The CUNY Talks and Panels Christine Quinn Supported When She Wasn’t Running for Mayor

City Council Speaker—and leading mayoral candidate—Christine Quinn is one of the signatories to that “other” letter about the Brooklyn College BDS panel from the “progressive” government officials and politicians.

In that letter, Quinn and four members of Congress, Bill de Blasio, and many more, call upon my department to rescind our co-sponsorship of the BDS panel at Brooklyn College because, well, read it for yourself:

We are, however, concerned that  an academic department has decided to formally endorse an event that advocates strongly for one side of a highly-charged issue,  and has rejected legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to simultaneously present an alternative view.  By excluding alternative positions from an event they are sponsoring, the Political Science Department has actually stifled free speech by preventing honest, open debate.  Brooklyn College must stand firmly against this thwarting of academic freedom.

(Set aside the fact that the department is not excluding anyone since we did not initiate, conceive, organize or plan this event. Also set aside the fact that we did not reject legitimate offers from prominent individuals willing to present alternative views because we were never asked to do so, and even if we had been, we would have been in no position to reject those offers. Because we did not initiate, conceive,…you get the idea.)

No, here’s what’s interesting about Quinn’s signature.

For many years when she was a member of the City Council, Quinn and her office financially supported—to the tune of roughly $4,000 a year—the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at the CUNY Graduate Center. The money, according to one representative request letter from CLAGS that I have seen (from 2004), was supposed to fund publicity and outreach for CLAGS talks, panels, and events.

Talks like this one (see p. 13 of this newsletter): “Unzipping the Monster Dick: Deconstructing Ableist Penile Representations in Two Ethnic Homoerotic Magazines.”

Or this talk from February of that same year (see p. 12). Well, it had no title, but it was given by one Judith Butler, who will be speaking at the BDS event and whose views on Israel/Palestine and BDS—like her views on gender, free speech, and so much else—have aroused such controversy.

(See p. 22 for Quinn’s name under a list of “foundation and institutional supporters.”)

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s terrific that Christine Quinn used her office and its monies to support talks like those that are sponsored (and not just co-sponsored!) by CLAGS.

I just wonder how she can criticize my department’s co-sponsorship of a panel (to which we donated no money at all)—however one-sided that panel may be (and check out the CLAGS talks in that newsletter; not much balance there!)—when she actually used the city’s money to subsidize and promote talks at CUNY that were sponsored not by student groups but by an official university program and that were equally controversial and “divisive,” that excluded alternative positions, and that advocated strongly for one side of an issue.

Given her own history of supporting, not just with her name but with her office’s dollars, such official CUNY programming, I think she should rescind her name from that letter.

I urge all of you to write or call her office and ask her to do so immediately. Her office phone numbers are (212) 564-7757 and (212) 788-7210; you can email her here.


  1. neffer February 5, 2013 at 11:53 pm | #

    Why, Professor, is it wise – not legal, but wise – for the Political Science department to sponsor an event by, to be polite, a group which does not educate but, rather, employs propaganda to advance its cause? How is this in the interest of the educational mission of your school?

    Taking the less charitable view, how it is wise – again, not legal, but wise – for the Political Science department to bring in a group which uses Antisemitic agitation to advance its political agenda? How it is in the interest of the educational mission of your school?

    This is not an issue of opposition to the school having a pro-Arab point of view presented. It is opposition to having a group which advocates by means of demonizing people to advance its cause. What Professor Dershowitz has shown is that your school lacks even the most minimal judgment to know the difference between debate and propaganda. And, he has successfully reinforced his ideas to the educated public which does not live in the educational bubble. So, by the standards that matter in the Arab Israeli dispute, he already won, which is why he has been sitting back to watch your school take the position of the scoundrel: appealing to patriotism, the very last refuge of a scoundrel.

    As the public sees this dispute, you are defending, on the group of defending free speech, the right to have a hate group advocate silence opinions people – boycotting them, the very opposite of what education is. Do you realize how stupid you look here? I know that, technically, a boycott is not the same as censorship but, frankly, it is a distinction that does not make a difference, from the practical point of view that informs normal educated opinion. Do you realize how shameful Prof. Dershowitz has made Brooklyn College and its Political Science department look? Which is to say, you may win a technical victory – where you will get that frisson of listening to someone call Jews “Nazis” – but, in fact, you are turning the public against your cause.

    Again, do you realize how stupid you are making yourself look?

    • poeticweather February 6, 2013 at 12:22 am | #

      If you want help composing essays or blog comments, I can’t help. Just email me at rcdaley at gmail dot com and I”ll suggest how you might make more meaningful and clear contributions to discussion on the web.

    • anonymous February 6, 2013 at 10:09 am | #

      “Taking the less charitable view, how it is wise – again, not legal, but wise – for the Political Science department to bring in a group which uses Antisemitic agitation to advance its political agenda?”

      Yawn. Another Israeli-firster who thinks attacks on apartheid are anti-Semitic

Comments are closed.