The City University of New York (CUNY) has been embroiled in controversy over its anti-Semitic agenda in the years 2021 and 2022. Given that CUNY was included in Simon Wiesenthal’s “World Anti-Semitism 2021 Top Ten List,” this year has been particularly turbulent for the university. CUNY has recruited Saly Abd Alla as an investigator to look into the harassment of Jewish teachers in reaction to this upsetting development. Alla, however, has previously worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that advocates for BDS, and was named by the U.S. Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in the funding of Hamas. CAIR was also included in Simon Wiesenthal’s “Global Anti-Semitism 2021 Top Ten List.”
There are a number of troubling issues at CUNY in 2022, including this nomination. Recently, a Palestinian activist who demanded the destruction of Israel delivered the keynote address at the Law School graduation ceremony. Furthermore, after faculty approved a student resolution calling for a boycott of Israel, the New York City Council cut $50K intended for the CUNY Law School. It is simple to draw the conclusion that the climate at CUNY is becoming more hostile towards Jewish faculty members and students in light of all these atrocities.
These efforts at CUNY not only harm Jewish students and teachers but also jeopardize academic freedom and hinder the free discussion of contentious issues. It is quite disturbing that a public university like CUNY would compromise its dedication to promoting inclusiveness and diversity in order to further anti-Semitic goals. If we want our universities to continue to be places where ideas may be exchanged without fear or prejudice, we must address the trend of rising anti-Semitism in higher education institutions.
Given that CUNY has a sizable Jewish student population (about 25%, according to a recent Brandeis University survey) and a long history of progressive activity in support of domestic and international civil rights concerns, the situation there is especially concerning. By openly condemning such language and behavior across the university system and taking concrete efforts to guarantee that comparable events never again take place inside their gates, CUNY must make amends for the past mistakes they have made with regard to anti-Jewish prejudice on campus.
It is undeniable that more work needs to be done by students and faculty to create a more inclusive environment on college campuses across America than what is happening at the moment at CUNY or any other institution nationwide that perpetuates antisemitism through its policies or speakers invited onto its premises. It shouldn’t have taken until 2022 for these issues surrounding anti-Semitism at CUNY to come to light. Fortunately, with continued support from groups like Hillel International and Jewish Voice for Peace, we can make incremental progress toward ensuring that all students, regardless of their religious background, feel safe attending college or any other institution of higher learning within our nation’s borders.