BROOKLYN (PIX11) – Brooklyn College students lined up for an event sponsored by one of its groups, Students for Justice in Palestine on Thursday evening. Across the street, another group gathered to protest against the lineup of scheduled speakers, Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti. Both are viewed as political activists for Palestinian Rights and also supporters of movement known as BDS, or Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.
The speakers are controversial in themselves, but Brooklyn city councilman Lewis Fidler and 9 other councilmembers stirred up even more attention with a letter to Brooklyn College asking the college to cancel the event and going even further to say future funding to the school could be threatened.
“No one has suggested that we are going to take money away from Brooklyn college. I merely suggested that I would be much harder for me as a councilmember to fight for additional funding for Brooklyn College as I have for the past 11 years,” said Fidler.
Fidler maintained his main issue pertained to the college’s political science department co-sponsoring the BDS event. The practice, however, is one the college says is not at all unusual.
“Sponsorship of a forum where students and faculty and outside speakers can discuss a topic does not in any way suggest that the political science department or the college are endorsing the views presented at the event,” said Brooklyn College’s Executive Director of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations, Jeremy Thompson.
Fidler also fired off on Facebook and called Butler and Barghouti “…anti-semetic fools…”
Brooklyn College in the meantime said while they respect Fidler’s opinions, his comments about taking away additional funding was unfortunate and they hope he rethinks his position.
Thompson also cited support from other city councilmembers who wrote and signed another letter to the College President on Wednesday. While they remained opposed to the stance of the speakers invited to speak at Brooklyn College, they pulled back from any request to cancel the event and cited academic freedom.
Noticeably absent from the signatures was Lewis Fidler.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in as well and sided with Brooklyn College. Bloomberg said even though he did not agree with the viewpoints of the speakers, he did not believe it was the government’s position to form an opinion on what should or should not be discussed at a university.