Brooklyn College: Students Afraid to Speak Up and Express Pro-Israel Views
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April 30, 2013

The ZOA has been working with Jewish and pro-Israel students at Brooklyn College to address problems they have been facing on campus.  In February, four Jewish students were ousted, without justification, from an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions event.  Over the objections of many in the college community, this one-sided Israel-bashing event was co-sponsored by the political science department, giving the event legitimacy it did not deserve.

 The campus problems run deeper than this event alone.  Students report that the political science department is hostile to Israel, causing some students to drop or stay away from certain courses they would otherwise be interested in taking.  Some students say that in some courses, they are afraid to speak up and express pro-Israel views.

 The situation is unacceptable.  Here is the latest in the ZOA’s ongoing efforts to remedy the campus problems:

 

April 25, 2013

 

BY E-MAIL AND FIRST-CLASS MAIL

 

Dr. Matthew Goldstein

Chancellor, The City University of New York

53 East 80th Street

New York, NY  10075

 

Dr. Karen L. Gould

President, Brooklyn College

3239 Boylan Hall

Brooklyn, NY  11210

 

            Re:  Hostile Environment for Jewish and Pro-Israel Students at Brooklyn College

 

Dear Chancellor Goldstein and President Gould:

 We write again to express our concern about Brooklyn College’s continuing failure to respond to problems that Jewish students are facing on campus.

 First, we are troubled by the findings and conclusions in the investigative report you commissioned, after Jewish students were denied access to an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) event at Brooklyn College in February, and four Jewish students were wrongly ousted from the event.  The report could not be clearer, confirming that “there was no justification for the removal of the four students.  They did not create a ‘disturbance.’”  The report also confirms there were a number of public safety officers, administrators, faculty, and members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) – the student group behind this Israel-bashing event – who were present.  And, the report confirms that not a single one of these individuals intervened when Carlos Guzman – a complete outsider without any affiliation with Brooklyn College – made the unwarranted and wrong decision to oust the four Jewish students, at least one of whom was a known vocal pro-Israel advocate, and two of whom were wearing yarmulkes.

 As counsel for three of the students wrote to you last week, “the report ignores the obvious discriminatory motives behind the expulsion and fails to hold accountable the individuals and groups who were responsible for the incident.”  The report does not recommend disciplining any of the wrongdoers.  It does not even recommend that Brooklyn College issue a public apology to the four Jewish students whose rights were violated, and to the rest of the Jewish campus community who were also harmed by the wrongs that were committed by the college and others.

Second, we are troubled by Brooklyn College’s response to the investigative report.  On April 16, 2013, President Gould sent an e-mail to the campus community, announcing the release of the report and how the college would be responding to it.

 Quite frankly, the e-mail is weak and vague, committing only to at some point implementing new policies and procedures for public events on campus.  There is no indication that the college intends to hold any of the wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct, even though the investigative report is clear that members of the SJP, administrators and other college employees stood by and permitted the violation of four Jewish students’ rights without even questioning what was happening.  Even President Gould’s characterization of what occurred at the BDS event is weak and offensive:  Her e-mail states that the four students “were not permitted to remain at the event.”  In truth, they were forced to leave, for no other reason than they were Jews who support Israel. 

 The report, and Brooklyn College’s response to it, is sending a wrong and harmful message to the entire campus community – that when it comes to offenses and injustices committed against Jewish and pro-Israel students at Brooklyn College, the wrongdoers  will get a pass and will not be held accountable.  We are certain that if African American or Hispanic students were targeted and victimized, Brooklyn College would ensure (rightly so) that the wrongdoers were appropriately disciplined. 

 Brooklyn College must do far more to remedy the harm it has helped to cause, not just to the four ousted Jewish students, but also to the rest of the Jewish campus community.  In addition to taking all appropriate steps to preventing such an anti-Semitic debacle from occurring ever again, the college must (1) publicly acknowledge all the wrongs that were committed and by whom, (2) publicly take responsibility for them, (3) publicly apologize to the four Jewish students by name and to the rest of the Jewish campus community, and (4) publicly commit to holding all the wrongdoers – including the SJP, administrators and other college employees – fully accountable for their misconduct.  Serious disciplinary action is appropriate and necessary. 

 Finally, we are troubled by how Brooklyn College is responding to the problems we have been raising about the hostile environment in the political science department for Jewish and pro-Israel students.   In two letters we sent to President Gould in February, we described the problems in detail, as reported to us by students.  We also suggested reasonable and doable solutions.

 Attorney Pamela J. Pollack responded to both letters on behalf of President Gould.  Her response to the concerns we raised could not have been more dismissive and insulting.  She failed even to acknowledge that problems in the political science department exist.

 The ZOA followed up with a letter to Ms. Pollack, reasonably requesting that she respond to us within one month.  It is now almost seven weeks since we wrote to Ms. Pollack, and neither she nor anyone else on behalf of Brooklyn College has even had the courtesy to reply.  The College’s indifference to the problems that Jewish and pro-Israel students have been facing in their political science classes exacerbates the hostility and marginalization that students are already experiencing on the campus. 

 We urge you to commit to addressing the problems we have now repeatedly raised, without further delay.  Once again, we offer our assistance in devising and implementing solutions that will restore Brooklyn College’s reputation as a school that is welcoming to Jewish and pro-Israel students. 

 Very truly yours,

 

Morton A. Klein, National President                                             

 

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director, Center for Law and Justice

 

cc:    Brooklyn College Board of Directors

         Board of Trustees, Brooklyn College Foundation

         Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

         Mr. Abraham H. Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League

         Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder, Simon Wiesenthal Center

         New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind

         Mr. Irwin Hochberg, Vice Chairman, Zionist Organization of America

         Mr. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major

           American Jewish Organizations

         Mr. and Mrs. Ira Rennert

         Mr. Richard B. Stone, Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish

           Organizations

         Board of Directors, Zionist Organization of America

         Board of Advisors, ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice

 

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