Former Special War Crimes Prosecutor for the US Dept. of Justice Neal Sher and CUNY trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld are holding a press conference today calling on Brooklyn College to adopt new policy changes in light of recent events surrounding a BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) event aimed at Israel in which four Jewish students complained of being unfairly singled out and then removed from the audience.
Recent audio released by The Algemeiner appears to contradict original claims by Brooklyn College officials that the students were being disruptive throughout the first speaker’s address. The incident is especially egregious taking into account that the school’s Political Science Department co-sponsored the event.
Sher said he plans on calling on the Justice Department to open an investigation into the school’s conduct if it is unwilling to take responsibility and address the issues that led to the students’ eviction.
“It seems rather clear that school officials simply didn’t tell the truth about what happened,” says Sher.”It seems to me the students were unfairly removed from the event and when a stink was raised they just made up a story,” he added.
“Federal civil rights law, under Title VI, gives Jewish students the right to be free of a hostile environment and here you have a case where a university’s actions created a hostile environment. If there’s student harassment of Jews you have to take action.”
A Brooklyn College spokesman told The Algemeiner Wednesday that the audio file had been given to investigators and would be used as part of an inquiry the school has launched. The spokesperson declined to comment further.
Wiesenfeld insists that institutional change needs to be made, and went beyond the incident of the students being evicted, making the assertion that laws were broken just by having the Political Science Department co-sponsor the event.
“This was not an academic pursuit–it’s propaganda–which is actually prohibited in universities. The American Association of University Professors has standards that have been in force since 1916 that say professors may not proselytize, they must give two sides of an issue, and they are to spur academic discussion and research–that’s being violated,” he said.
Wiesenfeld believes there are two major changes that need to be addressed. “Look at groups who are not poised to engage in debate, conversation, reason, and true discussion, but are looking to proselytize by force, and have a record of doing so and have exclusionary tactics should not be invited on campus. And secondly amend the bylaws of the state university by the legislature and signed by the governor where the department chairs will be chosen by the president of the college” instead of by the professors.
Wiesenfeld says that part of the problem is pro-Israel academics feel threatened in liberal arts environments and top-down governance would provide a more balanced faculty. “What you have now is the inmates running the prison,” he says.
Alan Dershowitz was at the center of the battle against the BDS event and says that the school has its work cut out for it. “There will be a lot of tests coming up. One test will be whether the Political Science Department will be willing to sponsor the right wing of opinion relating to Israel. For example: would they sponsor Naftali Bennett or the Zionist Organization of America? There’s going to be tests to prove whether they’re really neutral, to see if they pass the “shoe on the other foot” test. And I think there’s going to be blisters,” he said.