CUNY Chancellor Responds to ACLJ's Anti-BDS Letter – Commits To Take Appropriate Action
On May 4, 2016, we at the ACLJ issued a joint letter to Chancellor James Milliken of the City University of New York (“CUNY”). The letter detailed the systemic culture of antisemitism on CUNY campuses and called for administrators to conduct thorough investigations of all such conduct and to implement disciplinary measures where appropriate. We highlighted the recent passage by the CUNY Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) of a pro-BDS resolution and the ways in which implementation of such a resolution would not only violate the rights of those in the campus community but also jeopardize the legal interests of the University itself.
As we’ve written before, the primary aim of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is to marginalize and delegitimize Israel on the national scene by pressuring corporate and government entities to participate in economic and academic boycotts against Israeli institutions, students, and professors; pull resources and investments from those institutions; and impose sanctions against the State of Israel because of the ways in which it has chosen to defend itself from the hostile, antisemitic forces in the Middle East that seek the outright demise of Israel as a political state. On America’s college campuses, this often materializes in the form of invidious discrimination and antisemitism.
As we previously explained, the purpose of our letter was to urge the CUNY administration to fulfill its “obligation to take action sufficient to return the CUNY campuses to a safe, non-harassing, non-discriminatory environment for students and employees.” The numerous incidents detailed in our letter made it clear that immediate action by the administration was necessary to satisfy this obligation.
On May 10, 2016, Chancellor Milliken issued a letter in response, confirming the University’s commitments, to the freedom of speech but acknowledging, as we pointed out in our letter, that this right has limitations, including in the context of hostile environment discrimination. Chancellor Milliken also informed us that in light of the pervasive nature of recent campus antisemitism, a working group of administrators, faculty, and students has been assembled and is reviewing campus activities and practices. According to Chancellor Milliken, this group will “make recommendations for appropriate campus and University action,” based on the information available, including the suggestions in our letter.
Importantly, with regard to the recent DSC BDS Resolution, Chancellor Milliken asserted that the Resolution actually has no teeth, as “the DSC has no authority to ‘implement’ its resolution, . . . and CUNY has every intention to continue its longstanding practice of exchanges with international universities including those in Israel.”
Chancellor Milliken concluded by expressly agreeing with the ACLJ “that CUNY has an obligation to respond to unlawful discrimination by its employees or students and to take action to prevent the development of a hostile environment” on campus and committing to “see that [CUNY campuses] take appropriate action” concerning any complaints regarding such an antisemitic environment.
We commend the swift response of Chancellor Milliken and will continue to monitor the situation on the CUNY campuses to ensure that CUNY does, in fact, fulfill its obligation to provide a non-harassing, non-discriminatory environment for Jewish members of the campus community.