Last week, Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver announced that he would not implement a resolution to deny Pitzer students the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Haifa. The measure, designed to implement the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, had overwhelmingly passed the College Council, a body including professors, students, and staff.
The Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision ends mandatory fees for public-sector employees who don’t want to belong to a union. Previously, in 22 non-right-to-work states, such employees had to pay these fees for the union’s services on their behalf, which could include collective bargaining, but also a host of political activities to which many employees objected. Most of the debate in the case, appropriately, focused on legal questions, not the ramifications for higher education. Yet hundreds of thousands of professors teach at public universities in the 22 states affected by Janus; the example of one of New York’s largest higher-ed unions, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), shows how relevant the Court’s ruling might prove to be.
Earlier this month, retired federal judge Barbara Jones and former prosecutor Paul Shechtman issued a 24-page report summarizing their investigation into allegations of anti-Semitic behavior among CUNY students. The report was comprehensive and its defense of student organizations’ free speech sound, but its details also raised troubling questions about the state of affairs on CUNY campuses—and, by extension, at most colleges and universities.
The report made two principal findings. First, it clarified (there had been some debate about the incidents) the anti-Semitic conduct by some CUNY students. A November 2015 rally at Hunter College co-sponsored by the faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), drew support from a variety of identity-politics student groups, including the Students for Justice in Palestine. Encountering a small group of pro-Israel students, protesters shouted “Jews Out of CUNY” and “Death to Jews”; one CUNY student told Jones and her staffers that “as he was leaving the rally, a person behind him said, ‘We should drag the Zionist down the street.’ ” He had to ask CUNY security officers for protection. Jones and Schectman made clear that if CUNY could identify any of the protesting students, they should be punished for issuing verbal threats.