Jewish Students/Faculty Complain to American Bar Ass’n that CUNY Law School Discriminates With Pervasive “Anti-Zionist” Anti-Semitism
The complaint letter charges CUNY Law discriminates against students, faculty, other employees, and prospective students, faculty, and employees, and that the law school faculty’s recently-adopted BDS policy puts the school out of compliance with ABA req’ts. Meanwhile, NYC Council Higher Ed Committee grills CUNY over pervasive anti-Semitism.
On June 27, 2022, a group calling itself Students and Faculty for Equality at the City University of New York (SAFE CUNY) filed a discrimination claim with the American Bar Association (ABA) against CUNY School of Law. The complaint letter charges that CUNY Law discriminates against Jewish and Israeli students and faculty members.
While the woke ABA may have been tempted to laugh off the complaint – since “diversity” administrators often not only refuse to confront anti-Semitism, but actually foment it – CUNY did not have that luxury. On June 30, its chancellor was scheduled to appear before the New York City Council Committee on Higher Education for a hearing about anti-Semitism on campus.
The complaint letter charges that CUNY’s law school discriminates against students, faculty, other employees, and prospective students, faculty, and employees on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and nationality. It also charged CUNY with violating academic freedom. In particular, the complaint charged that the law school faculty’s recently-adopted BDS policy puts the school out of compliance with ABA requirements.
The scope of that [faculty BDS] commitment is only revealed by a link in a footnote, which leads to an extensive BDS website. A few clicks will then take readers to the “Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel,” which include “the cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israeli academic institutions or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global academy [including] conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum exhibits.”
If honored by any law school, these limitations would constitute a blatant violation of academic freedom for future teachers, scholars or students interested in understanding Israel – beyond its purported crimes – in their research or education. At a public law school, such sweeping viewpoint restrictions on conferences, symposia and book exhibits – prohibiting anything that “normalizes” Israel – also violate the First Amendment.
The ABA’s law school standards prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion and nationality, currently require law schools to have a “commitment to diversity and inclusion,” and require them to have an academic freedom policy. The letter asks the ABA to
review these unprecedented and deeply discriminatory policy adoptions and take all appropriate measures… including withdrawal of accreditation, sanctions, and/or remedial action until such time as CUNY Law rejects its discriminatory policies and returns to compliance with the ABA Standards.
The law school faculty’s BDS resolution is only the latest in CUNY’s recent history of rabid anti-Zionism/anti-Semitism. A few months before the faculty resolution, students had adopted a pro-BDS resolution. In June 2021, the CUNY faculty union adopted a resolution claiming Israel “massacred innocent Palestinians during the spring conflict in Gaza. The measure did not mention, much less condemn, any actions by Hamas.” A number of faculty members subsequently resigned from the union. By June 30, 2022, that number had reportedly reached 300.
The atmosphere on campus has been increasingly hostile to Jews. CUNY’s law school chose as its 2022 commencement speaker an anti-Israel activist who has called for the murder of Israelis/Israel supporters. Jews have been assaulted or threatened with assault for showing support of Israel, to the point that students are afraid to show public signs that they are Jewish, such as a kippah or Star of David.
[According to Ilya Bratman, executive director of Hillel at Baruch College,] “A Jewish student is walking through the hallways wearing their kippah,” Bratman said. “People say to him, ‘You are an oppressor.’ No one asked him his opinion on Israel. It’s complete and overt antisemitism.” …
Bratman said that the CUNY law school’s student government representatives have stated “openly and loudly that Jewish students shouldn’t come to college,” and that the tenor or the organization is “extraordinarily anti-Zionist.”
Unsurprisingly in light of the recent complaint letter, CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez bailed on the June 30 hearing he was supposed to attend. It had been rescheduled from an earlier date to accommodate his schedule, due to his express request to attend in person. On the evening of June 29, he notified the Council that he would not be present. Instead, he sent three underlings to appear virtually at the session, which included both in-person and virtual testimony.
His failure to show didn’t go over well with the Committee. (Video of the meeting may be found here.) Brooklyn Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, the ranking Republican on the Council’s Education Committee, fumed: “Last night, in a very cowardly fashion, the chancellor said he won’t appear. Instead he sent a lawyer to represent him. What a sham, what an insult to the Jewish community of New York… When it comes to Jews, do Jewish lives matter?!”
Q: “Do you have a history of antisemitic incidents logged?”@CUNY: “Unfortunately, we do not.”
This was the answer given. Does CUNY not take this matter seriously?
— Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (@InnaVernikov) June 30, 2022
Matos Rodríguez sent CUNY Vice-Chancellor Glenda Grace, Graduate Center President Robin Garrell, and Vice-Chancellor Denise Maybank to represent the university system. They attended the hearing via Zoom. They largely defended anti-Israel activity on campus as free speech and described problematic incidents as isolated events. They refused to discuss specific numbers of anti-Semitic incidents, CUNY’s disciplinary responses to them, or specific plans for addressing anti-Semitism. (CUNY has had no problem condemning racism and “inhumane and shameful acts” in the context of claims of anti-black racism.) They said they were “having conversations” about the issue and “reaching out” to students who were affected. Council members exhorted CUNY to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism. Among other things, IHRA’s working definition includes denial of Israel’s right to exist, claims that Israel is a racist endeavor, and holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.
— Jacob Henry (@jhenrynews) June 30, 2022
CUNY faculty union head James Davis also testified. He at first refused to say whether he had publicly expressed support for BDS, then said he had not. A statement he gave on Twitter appeared to contradict his Council testimony. Davis also claimed he reached out to faculty members who resigned – a statement flatly denied by a testifying faculty member.
Quite a video from today's NYC Council hearing: @InnaVernikov pressing @PSC_CUNY president James Davis, who voted in favor of BDS in 2013.
Davis claims that he was unaware of ever having publicly supported BDS. (He did so in a video session this spring.)https://t.co/bFmi6LACf0
— KC Johnson (@kcjohnson9) July 1, 2022
Besides the CUNY representatives, speakers included students, faculty, and Jewish rights advocates including Alyza Lewin of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Susan Tuchman of the Zionist Organization of America, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin of AMCHA Initiative, Amanda Berman of Zioness, and Gerard Filitti of the Lawfare Project. The witnesses described a culture of harassment and intimidation from both CUNY faculty and students, particularly against Jewish students who were supportive of Israel. One student described how she found CUNY law school’s atmosphere so hostile that she transferred to Yeshiva University. Jewish faculty described being targeted, by the school and by the faculty union. The committee was encouraged to speak the only language CUNY understands, by cutting its budget until it addresses the problem.DONATE
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