CUNY Prof Alleges Being Targeted in Retaliatory Investigation After Calling for Removal of BDS Supporter from DEI Search Committee

November 25, 2022
Photo of Kingsborough Community College: josh jackson under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Inset: Jeffrey Lax

City University of New York’s (CUNY) Kingsborough Community College Professor Jeffrey Lax is alleging that the university is investigating him in retaliation for Lax calling for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporter to be removed from a search committee.

In August, Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) had reported that Kingsborough assembled a search committee to hire a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) assistant dean, whose purview includes dealing with instances of antisemitism on campus. The JNS report noted that a member of the committee included someone who has signed onto public pro-BDS petitions and that the committee doesn’t have any Jewish members on it. The day after the JNS report was published, Lax, who at that time served on the college’s Personnel and Budget Committee, filed a complaint against Kingsborough President Claudia Schrader over the matter, alleging that it was symptomatic of a hostile environment against Zionist Jews on campus. Later that month, Lax resigned from the committee.

Lax tweeted out a picture of a letter on which he was copied saying that CUNY would be investigating a complaint filed by the BDS supporter on the DEI search committee and that the investigation would be overseen by an independent firm. The investigation would be completed by January 2023 at the latest. The email did not specify what exactly was being investigated.

Lax told the Journal that while he has not been told that he is under investigation, the fact that he was copied at the bottom of the letter suggests that he is the target of the investigation. “That’s how it works, the respondent is sent a copy of the letter,” Lax said. “It’s very obvious I’m being investigated. They’re doing it in the most cryptic of ways.” Lax has asked Kingsborough what he’s being investigated for but has yet to receive a response.

“The worst thing I did was call her [the BDS supporter] antisemitic,” Lax said, “which I stand by 100 percent … anyone who signs a BDS petition is antisemitic and should not be on DEI search committees for antisemitism officers.”

As for Lax’s complaint, CUNY had tapped their chief diversity officer, Saly Abd Alla, to oversee it, which Lax rejected because Abd Alla used to work as the civil rights director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) Minnesota affiliate. JNS reported that Lax had criticized CUNY’s decision to tap Abd Alla for the investigation because of Abd Alla’s work for an “openly anti-Zionist organization.” CUNY agreed in September to pull Abd Alla from the investigation.

“This whole situation is corrupt,” Lax told the Journal. “They’re separating the investigations. They’re having someone else investigate my case from her case. They arise from the same set of facts and circumstances. To have two people do it is because they don’t want her investigator to see what led to her investigation, which is my original complaint. And the reason that they don’t want to do that is so obvious: because it’s so obviously retaliatory. You can’t investigate me for complaining about antisemitism, and that’s what they’re doing.”

A spokesperson for CUNY told the Journal that the university “does not comment on confidential personnel matters.”

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