To the Editor:
Earlier this month, Brooklyn College’s political-science-department chair, Paisley Currah, waxed rhapsodic in defense of his academic freedom to cosponsor an event on campus calling for a selective boycott of Jewish Israeli academics (“A Melee Grows in Brooklyn,” The Chronicle, February 5). Professor Currah’s opus concluded: “But what we have learned at Brooklyn College is that supporting the principle of academic freedom is one thing; exercising that freedom by organizing or cosponsoring an event on a highly charged subject, like BDS, is another.”
Indeed it is, as the event Mr. Currah cosponsored proved to be as anti-Semitic and offensive in deed as it was in word. Despite assurances in advance by the Brooklyn College president, Karen L. Gould, that “those who do attend with opposing views [will be able] to participate in the discussion, ask tough questions, and challenge any ideas with which they disagree,” in fact, that wasn’t the sponsors’ intention at all.
Few of the facts are in question and have quickly been documented by the New York Daily News, Tablet Magazine, and statements from organizers and students present. Not only was the registration process for the event altered repeatedly in an attempt to exclude questioning voices from the forum, but at the event itself, the campus administration ceded control to the student organizers, who directed uniformed campus security to exclude press (singling out a Daily News reporter who was wearing a kippah) and to remove four Jewish students for the offense of having materials in their laps from which they were preparing to ask questions. The student organizer later conceded that he saw the Jewish students preparing their questions and ordered their removal because he feared they would become disruptive. According to Tablet Magazine, Brooklyn College’s vice president, Milga Morales, was standing nearby and saw the Jewish students’ forcible removal, but did not intercede.
Where was Professor Currah while the academic rights of Brooklyn College Jewish students were trampled?
Professor Alan Dershowitz had previously questioned in these pages the hypocrisy of those at Brooklyn College who defended departmental co-sponsorship of the event in the name of academic freedom (“Is Dershowitz a Suspect in ‘Brooklyn Melee?’ He Says No,” The Chronicle, February 7). When pressured about his event, Mr. Currah and the Brooklyn College administration found convenient protection in academic freedom. When the true test arrived, the principle seemed conveniently forgotten.
Israel on Campus Coalition