Commentary Magazine


Kushner Fight May Not Be Over

As Jonathan wrote, the City University of New York board of trustees has voted to block an honorary degree for anti-Israel playwright Tony Kushner at John Jay College. The decision is sparking a major backlash, with Kushner issuing a ranting letter and calling the incident “incredibly ugly.”

But the fight doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon. The faculty senate, which originally nominated Kushner for the honor, has just sent out a letter calling on the executive committee of the board of trustees to go around the vote and basically approve the degree by fiat:

I ask you to please consider the values of our University and its reputation as well as your relationship to the faculty of CUNY and especially to its students, who are being denied the signal honor of having Mr. Tony Kushner join them as a member of John Jay’s graduating class of 2011.

The letter is signed by Karen Kaplowitz, an English professor and president of the John Jay faculty senate. Because the CUNY trustees executive committee acts on behalf of the entire board between meetings, and the next meeting isn’t scheduled until after commencement in June, the committee would be able to override the vote if it so chooses.

This is obviously a last-ditch effort by the faculty senate, since the board reportedly voted unanimously to table the honorary degree. Kushner has also declared that he wouldn’t accept the degree now even if it were offered. But the fact that the faculty senate is still attempting to push the issue indicates that they’re going to keep beating this drum for awhile.