President Gould’s reply to Hillel

On behalf of the Board of Directors and students of Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College, we are pleased to present the following statement from Brooklyn College’s President Karen Gould.  We congratulate our President on reaching out to us and, through us, to all those who care deeply about The College.  We, too, recognize that this has been a turbulent week for all of us who have a stake in The College and all who value our students’ right to Quality Education.  We have seen this issue as not a battle for or against Academic Freedom, but rather a battle for Academic Integrity.  All of us should want a campus that allows open discussions about controversial issues.  Our argument has been that our College values Academic Freedom and, therefore, it cannot stand aside while a department invites speakers who would choose to deny such academic freedom to others.  Instead, a College’s President, as Karen Gould has so eloquently stated, should stand up for those principles that we all share and affirmatively state that s/he neither endorses the BDS movement nor supports its positions with respect to the State of Israel: 

Dear Nadya, Howard, and members of the Hillel board,  

Over the past week, our campus has been wrestling with issues of tremendous importance to our entire community.  There are passionate views on many sides, and at times the rhetoric has been divisive.  In contrast, Hillel has approached the situation in a spirit of community and reconciliation, and for that I am deeply grateful.

You have asked that I state unequivocally the college’s position on the BDS movement, and I have no hesitation in doing so.  As president of Brooklyn College, I can assure you that our college does not endorse the BDS movement nor support its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel, nor do I personally.  As the official host of the CUNY center for study abroad in Israel, our college has, as you know,  a proud history of engagement with Israel and Israeli universities.  In fact, over the past two years we have renewed our efforts to reconnect with existing institutional partners and develop new relationships for faculty and student exchanges with Israeli institutions.  We deeply value our Israeli partners and would not endorse any action that would imperil the State of Israel or its citizens, many of whom are the family relations and friends of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and surrounding community members.

We fully agree that our college campus should be a place free from hate; one where diverse points of view, on even the most controversial topics, may be debated without intimidation or fear of reprisal.  I have stated on numerous occasions that all students, faculty, staff, and guests on our campus are expected to treat one another with respect, even when they have serious disagreements.    

In that spirit, I expect all who attend or present at next week’s event to engage in civil discourse at all times, and I encourage those who do attend with opposing views to participate in the discussion, ask tough questions, and challenge any ideas with which they disagree.  

 Finally, I want to let you know that we have already begun to develop programming, to be hosted by our Wolfe Institute for the Humanities, that will ensure the presentation and airing of different perspectives relating to the issues that will be raised at the event next Thursday. Information about these events will be forthcoming in the near future.  I would also welcome participation from Hillel and from student groups that may be interested in hosting or co-hosting activities and speakers that will broaden this dialogue and reflection on our campus.  

   Thank you again for your commitment to Brooklyn College, for your efforts to ensure an inclusive and welcoming campus environment, and, as your recent message states, for remaining “deeply committed to identifying appropriate venues for students to engage in meaningful dialogue with one another.”  These goals, which we share in common, are vital for our college and our community.

 With sincere appreciation,

Karen L. Gould
President

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