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CUNY Chancellor Says University “Cannot Participate In or Support BDS Activities”

City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matos Rodriguez issued a statement on December 10 saying that the university “cannot participate in or support BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] activities” in response to a recent pro-BDS resolution.
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December 14, 2021
Felix Matos Rodriguez, Chancellor of The City University of New York (Photo by Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

City University of New York (CUNY) Chancellor Matos Rodriguez issued a statement on December 10 saying that the university “cannot participate in or support BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] activities” in response to a recent pro-BDS resolution.

The resolution, which was passed by CUNY School of Law’s Student Government Association on December 2, called for CUNY and CUNY School of Law “to divest from companies that conduct business with Israel, end all Israeli exchange programs” and “to cut all ties with organizations that repress Palestinian organizing and end its complicity in the ongoing censorship, harassment, and intimidation of Palestine solidarity activists.”

Rodriguez said in his statement that the resolution does “not represent the views of CUNY or the majority of the 300,000 members of our community.” “To be clear, CUNY cannot participate in or support BDS activities and is required to divest public funds from any companies that do,” he later added. “The resolution also states that CUNY and the CUNY School of Law are complicit in censoring Palestinian solidarity organizations and in committing war crimes against the Palestinian people, a characterization that we completely reject.” He also said that the resolution’s call to end Israeli academic exchange programs “is contrary to a university’s core mission to expose students personally and academically to a world that can be vastly different to their own, particularly through international exchange programs.”

“I believe it is incumbent on all of us, especially those of us in higher education, to promote tolerance and civic engagement, and to commit ourselves to coming together, hard as it may often seem, to forge mutual understanding as members of this widely diverse University community,” Rodriguez concluded.

A coalition of Jewish groups praised Rodriguez’s statement for saying that the resolution doesn’t represent CUNY’s views, rebuffing boycotts of Israel and for emphasizing “that a pluralistic, diverse and accepting CUNY is the priority of the administration and the university’s bedrock value. For this, we thank the Chancellor.” The coalition consisted of Anti-Defamation League New York / New Jersey, StandWithUs, Jewish Community Relations Council-New York, United Jewish Appeals – Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York as well as local Hillel chapters.

Students and Faculty for Equality (SAFE) CUNY, a nonpartisan group advocating for Zionist Jews to be treated equally at CUNY, was more critical of Rodriguez. “Chancellor Felix Matos-Rodriguez has failed to protect the thousands of Zionist and Israeli Jews who attend CUNY or who are employed by CUNY,” the group said in a statement to the Journal. “His statement regarding the illegal and dangerous Law Student Government resolution is an attempt at obfuscation to cover up the University’s own antisemitic activity.  In spite of his disingenuous statement, ‘CUNY cannot participate in or support BDS activities’ (CUNY is in fact legally prohibited from doing so) he has enabled the PSC [Professor Staff Congress]-CUNY faculty union to host illegal BDS events and discussions across campuses and throughout the university. He has both enabled bigotry and has refused to condemn the bigotry. Informing the authors of bigotry ‘why’ their demands are impractical is hardly the response expected of the leader of an academic institution of the magnitude and gravitas of CUNY.”

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