Matriculation Approaches! In a Reversal, CUNY Will Award Tony Kushner an Honorary Degree

News   Matriculation Approaches! In a Reversal, CUNY Will Award Tony Kushner an Honorary Degree
The executive committee of the trustees of the City University of New York (CUNY) met on May 9 and reversed a May 2 decision to withhold an honorary degree from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner.

Tony Kushner
Tony Kushner Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

In the past week, a swell of criticism hit the university after the honorary degree was tabled following unscheduled remarks by one trustee, who expressed concerns about Kushner's views on Israel. There was no challenge from other trustees on May 2, and they voted to deny the honorary degree.

On May 2, trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld voiced his issues about the submission of Kushner's name for an honorary degree, surprising his colleagues. A podcast of the meeting has trustee Wiesenfeld quoting an interview with Kushner that had the playwright characterizing the founding of the State of Israel as involving "ethnic cleansing" and being "a mistake."

In the 20-minute meeting on May 9, according to the New York Times, six of the seven trustees on the executive committee voted to give the honorary degree of doctor of letters (from CUNY's John Jay College of Criminal Justice) to Tony Award winner Kushner (Angels in America). Kathleen M. Pesile, a trustee, said, "We are now correcting it because it benefits CUNY and we will not get another chance to remove this blemish."

Kushner told the New York Times that he plans to accept the degree. He told the paper, "I think questions have been raised about what constitutes appropriate conduct for individual trustees and the board as a whole, and I hope those questions will go on to spark a vigorous and consequential debate."

The May 2 CUNY board vote coincided with the week of the Off-Broadway opening of Kushner's new play The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures. It opened May 5 at The Public Theater.

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