October 14, 2019

NYU President Calls BDS-Supporting Graduation Speech ‘Quite Objectionable’

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

New York University (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton called a recent graduation speech that endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement “quite objectionable” in a statement May 23.

Northwestern University professor and NYU doctoral graduate Steven Thrasher spoke May 20 at NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science Doctoral Convocation Ceremony. Thrasher praised NYU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voice for Peace, student government and Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for taking a stand “against the apartheid state government in Israel.” He went on to call it “our NYU legacy” to “stand together to vanquish racism and Islamophobia and antisemitism and injustice.”

Hamilton said he “found it quite objectionable that the student speaker chose to make use of the Graduate School of Arts and Science doctoral graduation to express his personal viewpoints on BDS and related matters, language he excluded from the version of the speech he had submitted before the ceremony.” He went on to apologize to those who attended the speech.

“We are sorry that the audience had to experience these inappropriate remarks.  A graduation should be a shared, inclusive event; the speaker’s words — one-sided and tendentious — indefensibly made some in the audience feel unwelcome and excluded,” Hamilton said. “Let me use this occasion to reaffirm the University’s position — NYU rejects academic boycotts of Israel, rejects calls to close its Tel Aviv campus, and denounces efforts to ostracize or exclude those in the University community based on their location in Israel, their Israeli origin, or their political feelings for Israel.”

Adela Cojab, graduated from NYU earlier in the week and spearheaded a legal complaint against the university for giving SJP an award in April, told the Journal in a Facebook message that she supported Hamilton’s statement and that she “could not have said it better myself.” She also called Thrasher’s speech “disturbing.”

“It should concern every single student and parent that the Graduate College of Arts and Science is not only praising a hate movement, but directly praising two organizations that are the subject of a civil lawsuit and promote student-on-student aggression,” Cojab said.

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer sciences at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president and NYU alumnus renounced his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award in April, said in a statement to the Journal, “It seems to me that NYU administrators try, but do not see how to contain the Zionophobic monster that was created on their watch. It is simple. Simply tell the campus the reasons why BDS is morally reprehensible, why Jewish and Zionist students and faculty are welcome to NYU, explicate the distinct contributions they are making to the cultural tapestry of NYU, and emphasize the inspirational power that Israel’s miracle has had on other minorities aspiring for self-determination. Truth telling is not ‘taking sides.’ When BDS cronies learn that lies, accusations, and populist slogans result in truth unveiled, the monster will change tactics.”

Pearl similarly tweeted:

Other NYU alumni spoke out against Thrasher’s speech:

Thrasher and Northwestern University did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.