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July 5, 2022 11:08 am

Why CUNY Law School Is Heading Towards a New McCarthyism

avatar by Lisa Y. Rubin


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

My name is Lisa Y. Rubin, and I am completing my second year as an evening student at CUNY Law School. I am honored to attend the law school — whose goal is to be of public service — and the university, whose goals include equality of opportunity for all.

However, I am also deeply troubled that some recent developments at the school threaten these goals. These developments include the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel — as sponsored by its student government and ratified by its Faculty Council. This resolution — if implemented — would harm more than just the many current and prospective members of the school’s Jewish and pro-Israel community. It would also set a harmful precedent that weakens the protection of the First Amendment and academic freedom on this, as well as on other, CUNY campuses.

This is especially true at our school, where members of the student government and Faculty Council also have seats on committees that make decisions on the school’s personnel, admissions, and other official matters.

Please note that I do not claim to speak for the entire Jewish community of the school. However, I will address how the BDS resolution has affected me.

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As a Jewish student who believes in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, but also as a member of a family that fought against government suppression in the US, I was shaken when I realized the resolution’s incredibly broad sweep. Was this a nightmare, or was I seeing a form of creeping McCarthyism — albeit one wrapped in the cloth of what is now labeled anti-Zionism?

After all, if the resolution is implemented as is, it will harm current and prospective students, faculty, and staff members and contractors who are or who are perceived as being Jewish, pro-Israel, or have ties to Israeli universities and businesses. The rights of students to participate in on-campus clubs with similarly suspected ties could also be jeopardized.

In the 1940s and 1950s, faculty and staff members and students were dismissed from universities, based on a suspicion that they were or had links — however tenuous — to those that were or were perceived as being Communists, or had links to links to links to those who might be Communists.

Now, at the law school — where the focus is purportedly on anti-Zionism — the BDS resolution would become a new form of McCarthyism. Just substitute the word “Zionism” for “Communism.”

To protect the freedoms and rights that we all cherish in this Nation, this State, this city, this university, and at this school, the student government and Faculty Council should reconsider the BDS resolution, as it is currently framed. They need to ensure the enhancement — not a reduction — of the constitutional and academic freedom rights of all concerned.

Our school’s motto is “Law in the Service of Human Needs.” To the student government and Faculty Council, I say that all human beings in or at the doorway of this school need to be treated as equal under all, including your laws.

Lisa Y. Rubin is completing her second year at CUNY School of Law’s Part-Time Evening Program.

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