NYC Council investigates allegations of antisemitism on CUNY campus

The New York City Council is launching an unprecedented investigation into alleged anti-Semitism at CUNY and other Big Apple college campuses, The Post has learned.

The Council’s Higher Education Committee will hold an oversight hearing titled “Inquiry into Antisemitism on College Campuses” on June 8.

It comes after CUNY School of Law faculty backed the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which sources say was the impetus for the hearing.

“The acceptance and normalization of BDS by CUNY students and faculty has fostered an extremely hostile campus environment that has led to the more blatant forms of antisemitism that are all too prevalent in our city,” said Eric Dinowitz, Bronx Council Chairman of the University Committee and the Jewish Caucus of the Council.

“It is critically important for the Council to ensure that our CUNY system, a national model for higher education, does not end up singleing out the world’s only Jewish state and in turn ostracizing our Jewish students and residents,” he added added Dinowitz.

The city council said there was an uptick in anti-Semitism on college campuses nationwide and that “CUNY is no exception, having had several troubling incidents of prejudice and, in many cases, a culture of anti-Jewish sentiment that warrants city council attention.”

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2021/02/15: Plaque at the City University of New York (CUNY) headquarters in New York City
Faculty at the CUNY School of Law earlier this month supported the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, triggering the investigation.
Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

The recent vote by the law school faculty council in support of the BDS movement — which supporters of Israel say reeks of anti-Semitism — was the last straw for the council and prompted the investigation, according to college sources.

“This is bad for CUNY Law School. CUNY will pay for it,” a senior insider said.

Brooklyn Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, a Ukrainian-born Jew and a staunch defender of Israel, is the ranking Republican on the Higher Education Committee. Last week, she stole $50,000 in CUNY Law School grants to volunteer in her south Brooklyn district as punishment for the anti-Israel vote.

Ukrainian-born Councilwoman Inna Vernikov speaks during the 2022 NY GOP Convention at the Garden City Hotel in Garden City, NY.
In retaliation for the vote, City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov pulled $50,000 in funding for CUNY Law School to volunteer in her south Brooklyn borough.
Dennis A Clark

The union leader representing CUNY’s professors, the Professional Staff Congress, said it intends to testify at next month’s hearing.

The PSC has infuriated supporters of Israel over the past year for passing a resolution condemning the country for attacks on Palestinians and raising the specter of supporting the BDS movement in the future. Some professors resigned from the union in protest.

PSC President James David, who protested the resolution at the time, said: “Our union is actively opposed to anti-Semitism and believes that political criticism of Israeli policies is not anti-Semitic per se.”

“We fully support the right of our members to make political arguments on issues at home and abroad, including on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian question.”

The city’s private colleges may also be under scrutiny along with CUNY at the hearing.

New York University settled a student’s complaint in 2020 after the school presented an award to Students for Justice in Palestine – an organization repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism. The settlement specifically cited President Trump’s December 2019 executive order that included antisemitism in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

A spokesman for Dinowitz said the city council office is still in the process of confirming witnesses, but the hearing will definitely include representatives from CUNY administration, faculty and students.

A NYU flag flies in front of the college building.
A student filed a complaint against New York University in 2020 after the school presented an award to an organization repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism.
Helayne Seidman

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has raged among faculty and students on a number of campuses at the City University of New York for the past decade.

Students on both sides of the issue claim they have faced bullying and discrimination, and CUNY even commissioned a study of complaints of harassment from Jewish students, although it concluded that much of the offensive language used is protected by free speech is.

CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez was also forced to respond to letters of complaint that CUNY had become a hotbed of anti-Semitism, including one from former longtime trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld.

Federal Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez speaks at an event.
Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said he did not support the law school’s pro-Palestinian vote.
Paul Martinka

“Let me begin by reminding you that I oppose the original student resolution on BDS,” Rodriguez wrote in a May 28 email reply to Wiesenfeld.

“I have also stated that CUNY does not support BDS activities and, to be clear, cannot participate in them and is required to divert public funds from any company that does so,” he added, saying that the movement “Contrasted with a university’s core mission is to introduce students personally and academically to a world that can be vastly different from their own, particularly through international exchange programs, and to encourage them to engage with a range of opinions and beliefs.”

The Chancellor went on to say that he and 12 CUNY college presidents and deans recently participated in a “Scholar Bridge Builder” visit to Israel organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. They visited the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Sapir College and also met with the former Palestinian Minister of Higher Education.

A view of the CUNY School of Law Justice and Auxiliary Service building.
Pro-Palestinian activist Nerdeen Mohsen Kiswani was recently asked to speak at CUNY Law School’s recent graduation ceremony.
Google Maps

Rodriguez, who signed the email with his nickname “Felo,” also addressed outrage at pro-Palestinian activist Nerdeen Mohsen Kiswani, who was asked to speak at CUNY Law School’s recent graduation ceremony, saying she was selected by students, not by the university.

“They speak for themselves, not for the university, and the opinions they express are their own,” Rodriguez wrote.

Wiesenfeld replied, “Felix – would black, Hispanic, or Asian students be allowed to face murder warnings for their ethnic groups?” NYC Council investigates allegations of antisemitism on CUNY campus


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