The Playgoer: Kushner Speaks

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Kushner Speaks the paper probably that's had the best coverage of the Kushner/CUNY spat: the CUNY Advocate student paper!

They've also been running a day-by-day blog of the fracas here and they've run some notable letters on the subject. The one from super-Zionist Ed Koch was probably most helpful in getting the Board to reverse.

Now that the infamous decision to "table" Kushner's honorary degree has effectively been reversed, there's been a move at CUNY to now go further and seek the removal of Board-Bully Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who started the whole thing. But I actually don't join my CUNY peers in this goal. While I find his tactics (ambushing the board with lies about Kushner) and some of his opinions (like saying Palestinians are "not human" ) reprehensible, I don't believe the remedy to free-speech suppression is yet more free-speech suppression. Why turn the man into a free-speech martyr, which is clearly how he and his right-wing supporters would play it. ("Israel-Hating CUNY Fires Righteous Jew.")

I actually lay more of the blame for this incident not on the sole man who raised his highly biased objection at the board meeting--but on those others on the board who just blindly went along with it. And I chiefly hold responsible the Chair himself, Benno Schmidt who--while later repenting--clearly was either asleep at the wheel in letting a vote go forward or just let himself be intimidated by a madman.  Wiesenfeld is just one vote on a twelve-member board. He can't do much damage if other, hopefully more sensible folks, decide not to be cowed by him.

I understand the campaign to oust him as a statement. (And to let him feel some heat for a change, after all the flames he's thrown at Kushner and others all these years.) But the guy's only got two more years left
on his term. I say we show we're better than he is, let him stay on in a shamed, impotent capacity and then not renew him.

In brief, we can't just eliminate, or brush under the rug partisan hacks like Wiesenfeld. Just neuter them by refusing to take them seriously.

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