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December 13, 2021 5:07 pm

CUNY Chancellor Rejects Law Student Call to End Academic Ties With Israel

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

CUNY School of Law in New York City//WikiCommons

City University of New York Chancellor Matos Rodriguez called for “dialogue, tolerance, and civil engagement” in response to a recent resolution passed by the law school’s student government seeking an end to cooperation with Israeli universities and castigating several Jewish and pro-Israel groups on campus.

Passed on Dec. 2, the Law Student Government Association (LSGA) resolution said that CUNY Law School’s collaboration with Israeli researchers and institutions made it “complicit” in alleged war crimes committed by Israel, and condemned Hillel, Bulldogs for Israel, and other student organizations at CUNY for their support of the Jewish state.

“To be clear, CUNY cannot participate in or support BDS activities and is required to divest public funds from any companies that do,” Rodriguez said Friday, citing New York state policy. “The resolution also states that CUNY and the CUNY School of Law are complicit in censoring Palestinian solidarity organizations and in committing war crimes against the Palestinian people, a characterization that we completely reject.”

“It also calls on the University to end all academic exchange programs with Israel which is contrary to a university’s core mission to expose students personally and academically to a world that can be vastly different to their own, particularly through international exchange programs,” he continued.

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“Now more than ever, I believe it is incumbent on all of us, especially those of us in higher education, to promote tolerance and civic engagement, and to commit ourselves to coming together, hard as it may often seem, to forge mutual understanding as members of this widely diverse university community,” Rodriguez said.

The chancellor also noted the work of the Center for Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Understanding at Queens College and the presence of organizations supporting CUNY students from a variety of backgrounds, including Jewish students, though he did not explicitly address the boycott resolution’s criticism of pro-Israel campus groups.

The Law School student resolution said that “organizations across CUNY”  — naming Hillel, Camera, StandWithUS, Bulldogs for Israel, Students Supporting Israel and several other groups — were engaged in the “surveillance, intimidation, harassment of Palestine solidarity activists on campuses.”

It drew fire from Jewish groups and a group of CUNY faculty for calling on the school to “cut all ties with organizations that repress Palestinian organizing.”

The LSGA resolution launched “a wholesale offensive maligning and attacking of Jewish student groups and programs as well as faculty research and collaborations with a host of universities and corporations,” the CUNY Alliance for Inclusion (CAFI) said last week.

Rodriguez’s response was welcomed in a Tuesday statement jointly issued by the Anti-Defamation League NY/NJ, the Jewish Community Relations Council-NY, StandWithUs, and the UJA Federation of New York, as well as Hillel chapters at Baruch College, Brooklyn College, the College of Staten Island, Hunter College, and Queens College.

After being “deeply concerned” by the law student resolution, the groups thanked the CUNY chancellor for making it clear that the measure did not represent the views of the university.

“We also laud the Chancellor for rejecting both BDS and a call to end academic exchange programs with Israel,” the joint statement said. “He also emphasizes that a pluralistic, diverse and accepting CUNY is the priority of the administration and the university’s bedrock value.”

Editor’s note: this article was updated with Tuesday’s joint statement by Jewish groups

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