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CUNY Faculty Letter in Support of the Doctoral Students’ Council

[This statement was released on 7 May 2016. To sign on to this letter, click here.]

We, the undersigned City University of New York faculty, wish to declare our support for the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) at the CUNY Graduate Center, which recently adopted a Resolution Endorsing the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. In doing so, the DSC joins major academic organizations in North America and around the world, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the American Studies Association, the graduate student worker union of the University of California, and, most recently, the National Women’s Studies Association and the graduate student worker union at New York University, all of whom have endorsed similar resolutions.

Whether or not we as individuals support this particular resolution, we want to publicly endorse the courage of Graduate Center doctoral students in engaging with some of the most crucial political issues of our time. This latest resolution is very much in keeping with the mission of the DSC, which includes “enabling students to participate in important social, political, and economic decisions that affect their community.” In addition to this most recent resolution, the DSC has also adopted resolutions calling for non-discrimination on the basis of gender identity, in favor of passage of the Dream Act, and in support of the rights of students to protest freely, whether in New York City or around the world (as they did in a February 2016 Resolution In Support Of Student Protests In India on behalf of students facing a brutal crackdown by the BJP-led Indian government). In all this, the DSC has lived up to its mandate to generate a space of discussion and to promote democratic educational values.

We have therefore noted with concern and disappointment that mere minutes after the DSC adopted the Resolution Endorsing the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, both the President of the Graduate Center, Chase Robinson, and the CUNY Chancellor, James B. Milliken, issued statements condemning the DSC resolution. While President Robinson’s statement at least noted that “the Graduate Center respects the rights of student organizations to express their views,” Chancellor Milliken’s letter merely expressed that the “leadership” of CUNY was “disappointed by this vote from one student group.”

Needless to say, President Robinson and Chancellor Milliken have both a right and a responsibility to clarify that any particular resolution passed by the DSC does not represent the official views of the Graduate Center, or of CUNY more generally. But given the pressure brought to bear by outside groups when it comes to academic debates related to Israel-Palestine, we are very disappointed that they failed to make a stronger statement in support of the unquestionable right of the DSC to pass this most recent resolution. This is particularly concerning to us at a moment when major academic organizations, including the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Academic Freedom, have expressed concern over the seeming willingness of CUNY’s leadership to cooperate with politically-motivated groups outside the university that seek to stifle debate on issues related to Israel-Palestine.

We note that the CUNY leadership has not previously commented upon the many other resolutions passed by the DSC, even those related to other political issues that might be considered “controversial.” We are also puzzled by the fact that both President Robinson’s and Chancellor Milliken’s statements suggest that CUNY is opposed, not only to this particular resolution, but to all academic boycotts in principle. This strikes us as strange, since only three days before issuing his statement regarding the DSC resolution, Chancellor Milliken announced a ban on travel by CUNY employees to North Carolina and Mississippi, in response to the passage of discriminatory legislation in those two states. Surely this travel ban, which follows executive orders from Governor Cuomo’s office and forbids any travel to these states by CUNY employees in their official capacities, constitutes what can only be considered an academic boycott of those states. We hasten to add that we support the decision to impose this travel ban, and agree that such an academic boycott constitutes a just response to the discriminatory laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi. But we urge the leadership of the Graduate Center, and of CUNY more generally, to address what is clearly a contradiction in its stated positions regarding academic boycotts.

In short, we regret the failure of the Graduate Center leadership and CUNY-wide leadership to support the absolute and unquestionable right of the Doctoral Students’ Council to adopt this resolution. Since the CUNY administration has failed to do so, we want to make it clear that, whatever our individual positions on the issues involved, we absolutely support the students who make up the leadership and membership of the DSC. Indeed, we want to offer our respect and admiration for students who, at quite some risk and with no prospect of personal gain, have taken it upon themselves to address this important political and intellectual issue. We look forward to working alongside our students in fostering open and engaged discussions of issues related to Israel-Palestine. And we wish to make it absolutely clear that we will be vigilant against, and will not tolerate, any attempts to intimidate, threaten, harass, or enact reprisals of any sort against any of the students who have been involved with the DSC, whether such intimidation comes from members of the CUNY community or from groups or individuals outside the college.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned (list in progress; affiliation information for identification purposes only) 

Ammiel Alcalay, Professor of Comparative Literature, Hebrew, and Middle Eastern Studies, Queens College and The Graduate Center

Linda Martín Alcoff, Professor of Philosophy, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

Anthony Alessandrini, Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College, and Middle Eastern Studies, The Graduate Center

Meena Alexander, Distinguished Professor of English, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

Jay Arena, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, College of Staten Island

Talal Asad, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, The Graduate Center

Moustafa Bayoumi, Professor of English, Brooklyn College

Avram Bornstein, Associate Professor of Anthropology, John Jay College and The Graduate Center

Renate Bridenthal, Professor of History (retired), Brooklyn College

Matt Brim, Associate Professor of Queer Studies, College of Staten Island

Jonathan Buchsbaum, Professor of Media Studies, Queens College, and Film Studies, The Graduate Center

Susan Buck-Morss, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, The Graduate Center

Amy Chazkel, Associate Professor of History, Queens College and The Graduate Center

Grace Cho, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, College of Staten Island

Samir Chopra, Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center

Kandice Chuh, Professor of English, The Graduate Center

Blanche Wiesen Cook, Distinguished Professor of History, John Jay College and the Graduate Center

Paisley Currah, Professor of Political Science and Women’s & Gender Studies, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center

Omar Dahbour, Professor of Philosophy, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

Ashley Dawson, Professor of English, College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center

Hester Eisenstein, Professor of Sociology, Queens College and The Graduate Center; Acting Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program

Elazar Elhanan, Assistant Professor of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures, City College

Alexander Elinson, Associate Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, Hunter College

Joseph Entin, Associate Professor of English, Brooklyn College

Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Sociology, Queens College and The Graduate Center

Johanna Fernandez, Assistant Professor of History, Baruch College

Michelle Fine, Distinguished Professor of Critical Psychology, The Graduate Center

Erik Eliav Freas, Assistant Professor of History, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Nicholas Freudenberg, Distinguished Professor of Public Health, CUNY School of Public Health and The Graduate Center

Jennifer Gaboury, Full-Time Lecturer and Advictor, Women and Gender Studies Program, Hunter College

Jeremy M. Glick, Associate Professor of English, Hunter College

Tami Gold, Professor of Integrated Media Arts, Hunter College

Ozlem Goner, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Staten Island

Samira Haj, Professor of Middle East History, College of Staten Island and The Graduate Center

Jean Halley, Associate Professor of Sociology and Chairperson of Sociology and Anthropology, College of Staten Island

David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography, The Graduate Center

Ron Hayduk, Professor of Political Science, Queens College

Maria Hernandez-Ojeda, Associate Professor of Spanish, Hunter College

Stephen Leberstein, Professor (retired), Center for Worker Education/History, City College

Gerald Markowitz, Distinguished Professor of History, John Jay College and The Graduate Center

Karen Miller, Professor of History, LaGuardia Community College and The Graduate Center

Feisal G. Mohamed, Professor of English, The Graduate Center

Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College

Marcia Newfield, Adjunct Lecturer of English, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College

Rupal Oza, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Hunter College, and Earth and Environmental Studies, The Graduate Center

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor of Political Science Emerita, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

John P. Pittman, Associate Professor of Philosophy, John Jay College

Catherine Raissiguier, Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Hunter College

Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College and The Graduate Center

Christa Salamandra, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College and The Graduate Center

Naomi Schiller, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Brooklyn College

Emily Schnee, Associate Professor of English, Kingsborough Community College

Sarah Schulman, Distinguished Professor of English, College of Staten Island

Jillian Schwedler, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

Jonathan Shannon, Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College and The Graduate Center

Carol Smith, Associate Professor (retired), SEEK Program, City College

Robyn Spencer, Associate Professor of History, Lehman College

Pamela Sporn, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Film and Media, Hunter College

Christopher Stone, Associate Professor of Arabic, Hunter College, and Middle Eastern Studies, The Graduate Center

Laura Tanenbaum, Associate Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College

Saadia Toor, Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology, College of Staten Island, and Women’s and Gender Studies, The Graduate Center

Dominic Wetzel, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Kingsborough Community College

Susan Woodward, Professor of Political Science, The Graduate Center

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