CUNY Authorizes Honorary Degree for Tony Kushner
May 10, 2011

The Executive Committee of the board of the City University of New York voted Monday evening to authorize the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to award an honorary degree to Tony Kushner, reversing a controversial board decision of a week ago. The previous vote -- prompted by a single trustee who said Kushner was anti-Israel -- angered many faculty members and other artists and intellectuals who said that Kushner's views on Israel were irrelevant to the reason he was being honored (as a playwright) and that the trustee had distorted Kushner's views. Many faculty members also criticized other CUNY officials for remaining silent while Kushner was attacked at the meeting.

At Monday night's meeting, Matthew Goldstein, the chancellor of CUNY, offered a strong endorsement of honoring Kushner. "As anyone who has experienced Mr. Kushner’s work knows, he is not afraid to provoke, to reveal emotion at the gut level, but always to the higher purpose of creating for audiences the chorus of voices and complexity of intent that define our collective humanity," Goldstein said. "His expression is grounded in compassion, empathy, and intellectual rigor. In the spirit of all great artists, he challenges orthodoxy, confronts assumptions, and tests certainties, and, in so doing, ignites our imaginations, illuminates issues and ideas, and expands our vision — whether or not we agree with him, whether or not we take exception to some of his conclusions. I believe that in many ways this is also the highest ideal of the university — a search for knowledge and understanding that values questions, dialogue, and dissent."

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