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May 21, 2017 5:04 pm

City College of New York President Apologizes to Top Israeli Diplomat, Launches Investigation Into Shout-Down at Lecture

avatar by Rachel Frommer

Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan. Photo: Facebook.

The interim president of the City College of New York (CCNY) has apologized to a top Israeli diplomat and announced the establishment of a committee to investigate a student disruption at a recent lecture by the official.

On Friday, Vincent Boudreau stated that he had reviewed footage from Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan’s May 11 lecture — during which Dayan was heckled by members of CCNY’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter and others, including the then-incoming student government president Safat Chowdhury — and that he had found Dayan “was not treated respectfully last week by our campus community.”

“In viewing these tapes, I believe that the campus community, and I as its representative, owe the Consul General an apology. He was an invited guest of the college and the representative of his nation and merits respect on both counts. He was not treated respectfully last week by our campus community, and I apologize for that,” wrote Boudreau. He also pledged to take the investigating committee’s findings “on what course of action to pursue, including disciplinary actions, very seriously.”

These comments marked a turn-around from Boudreau’s initial statement following the Dayan incident, in which he spoke in favor of academic freedom, but did not refer to the Consul General by name and described him only as “a well-known advocate of expanding Israeli settlements in the contested territories, a position that generates great opposition and anger among some in our community.”

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Boudreau was subsequently criticized by the leadership of the New York chapter of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for his “portrayal of Ambassador Dayan as a nameless, provocative ideologue.” The ADL wrote that the president’s comments were “not only misleading and dismissive of the ambassador, but may be seen as justifying the lack of civility demonstrated by some students to the Consul General during the question and answer portion of his presentation.”

In a statement to The Algemeiner, Dayan accepted Boudreau’s apology, but insisted that he is “not the important issue here.”

“We must make sure that in CCNY, like in all other academic institutions, pro-Israel students are able to act freely, without intimidation. We need to insist colleges show zero tolerance towards attacks on them, interference with their legitimate activities and, obviously, violence,” said Dayan.

Evan Bernstein, ADL-NY’s regional director who co-wrote the open letter criticizing Boudreau’s “troubling” initial remarks about Dayan, told The Algemeiner that he “appreciate[s]” and was “very pleased” with the interim president’s new comments.

“Of course we wish that the process of getting to this last version did not have to take place. Hopefully now students and the community can build off this and make for a better CCNY campus climate around these types of issues and use it as a learning opportunity,” Bernstein added.

Dayan said, “The intervention of ADL-NY was extremely important and helpful. But the real heroes are the pro-Israel students who, in spite of all the difficulties, keep advocating for the Jewish state.”

The day after Dayan’s appearance, representatives of CCNY’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) — the student group that organized the disrupted program — approached the then-vice president of student affairs, Juana Reina, to file a complaint against Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). According to SSI, Reina informed them that members of SJP had lodged claims the night before charging SSI with silencing them and making them feel unsafe by inviting Dayan to appear on campus.

Reina has since been dismissed, though The Algemeiner has not independently confirmed why she was fired less than a week after the Dayan incident. The Division of Student Affairs did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In a May 18 meeting, Boudreau met with members of SSI and SJP, as well as other campus leaders, in an attempt to start healing the campus community, according to SSI.

In another development on Friday, Boudreau cancelled the results of the recent student government elections, citing “myriad election code violations, the failure to post candidate information on a timely or accurate basis [and] allegations of voter intimidation on both sides.”

The disruptive actions of Chowdhury, the now-former incoming president of student government, at the Dayan event are expected to be under consideration in CCNY’s investigation.

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