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August 2, 2022 2:11 pm
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New York City Council Member Urges NY Governor to Address ‘Hostile Climate’ for Jewish CUNY Students

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

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

New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov issued a letter to New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Monday urging her administration to address “pervasive” antisemitism at the City University of New York (CUNY).

The letter, signed by leading US Jewish groups, comes amid ongoing complaints of antisemitism at the public university system.

“Jewish New Yorkers, students, and faculty alike have endured an increasingly hostile climate that undermines the notion that campuses are diverse and inclusive spaces,” Vernikov wrote.

Vernikov urged Hochul to push CUNY to commit to a host of reforms, including adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism — which the governor endorsed in June — creating new cultural sensitivity programs, and hiring a diversity officer who works exclusively with victims of antisemitism.

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The Brooklyn Republican asked that CUNY pledge to maintain its academic exchange programs with Israeli universities, following a call in May by CUNY law school faculty to terminate them.

Vernikov also noted that she had recently met with CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez, who had come under fire for missing a June City Council hearing on the antisemitism complaints.

“While we are pleased that the meeting with the Chancellor was productive, this does not change the reality of a hostile climate at CUNY overnight,” Vernikov added.

Calls for action on antisemitism at CUNY from faculty, staff, and students grew louder last June, after the school’s faculty union passed, during hostilities between Israel and Hamas, a resolution supporting the Israel boycott movement and accusing the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing and “apartheid.”

In July, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) filed a Title VI complaint with the US Department of Education alleging that it has intentionally ignored “a sustained pattern of antisemitism.”

The complaint detailed a number of alleged incidents at CUNY going as far back as 2013, including Jewish faculty and students having their property vandalized, receiving threats and verbal abuse, and being held responsible for actions of the Israeli government.

In February, the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched a investigation into additional antisemitism complaints at Brooklyn College, part of the CUNY system.

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