For the first time in its history, CUNY’s Board of Trustees has overturned an honorary degree given by one of its colleges, overturning an honorary degree that was to be given to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. This unprecedented decision came about because Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a CUNY trustee, disagrees with Tony Kushner over Israeli policy. Wiesenfeld has a long history of stifling dissent: he opposed the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the first dual-language Arabic public school in the country; opposed the rights of Muslims to build a Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan; and more recently, tried to block Kristofer Petersen-Overton’s appointment as an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College because of his political opinions about Palestine and Israel.
Join playwright Eve Ensler, author Naomi Klein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, and Jews Against Islamophobia in telling the CUNY Board of Trustees to apologize and overturn their unjust decision. Join us in standing up for academic freedom and freedom of association. Join us in saying, that no one—whether a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright revered by the academy, or a Palestinian speaking out for her people, or a young doctoral student just starting their career—should be subject to blacklist or censor based on an arbitrarily imposed judgement of a sufficient level of approval for Israel. Sign the petition below, and we’ll bring you with us when we deliver them to the CUNY Board of Trustees.
I am deeply disturbed by your recent action to deny an honorary degree for Tony Kushner. This unprecedented step, blocking the choice of one of your own colleges, is contrary to the principles of academic freedom and open debate. Kushner’s views on Israel are a legitimate part of the discourse, and should not be censured.
I was deeply disappointed that CUNY Trustee Jeffrey Weisenfeld was able to impose a political litmus test on Tony Kushner’s honorary degree. I am particularly disappointed that not a single one of you, as trustees of one of the country’s most prestigious public universities, spoke out about such an elemental principle as academic freedom.
Tony Kushner richly deserves the honor the John Jay College of Law offered him. Please apologize and overturn your decision.