I would no differently oppose a racist for an honorary degree who personifies himself by calumny against a people. If Mr. Kushner were a CUNY student degree candidate, or even more extremely, if he were David Duke or Lynne Stewart or Sonny Carson or any other detestable individual, no trustee or administrator would have the right to deny him or her a degree if requisite requirements were fulfilled .
To the contrary, an honorary degree is wholly within the absolute discretion of the board to grant. It identifies the University with accomplished, generous citizens or public figures. It is also a tool which highlights the University and enhances its image in the educational marketplace. Every year, there are candidates that some trustees may not particularly favor. We can all express dissent where we warrant it – it is our right. However, every nominee that has been brought before the board, during my 12 years at least, has been approved by the full board. Mr. Kushner, however, was opposed because he is an extremist. No extremist from any quarter is a good face for any University – from far left or far right. Honorary degrees are public declarations of esteem by the university community conveyed to the honoree; for the university, they are image-building, advertising and publicity as well.
The denial of the honorary degree to Mr. Kushner, despite his protestations was a reflection of his long-held radical sentiments. CUNY should remain a place of comfort and welcome for all of our students, faculty and administrators - including supporters of the Jewish State.
Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld is a trustee of City University New York.