Anti-Semitism at CUNY? At Brooklyn College? In the Department of Political Science?

Last spring, in response to claims and complaints of several pro-Israel groups, CUNY hired two attorneys, a former federal judge and former federal prosecutor, to investigate alleged anti-Semitism at CUNY. After six months of investigation—and God knows how many billable hours (partners at the firm where the two investigators work charge up to $1,000 an hour)—the investigators have issued their report. Among their findings: what anti-Semitism there is at CUNY (and some of the incidents documented here are genuinely anti-Semitic) has nothing to do with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Given that accusations against SJP were the main impetus for the complaint—the Zionist Organization of America, along with 35 New York elected officials, called for SJP to be suspended or banned from all CUNY […]

Positions Available at Brooklyn College

The Department of Political Science at Brooklyn College is looking for an instructor or instructors to teach the following two courses: POLS 1005: Guns, Money, and Politics: Introduction to American Government. 4 credits. M, W, 9:05-10:45. POLS 3410: Radical Political Thought. 3 credits. M, W, 11-12:15 Both classes are capped at 25. If you are interested in either or both of these positions, please contact Corey Robin, crobin@brooklyn.cuny.edu, right away, as the first class meets in ten days, on Monday, August 29. Please share this announcement widely.

Respect for Three Administrators at Brooklyn College

I spend virtually all of my time here bashing CUNY administrators, so I feel it incumbent upon me to acknowledge their contributions when they come. As it happens, this year Brooklyn College is going to be losing three administrators whom I’ve come to have a great deal of respect for: Karen Gould, our president; Natalie Mason-Kinsey, our Director of Diversity and Equity Programs; and Mel Pipe, our Acting Assistant Provost. I’ve known Mel as both a fellow member of the faculty—she was professor and chair of psychology—and as the Acting Assistant Provost. What I really appreciated about her was her steadfast dedication to excellence and professionalism. Over the years, Mel has set a high standard of expectations for other chairs like […]

Steven Salaita at Brooklyn College

Steven Salaita and Katherine Franke spoke at Brooklyn College tonight; I moderated the discussion. Three quick comments. First, the event happened. We had an actual conversation about Israel/Palestine, BDS, Zionism, nationalism, academic freedom, civility. Students offered opposing views, tough questions were posed, thoughtful answers were proffered, multiple voices were heard, there was argument, there was reason, there was frustration, there was difficulty, there was dialogue, there was speechifying, there was back-and-forth. There was a college. Going into the event, the usual voices mobilized against it. Politicians tried to shut it down. Alan Dershowitz complained he wasn’t invited. I told him to calm down: “In all the years that Professor Dershowitz was a professor at Harvard Law School, he and his […]

A Palestinian Exception…at Brooklyn College

Next week, I’m proud to announce, the political science department at Brooklyn College, of which I am chair, will be co-sponsoring two events. The first, which is being put on by the Wolfe Institute of the Humanities at Brooklyn College, is a talk by Nation columnist, poet, and essayist Katha Pollitt. Katha has just published a book called Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, and that is the title of the talk she will be giving next Tuesday, November 18, at 2:25 (yes, 2:25), in Woody Tanger Auditorium at Brooklyn College. The second, which is being put on by the Students for Justice in Palestine at Brooklyn College, is a conversation between Steven Salaita, who needs no introduction on this blog, and Columbia […]

Adjunct Positions at Brooklyn College

Now that I’m chair of the political science department, I have the dubious privilege of hiring adjunct instructors to teach some of our courses. I say dubious privilege because the use and abuse of adjuncts in higher education, especially at CUNY, is a scandal. In our department, we do our best to make it not such a scandal–our classes are small, we push for the highest rates possible, we try to minimize uncertainty — but that’s just putting lipstick on a pig. Anyway, here are the positions that we have available in political science. Undergraduate Courses 1. The American Presidency, Thursday, 6:05-8:35 pm 2. The Politics of Incarceration, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:40-5:20 3. Moot Court, Friday, 9:30-12 pm 4. Writing […]

Two-Year Visiting Professor Position at Brooklyn College

The political science department at Brooklyn College, of which I am chair, has initiated a search for our Belle Zeller Visiting Professor, which is a two-year position in the department. Previous holders of the Belle Zeller chair include awarding filmmaker Stanley Nelson, noted historian Genna Rae McNeil, and prominent journalists such as Gary Younge, Juan Gonzalez, and Liza Featherstone, who is our current Belle Zeller chair. We are looking for a nationally recognized scholar, journalist, writer and/or practitioner in one or more of the following fields: labor, education, health, urban politics, environment, criminal justice, racial equality, national security, immigration, and gender and LGBTQ justice. Review of applications to begin January 15, 2015 and will continue until the position is filled. […]

More News on Charges Involving Brooklyn College Worker Education Center

The New York Times today has a lengthy article on the corruption charges associated with the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education, about which I blogged twice last summer. While my posts focused on the academic side of things and only briefly mentioned the charges of financial corruption, the Times piece focuses exclusively on the latter, in great detail. These charges include: more than $200,000 that are alleged to have been taken over a two-year period by the former director of the Center; personal enrichment through misuse of grant monies that were intended for students of color; misuse of university funds to purchase items for apparent personal use, including a television purchased “on or about Christmas Eve” and school books […]

More Information on Brooklyn College Worker Ed Center

David Laibman, a professor emeritus of economics at Brooklyn College, has been circulating a critical response to my post about the Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education. I’d prefer not to get into the weeds of his various allegations; as he admits several times, he has no knowledge of most of the facts and events that led the Brooklyn College administration and the New York State Attorney General’s office to take the actions they have taken. But Professor Laibman does make two claims that merit a response: I have personal knowledge about the vicious and irresponsible behavior of the Department, in summarily firing the former Director of the CWE, and his secretary, and depriving the faculty and students, in […]

Please do not sign Brooklyn College Worker Ed Petition

A petition titled “Save Brooklyn College Graduate Center for Worker Education” is currently being circulated on the internet. As the interim director of that center, a former union organizer, a vocal advocate of labor rights, and a firm believer in worker education, I am asking people NOT to sign this petition. By way of background, the Graduate Center for Worker Education (GCWE) was historically run by a small group of faculty in my department (political science). In 2011, the department elected a new chair and a new executive committee, including myself. We discovered that the GCWE was suffering from severely compromised academic standards. We also found evidence of financial wrongdoing. The Brooklyn College administration took immediate action and removed the […]

Jumaane Williams and the Brooklyn College BDS Controversy Revisited

There’s a long profile of NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams in BKLYNR, a new Brooklyn-based magazine, by Eli Rosenberg. It’s a fascinating read of a fascinating politician, who played a less than fascinating role during the Brooklyn College BDS controversy. Williams is a former student of mine, and he and I wound up in a heated Twitter argument about his role. In his piece, Rosenberg discusses the Williams and the BDS controversy at length. You should read the whole article, but I’m excerpting the BDS part here: The perils of navigating the dual worlds of politics and activism were resoundingly clear earlier this year. Two leaders of a movement critical of Israel — pioneering gender theorist and activist Judith Butler and […]

Who Really Supports Hate Speech at Brooklyn College?

In all the back and forth on academic freedom, on the procedural ins and outs of sponsorship and co-sponsorship, endorsement and balance, one issue never really got taken up on this blog or in the public conversation: the question of hate speech. The critics of my department never ceased to call BDS proponents (and by implication, and sometimes not even implication, my department) anti-Semitic and the BDS position “hate speech.” I think the claim is risible, and I won’t even bother refuting it here: I’d merely ask anyone who’s read Judith Butler’s remarks or listened to Omar Barghouti’s talk (I haven’t yet seen a transcript or a video of his talk, but here’s a video of virtually an identical talk […]

Tonight at Brooklyn College

“What does one do with one’s words but reach for a place beyond war?” So said Judith Butler tonight at Brooklyn College, in one of the most moving statements of the evening. Three quick observations from the event. First, all predictions to the contrary, the republic, the Jewish people, and Brooklyn College survived. Second, Butler and Barghouti both—but really Butler in particular—evinced a genuine sense of place in their remarks. Butler clearly had spent the week thinking about this controversy. She drilled down and spoke directly to it, using it as an opportunity to reflect upon words and their power—an old theme for Butler, but given a new cast and urgency by the events leading up to tonight’s talk. Third, […]

The Question of Palestine at Brooklyn College, Then and Now

In 1942, Brooklyn College hired a young instructor to teach a summer course on Modern European history. Though academically trained, the instructor was primarily known as the author of a series of incendiary articles in the Jewish press on Jewish politics and Zionism. An active though ambivalent Zionist, the instructor did not shy from scorching criticism of the movement for Jewish settlement in Palestine. She had already come to some unsettling conclusions in private. In an unpublished essay, she compared the Zionists to the Nazis, arguing that both movements assumed that the Jews were “totally foreign” to other peoples based on their “inalterable substance.” She wrote in a letter that she found “this territorial experiment” of the Jews in Palestine […]

Keith Gessen, Joan Scott, and others weigh in on Brooklyn College controversy

My department at Brooklyn College—political science—is Ground Zero of a controversy over Israel/Palestine, academic freedom, and free speech. Early in January, we were asked by a student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, to co-sponsor a panel discussion on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). The panel features Omar Barghouti and world-renowned philosopher Judith Butler. We agreed to co-sponsor. Since then, things have exploded. The usual suspects—people like Alan Dershowitz and Dov Hikind—have weighed in; we’re being called anti-Semites, comparisons to the Holocaust are being made, and I got this lovely bit of hate mail: “Just writing to wish you and your family the worst…You are being a piece of f*cking trash, and you’re on the side of the […]

On Sentimentality and College

One of the issues this whole fracas over Woodrow Wilson and Princeton brings up for me is just how sentimental we can be about college campuses and education. To listen to the critics of these Princeton students, you would think that until these students came along, there was a vital discussion happening on the college quad. On any given afternoon, undergraduates, in groups of four or five, would look up through the fall leaves and see Wilson’s name on one building, Nassau’s name on another, Firestone’s name (yes, that Firestone) on a third, and ask, wondrously, why is this building named after Wilson, Nassau, Firestone? Who were these men, what did they do, why should we be honoring them in this way? Then along […]

Brooklyn BDS Saga Continues: NYC Councilman Lewis Fidler Demands Poli Sci Hire Pro-Israel Faculty

New York City Councilman Lewis Fidler, the assistant majority leader who led the charge against my department’s co-sponsorship of a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) forum in February, is back in the saddle. This time, according to The Jewish Week, he—and four other members of City Council—are demanding that the CUNY administration develop a plan to “level the playing field” at Brooklyn’s political science department by endowing “a chair in the department for a visiting professor from Israel who reflects a more sympathetic view” about the country’s future. Hardcore supporters of the State of Israel, off and on campus, have been gunning for my department for some time. Last month, The Jewish Week reported that the campus Hillel group and the […]

Educate a Straussian: Support the Workers at Pomona College

Last month, I debated Mark Blitz, a Straussian neocon and former Reagan Administration official, and now professor of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, about the politics of freedom. Throughout the debate, Blitz expressed some skepticism about my account of coercion in the workplace. At one slightly tense moment, I confronted Blitz directly about the situation of the workers at his college (1:08:35 in the video). Robin: Let me ask you another question. You teach at Claremont McKenna College. Are the staff there—and by that I mean the custodial workers, the clerical workers—are they unionized? Blitz: I would say that most people who are familiar with colleges everywhere recognize that they’re good places to work. They’re very good places to […]

CUNY, Corona, and Communism

The coronavirus has hit CUNY, where I teach, hard: more than 20 deaths of students, faculty, and staff, and counting. Yet the impact of the virus on CUNY has received almost no press coverage at all. At the same time, the media continues to focus its higher education coverage, during the coronavirus, where it always has: on elite schools. The combination of these elements—the unremarked devastation at CUNY, the outsized attention to wealthy colleges and universities—led me to write this piece for The New Yorker online: It seems likely that no other college or university in the United States has suffered as many deaths as CUNY. Yet, aside from an op-ed by Yarbrough in the Daily News, there has been little coverage of this […]

On Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Palestine, and the Left

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose candidacy I’ve championed and worked for since May, had a bad moment late last week. Appearing on the reboot of Firing Line, Ocasio-Cortez was asked by conservative host Margaret Hoover to explain her stance on Israel. The question left Ocasio-Cortez tongue-tied and equivocating. Here was the exchange: MH: You, in the campaign, made one tweet, or made one statement, that referred to a killing by Israeli soldiers of civilians in Gaza and called it a “massacre,” which became a little bit controversial. But I haven’t seen anywhere — what is your position on Israel? AOC: Well, I believe absolutely in Israel’s right to exist. I am a proponent of a two-state solution. And for me, it’s not — this […]