The CUNY School of Public Health has invited Linda Sarsour, an anti-Israel activist, to deliver the commencement speech at its graduation. Sarsour has known ties to the terrorist group Hamas, has encouraged violence against Jews, defends the mistreatment of women in Islamic countries, and much more. To list all of Sarsour’s egregious acts and statements would take up an entire article in itself. As a Jewish CUNY student, I want to explain why having her speak at the School of Public Health is so outrageous.
CUNY schools have always had a substantial population of Jewish students — specifically in Brooklyn College, Baruch College, and Hunter College. In my own school, Queens College, Jews make up 25 percent of the student body. CUNY schools have always been very accommodating to Jews by giving time off for major holidays and by providing a quality, affordable education close to home. However, by allowing a known terror sympathizer to speak at the commencement ceremony, CUNY is not living up to its own prescribed standards. CUNY is not only failing to condemn Sarsour for, among other things, her clear anti-Semitism, but it is venerating her by inviting her to address graduates. With this action, CUNY is declaring that this woman is a role model, a leader, and someone whom current students ought to emulate. Sarsour has actively called for violence against Jews, but CUNY is telling its students that she is a shining example of success. What kind of message does this send to the myriad Jewish students on its campuses?
Are their principles and beliefs not valuable to the CUNY administration? A commencement speaker is supposed to provide a valuable lesson to the students, but someone with such a hatred for other human beings has no prerogative doing this. A woman who defends terrorists has no place on a college campus, let alone in a CUNY school.
By allowing this speech to proceed, many Jewish students — such as I — who attend a CUNY institution are outraged. We feel as though our voices mean nothing, and the people who are supposed to lead us are turning their back to injustice. Furthermore, CUNY is funded by New York City taxpayers. It is simply immoral for a city that preaches diversity and acceptance to give this woman a platform to speak. Why is Mayor Bill de Blasio not coming out and condemning CUNY’s action? The mayor has notoriously been known to speak out against prejudice, but now he has nothing to say against this appalling action.
Not only should this speech offend Jews, but it should offend all women as well. Sarsour has also rationalized mistreatment of women in Islamic countries due to her defense of Sharia law, and has even stated that certain women whom she deems insufficiently “progressive” or “feminist” do not deserve their own genitals. If the number of Jews in CUNY is not enough for the administration, what about the number of women? If CUNY does not agree that women should be treated as second-class citizens, then they must not permit Sarsour to give her planned commencement speech. And if CUNY does agree with Sarsour’s statements, I am not sure many women will want to attend their schools in the future.
By allowing Sarsour to speak, CUNY and New York City are condoning anti-Semitism, terrorism, and intolerance. The city and the university must stand up and find someone else to give this commencement speech. If they do not condemn this woman, they are sending a strong message that the injustices perpetuated by this woman are acceptable. By providing a platform for Sarsour, CUNY is failing to provide just leadership for its population. I am ashamed to attend such an institution.