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CUNY Board Nixes Honorary Degree For Playwright Tony Kushner

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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-04-11 06:14 PM
Original message
CUNY Board Nixes Honorary Degree For Playwright Tony Kushner
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights Israel views presumably behind rare move

<snip>

"In what is believed to be a rare move, the City University of New York has turned down a request by one of its colleges to honor Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner at its commencement ceremony this spring, The Jewish Week has learned.

The action was taken presumably because of the author's critical comments concerning the State of Israel.

The move took place at a meeting of CUNY's board of trustees Monday night after one of its members, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, raised objections to plans to honor Kushner by John Jay College, one of the system's schools.

The outcome may have been the first time in CUNY's history that its board of trustees vetoed an honorary-degree candidate proposed by one of its schools, according to a source with knowledge of the university."

more
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oberliner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-04-11 06:22 PM
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1.  Tony Kushner Responds to CUNY Board Decision
At the May 2 public meeting of the CUNY Board of Trustees, which was broadcast on CUNY television and radio, Trustee Jeffrey S. Weisenfeld delivered a grotesque caricature of my political beliefs regarding the state of Israel, concocted out of three carefully cropped, contextless quotes taken from interviews I've given, the mention of my name on the blog of someone with whom I have no connection whatsoever, and the fact that I serve on the advisory board of a political organization with which Mr. Weisenfeld strongly disagrees. As far as I'm able to conclude from the podcast of this meeting, Mr. Weisenfeld spoke for about four minutes, the first half of which was a devoted to a recounting of the politics of former President of Ireland and UN Human Rights High Commissioner Mary Robinson that was as false as his description of mine.

Ms. Robinson, however, was not on public trial; I was, apparently, and at the conclusion of Mr. Weisenfeld's vicious attack on me, eight members voted to approve all the honorary degree candidates, including me, and four voted to oppose the slate if my name remained on it. Lacking the requisite nine votes to approve the entire slate, the Board, in what sounds on the podcast like a scramble to dispense with the whole business, tabled my nomination, approved the other candidates, and adjourned. Not a word was spoken in my defense.

I wasn't told in advance that my willingness to accept an honorary doctorate from John Jay would require my presence at a meeting to defend myself. As far as I know, no one who might have spoken on my behalf was notified in advance. I'm not a difficult person to find, nor am I lacking in articulate colleagues and friends who would have responded. For all his posturing as a street-tough scrapper for causes he believes in, Mr. Weisenfeld, like most bullies, prefers an unfair fight.

But far more dismaying than Mr. Weisenfeld's diatribe is the silence of the other eleven board members. Did any of you feel that your responsibilities as trustees of an august institution of higher learning included even briefly discussing the appropriateness of Mr. Weisenfeld's using a public board meeting as a platform for deriding the political opinions of someone with whom he disagrees? Did none of you feel any responsibility towards me, whose name was before you, and hence available as a target for Mr. Weisenfeld's slander, entirely because I'd been nominated for an honor by the faculty and administration of one of your colleges?

Read the rest here:

http://www.thejewishweek.com/tony_kushner_responds_cuny...
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xchrom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-04-11 06:25 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. +1
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-04-11 06:29 PM
Response to Original message
3. Did CUNY owe him a degree?
And why John Jay where the students can barely read? The last thing on God's earth that would interest them is a playwright. Odd. Really.
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oberliner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-04-11 06:41 PM
Response to Original message
4. Some more info on Mr. Wiesenfeld
From 2007:

In his first confirmation hearing for CUNY Board, State Senator Daniel Hevesi questioned Wiesenfeld sharply about these reports, including allegations from Community Advocate Isaac Abraham that he had called blacks savages. As Hevesi remarked, I dont know what to believe, but if someone calls blacks savages they have no business being on the CUNY Board of Trustees.

Even though Hevesi went on to say, I know this nominee does not have the character to sit on the CUNY Board, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld was confirmed by the full State Senate in June, 1999, and then re-appointed by Pataki in a last minute emergency meeting of the state senate, just before the end of Patakis term on December 13th, 2006. For more on this see Pataki Appoints Two Trustees in Last Minute Senate Meeting in the February, 2007 edition of the GC Advocate.

Most recently, Wiesenfeld has been in the forefront of the attack on academic freedom in 2007. As New York Board Chair of the Stop the Madrassa Coalition, he has joined a group that has repeated baseless charges that a new dual language Arabic English public school, the Kahlil Gibran International Academy, would inevitably become a haven for terrorists and was already a radical Madrassa religious school. None of the coalitions allegations against the school or against the Principal were or are grounded in fact. Nor were the numerous articles in the New York Post or the New York Sun, which linked them to its main web page.

After months of media harassment, the Principal of the Gibran school Debbie Almontaser was hounded out of her position when she was required to be interviewed by the New York Post, with minimal to no protection from the Department of Education. The New York Post demanded to know Ms Almontasers views about T-Shirts that a female youth group was selling, which displayed the slogan Intifada NYC to indicate Arab empowerment. Despite no direct involvement with the girls group, and despite denouncing any violence, Debbie Almontasers efforts to explain the significance of the slogan to the Arab community was distorted in the right wing media and she was forced out by risk averse city officials. She was successfully scapegoated despite a long career of almost unmatched interfaith dialogue and community-based peace work.

http://www.gcadvocate.com/2007/11/spotlight-on-the-boar...
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