Phi Beta Cons

CUNY vs. Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner being the playwright of Angels in America fame:

In a rare move, the trustees of the City University of New York have voted to shelve an honorary degree that one of its campuses, John Jay College, planned to award to Tony Kushnerthe Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Angels in America.” The vote on Monday evening came after a CUNY trustee said that Mr. Kushner had disparaged the State of Israel in past comments, a characterization that the writer attacked on Wednesday.


Amid calls from CUNY faculty and staff members for the board to reverse its decision, Mr. Kushner said in an interview that he believed the trustees had slandered him and owed him an apology. Even if the board was to reconsider and approve the degree, Mr. Kushner said, he would not accept it.

According to a podcast of the Monday meeting and accounts from two CUNY officials who attended it, one of the 12 trustees present, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, objected to John Jay College’s submission of Mr. Kushner for an honorary degree. Mr. Wiesenfeld described viewpoints and comments, which he ascribed to Mr. Kushner, that he had found on the Web site of Norman Finkelstein, a political scientist and critic of Israel.

Mr. Wiesenfeld, an investment adviser and onetime aide to former Gov. George E. Pataki and former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, said that Mr. Kushner had tied the founding of Israel to a policy of ethnic cleansing, criticized the Israel Defense Forces and supported a boycott of Israel.

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