No, the Chairman of the City University of New York did not say that Tony Kushner, a la praise that was given to Mussolini, "made the trains run on time." Instead, Benno Schmidt Jr. -- formerly of Yale -- says something similar (Reconsidering, CUNY Likely To Honor Kushner):
“But it is not right for the board to consider politics in connection with the award of honorary degrees except in extreme cases not presented by the facts here,” he wrote. “The proposed honorary degree for Mr. Kushner would recognize him for his extraordinary talent and contribution to the American theater. Like other honorary degrees, it is not intended to reflect approval or disapproval for political views not relevant to the field for which the recipient is being honored.”
A meeting is to be held Monday to overturn the rejection by the CUNY Trustees to not grant Tony Kushner an honorary degree. The venue is a smaller Executive Committee, which Mr. Schmidt apparently feels he controls.
So, Mr. Schmidt, would CUNY grant famous philosopher and Nazi Martin Heidegger an honorary degree? Is a man seperable into compartments for the sake of bestowing honors? As pointed out by Ron Radosh's read-it-all on Kushner:
Of course, anything Tony Kushner gets is intended, as he always makes clear, to honor his politics as well as his playwriting, which is indistinguishable from his politics. Just see any Kushner play, and try treating it as a non-political vehicle."
Tony Kushner is an extremist, libeling Israel and Catholics, and even taken to task by other gays for shoddy literary/political work, as Andrew Sullivan points out (before Sullivan proceeds to himself libel Israel, using edited and false quotes from an anti-Israel hate site):
To say I am embarrassed to be defending Tony Kushner is an understatement. I was one of very few gay men with HIV who found Angels in America to be pretentious, boring propaganda, and like most propaganda, endless and laden with stereotypes and cartoon figures. In the internecine fights in the gay movement in the 1990s, we were on opposite sides. I'd rather have pins stuck in my eyes than attend his new play, ominously titled "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures," which like other Important Plays, clocks in at four hours. His sad attempt to exonerate traitors like the Rosenbergs was once perverse; now it just seems at odds with reality. I have no beef with him personally, I should add, although after writing all that, he may feel somewhat differently toward me.
And, as pointed out in the Heidegger link above, Kushner's literary works aren't that great, except to liberals who go in for Kushner's bashing of others they dislike.
Mr. Schmidt says, "“Freedom of thought and expression is the bedrock of any university worthy of the name.” So are standards, Mr. Schmidt.
Letter from CUNY Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld in the New York Times:
To the Editor:
If Tony Kushner were a student, no trustee or administrator would have the right to deny him a degree if the requisite requirements were fulfilled.
On the other hand, an honorary degree is wholly within the discretion of the board to grant. It identifies the university with accomplished, generous citizens or public figures. It is also a tool that enhances a university’s image in the educational marketplace.
Mr. Kushner’s degree was opposed by a majority of the CUNY board because he is an extremist. No extremist from any quarter, whether from far left or far right, is a good face for any university.
What makes Mr. Kushner different from other honorees who are known Israel critics among the 450 or so honorary degrees awarded during the 12 years I have been on the board (all of them approved, including with my vote) is that he accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing — a term that crosses the line.
Ethnic cleansing is Nazi Germany, Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda, to name a few (the American Indians didn’t fare too well, either). If Israel is an ethnic cleanser, how is it that over one million Arabs live better there than in almost any Arab state?
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
New York, May 5, 2011
The writer is the CUNY trustee who initially raised objections to an honorary degree for Tony Kushner.
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The New York Sun editorial on the Tony Kushner now you have it - now you don't - now CUNY's Chairman will get it for you honorary degree (my sum up and links here): It looks like the executive committee of the board of the City University of New York i
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