New York City Council members have been threatening to cut funding to Brooklyn College. Why? They are opposed to a proposed forum to take place on Thursday night about the Palestinian-led campaign to boycott and divest from Israel for its illegal settlement expansions and continued occupation.
The event is co-sponsored by the college's Political Science Department, and politicians have been pressuring the department to withdraw its support, or risk the consequences.
At Brooklyn College, the integrity of academic freedom is at stake – a position the Political Science Department itself has been claiming as the political pressure builds.
Today, Mayor Bloomberg forcefully supported the concept of academic freedom and blasted the City Council for effectively trying to squelch academic freedom.
Here's a Tweet from Kate Taylor at the New York Times:
And here's the Mayor's bold statement in full:
Mayor: "If u want to go to a university where the govt decides what...subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply...in N Korea"— Kate Taylor (@katetaylornyt) February 6, 2013
Well look, I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS as they call it, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. As you know I’m a big supporter of Israel, as big a one as you can find in the city, but I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. I mean, if you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.Whatever you feel about the Palestinians' BDS campaign, the Mayor is in the right here – government should never dictate to a public university what it can and cannot discuss.
The last thing that we need is for members of our City Council or State Legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run, and base funding decisions on the political views of professors. I can’t think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students.
You know, the freedom to discuss ideas, including ideas that people find repugnant, lies really at the heart of the university system, and take that away and higher education in this country would certainly die.
For to do so is to destroy the concept of academic freedom, a concept upon which all our universities are founded.
Kudos to Bloomberg, for once.