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CUNY’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee Condemns Protests of David Petraeus

As a response to the protests of former CIA Director David Petraeus by City University of New York (CUNY) faculty, student and staff on his first day of teaching a seminar at CUNY Macaulay Honors College on Sept. 9 — which has created national media coverage — CUNY’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee has issued a statement condemning the protestors’ behavior.

Screen shot of David Petraeus from video of students protesting

This comes just a few days after a press statement and blog post written by CUNY Honors College Dean Ann Kirschner expressed similar sentiments.

The statement:

Protestors, reportedly including CUNY students , have harassed new Macaulay Honors College Visiting Professor (and former CIA head and general) David Petraeus on his way to class, using epithets, shouting “You will leave CUNY,” and chanting “ Every class David,” expressing an intent to continue their verbal attacks. Because they disagree with Professor Petraeus’ views, these demonstrators intend to deprive him of his ability to teach and the ability of his students to learn from him.

CUNY has long-established policies to protect the academic freedom of faculty, which are essential for the University’s operation as a center of learning.

The Executive Committee of the University Faculty Senate deplores all attacks on the academic freedom of faculty, regardless of their viewpoint. In the past, we have been strong advocates for the freedom of Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton to teach at Brooklyn College without harassment or retaliation.

Professor Petraeus and all members of CUNY’s instructional staff have the right to teach without interference.

Members of the university community must have the opportunity to express alternate views, but in a manner that does not violate academic freedom.

Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton — a Middle Eastern studies CUNY Graduate Center scholar — is best known as the adjunct professor almost booted from his job preemptively at Brooklyn College before the 2011 spring semester. The reason: pressure from a right-wing pro-Israel state-level Assemblyman, Dov Hikind.

National media attention around the issue led to his rehiring after initially being fired for “not having [a] PhD,” even though many adjunct professors only have a masters degree, as did Petersen-Overton.

What makes his case distinctly different than Petraeus’ is that exactly one extremist — Dov Hikind — protested his hiring, backed by a powerful lobbying force, the pro-Israel Lobby.

Another big difference: Petersen-Overton was backed by Professional Staff Congress, AFT Local #2334. That same union condemned and protested the initial hiring of Petraeus.

In particular, they condemned his initial salary offer of $200,000 to teach a 3 hours per week seminar when most adjuncts make $3,000 per course.

“It is obscene for a university that operates on a bare-bones budget to pay anyone $150,000 for a single course per semester. Every dollar raised at CUNY, whether from public or private sources, should go to providing broad access to a quality college education,” Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress said back in July.

Protests are set to continue tomorrow afternoon for the Ad Hoc Committee Against the Militarization of CUNY. It will be interesting to note whether Petraeus will be accompanied by security and if there is an increased law enforcement presence on-the-scene.

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