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May 30, 2022 2:03 pm

Funds Cut From City Program for CUNY Law After Faculty Backs Israel Boycott

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

CUNY School of Law in New York City. Photo: Evulaj90 / Wikimedia Commons.

Fifty-thousand dollars in funding for the City University of New York (CUNY) Law School were reappropriated after its faculty endorsed a student measure backing the campaign to boycott Israel, the New York Post reported on Friday.

The step was taken by New York City Council member for the 48th District, Inna Vernikov, who revealed she had pulled funds designated for the university to offer legal services in her district, and redirected them to a legal nonprofit.

“It seems as if antisemitism is the only politically acceptable form of racism which exists. We must stop handing out free passes to antisemites like candy,” Vernikov, a Jew and native of Ukraine, told the Post.

“During a time when antisemitic hate crimes are up by 300%, it is incumbent upon our academic institutions to do everything in their power to protect their Jewish and pro-Israel students, not pass resolutions which directly place them in harm’s way,” the Brooklyn council member said.

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Earlier this month, the CUNY Law faculty endorsed a student government resolution passed last year that condemned Hillel and other student organizations for supporting the Jewish state, and charged that the school’s partnerships with Israeli academic institutions made it “complicit” in alleged war crimes committed by Israel.

After its passage in December, the measure was rejected by Jewish groups, as well as CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez, who called an academic boycott “contrary to a university’s core mission to expose students personally and academically to a world that can be vastly different to their own.”

It was supported by CUNY Law Students for Justice in Palestine, CUNY Law Jewish Student Law Association and more than 20 other student organizations, and described CUNY’s exchange programs with Haifa University and Tel Aviv University as “a form of propaganda” that “normalize settler colonial and apartheid rule.”

The law faculty endorsed the measure on May 12, in a decision that the Jewish Law Students Association called a “historic” victory.

Miriam Elman, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), told The Algemeiner at the time that such a boycott would harm Israeli and Palestinian students and scholars alike, and “deprive educational opportunities for CUNY students at some of the world’s best universities.”

On Friday, Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (S.A.F.E), a campus group fighting against the “exclusion” of Jews and Zionists on campus, welcomed Vernikov’s decision, calling the BDS measure “blatantly discriminatory, bigoted and antisemitic.”

The CUNY School of Law did not immediately respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

In a statement Monday, Chancellor Rodríguez reiterated the university’s opposition to BDS activities, noting that it is required to divest public funds from companies that engage in them, and rejected calls to end academic partnerships with Israeli institutions.

“We understand that opinions of a political nature can create tension when members of our community stand on conflicting sides of polarizing issues and causes that are undergirded by deeply held convictions,” Rodríguez said. “We believe the best way to counter the resulting discord is to expand upon the work we do across our campuses to encourage scholarship, dialogue, tolerance and civil engagement that fosters understanding and a way forward.”

This story has been updated

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