It’s over. The politicians have backed down. We won.

by Corey Robin on February 6, 2013

Hi everyone. Just a quick note because I’m completely exhausted. Long story, short: we won. This morning, Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out strongly in defense of my department’s position on the Brooklyn College/BDS controversy. Then the “progressive” politicians followed suit. I’ll just give you the links to my blog, in reverse chronological order, which you can read if you want to get caught up. Many thanks for all the support! [click to continue…]

City Council Speaker—and leading mayoral candidate—Christine Quinn is a signatory 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, political science, 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.