CUNY Board Backpedals; Tony Kushner Can Have Honorary Degree After All

05/10/2011 2:33 PM |

Tony Kushner greeting supporters outside the Public Theater last week.
  • Tony Kushner greeting supporters outside the Public Theater last week.

Last week CUNY’s board of trustees vetoed an honorary degree John Jay College planned to bestow upon Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner after board member Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld brought to his colleagues’ attention what he believed to be anti-Israel statements made by Kushner on Norman Finkelstein’s website. It didn’t take long for them to come to their senses.

The Times reports that in an emergency 20-minute meeting last night, six of the seven members of the board’s executive committee (its chairman was out of town) overturned the decision, allowing the Pulitzer-winner to received a degree of doctor of letters at John Jay College’s commencement ceremony on June 3rd.

Kushner, who penned a spectacularly livid letter after last week’s decision—”Did any of you feel that your responsibilities as trustees of an august institution of higher learning included even briefly discussing the appropriateness of Mr. Weisenfeld’s using a public board meeting as a platform for deriding the political opinions of someone with whom he disagrees?”—told the Times he planned to accept the degree:

I think it was appropriate for the board to make this decision. I think questions have been raised about what constitutes appropriate conduct for individual trustees and the board as a whole, and I hope those questions will go on to spark a vigorous and consequential debate.

Meanwhile, many within the CUNY community and beyond have called for Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld’s removal, but he intends to serve the remaining two years of his term as a board member.

(Gothamist, Photo: Public Theater Facebook)