The New York Civil Liberties Union today called on the City University of New York Board of Trustees to reverse its May 2 decision denying an honorary degree to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner because of his political views.
“Political litmus tests should have no place in deciding whether to award an honorary degree to one of our country’s great artists,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Tony Kushner is a person to be celebrated, not rejected because a member of the Board of Trustees doesn’t like his politics.”
In a May 6 letter to Benno Schmidt, chairman of the CUNY Board of Trustees, the NYCLU maintains that the decision to withdraw the honorary degree because of Kushner’s views concerning Israel utterly lacked fair process and was made for reasons that bear no relationship at all to merits of honoring the playwright for his artistic contributions.
The letter also argues the decision to deny Kushner the degree conveys a message that CUNY does not tolerate a diversity of opinion, at least on the subject of Israel.
“Universities should be open forums for the discussion of controversial ideas,” said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. “The board’s decision disregards the core principles of academic freedom and free expression that all great universities embrace.”