Brooklyn: Represent!

3 02 2013

Brooklyn College, actually, but close enough.

The brief story (or not so brief) is that the Political Science Department at Brooklyn College is sponsoring an event put together by the Students for Justice in Palestine on the Boycott-Divest-Sanctions movement (directed against Israel). Torture apologist and local-boy-gone-bad Alan Dershowitz howled about the injustice of this event (then suggested all could be made better were only other voices—hm, I wonder whose?—were brought in for “balance”), then various local politicians entered the fray, including a number of City Council members who oh-so-helpfully reminded* Brooklyn College President Karen Gould that:

A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and to Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City—and many who would feel targeted and demonized by this program—want their tax money to be spent on.

To which one can only politely reply: Fuck you. Twice.

Happily, President Karen Gould has defended both the department and the principle of academic freedom—rather too rare, these days.

I admit that I am not particularly a supporter of the BDS movement, largely because I think those who act on behalf of human rights in Israel and Palestine should be supported, not abandoned. But, as I wrote to the various politicians who signed these terrible letters, I see less threat to academic freedom in the airing of opinions with which I disagree than in the pressure applied by public officials on institutions to distant themselves from even the consideration of those views.

Not as pithy as Fuck you, but, y’know. . . .


*You really need to click on this second link. The first letter, by Congressman Jerome Nadler, et al, is bad enough, but the second, by Lew Fidler and nine other City Council members, calls the event speakers Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti “either anti-semitic or simply ignorant” who promote “the worst kind of hate.”

Unsurprisingly, they end with the reverse-double-flipspeak: “We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong.”

Yeah, no.