citing the Pulitzer Prize winner’s anti-Israel statements.

The New York Jewish Week reported that the request by CUNY’s John Jay College to recognize Kushner was turned down at a board of trustees meeting Monday after board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld objected. Kushner would have been eligible to speak at the graduation ceremony.

The decision could be the first time in the university system’s history that a proposed candidate for an honorary degree has been vetoed, the newspaper reported.

Other candidates approved this year for honorary degrees include former New York Mayor Edward Koch and Bernard Spitzer, the father of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, from the City College of New York; Joel Klein, the city’s former schools chancellor, from CUNY; and Judith Kaye, the state’s former chief judge, from John Jay, The Jewish Week reported.

Kushner has been active with organizations that endorse the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

He has written that Israel was “founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing.” Kushner also has said that “it would have been better” had the State of Israel never been created.

Tony Kushner responds in this article on NYTimes.com.

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