April 10, 2023 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) said the Chancellor of the City University of New York must send a “strong, unequivocal message” that antisemitic bias would not be tolerated after two Jewish faculty members were allegedly retaliated against when they complained about an exhibit with anti-Jewish content.
The two math professors at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) were subjected to defamatory online reviews that falsely accused them of racist discrimination towards Muslim and Palestinian students.
In a letter to Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez, AJC Director of Academic Affairs Sara Coodin said CUNY risked being seen as “weaponizing” diversity and equity initiatives against groups it is designed to protect.
“We at AJC are deeply concerned about the message this sends that at CUNY, Jews are excluded from the protections afforded to other minority groups; or that they are simply expected to endure bias, discrimination, and persecution without recourse,” Coodin wrote.
The professors had complained about a recent exhibit at BMCC that featured antisemitic content and also offered students the opportunity to earn course credit by watching a film with antisemitic content. Both were sponsored by the college’s Social Justice and Equity Center.
The center was contacted by the professors, who objected to the content and suggested more balanced programming about the Middle East. Within a day, however, negative reviews of the professors appeared on the website ratemyprofessors.com, which Coodin wrote indicated the center likely leaked what was supposed to be confidential communication.
“If CUNY faculty, students and staff cannot report incidents of bias without fear of retaliation,” Coodin wrote, “CUNY is not a place where minorities are safe to pursue their education.”
In January, CUNY launched an online portal for students and faculty to report bias and hate incidents, including antisemitism. CUNY also distributed $600,000 to 24 CUNY colleges for programs, training, and events to address antisemitism and other forms of bias and $150,000 to support campus climate work, including a campus climate survey at BMCC to assess strengths and weaknesses in diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
Coodin told Matos Rodriguez CUNY needs to enforce those programs, especially when BMCC “appears to be operating outside every legal and moral norm” without consequence.
“It is crucial that the CUNY administration communicate a strong, unequivocal message to the members of its community that its schools are not places where antisemitic bias is tolerated and that complaints about antisemitism are handled with seriousness and integrity,” Coodin wrote.