The trustees of City University of New York have finally approved an honorary degree for the playwright Tony Kushner after a controversial trustee blocked the degree over his personal disagreement with Mr. Kushner’s views on Israel. Many are now calling for the resignation of trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld (left) who has suggested that Palestinians are not human and said that a “teach in” about the 9/11 attacks at the school was an act of “sedition.”
Wiesenfeld has denounced books given to first-year students like “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning,” by Chris Hedges as “deeply offensive” and “anti-Semitic.” In one interview, Wiesenfeld became short with a reporter who merely used Palestinians and Israelis in the question without distinction: “Equivalence between what and what? “Between the Palestinians and Israelis. People who worship death for their children are not human.”
However, it was Wiesenfeld’s objections to the honorary degree that proved the greatest embarrassment to the school. Wiesenfeld indicated that Kushner’s views on Palestinian rights conflicted with his views. It takes a considerable amount of hubris to impose such personal views on a university in blocking such a degree. Yet, Wiesenfeld refuses to step down.
Wiesenfeld was first appointed a trustee in 1999 by Gov. George E. Pataki; he is serving his second seven-year term, which is to end in 2013. He previously worked for Pataki and was viewed as his “fixer.”
I fail to see why he was viewed as a good pick for such a board. Here is his bio from the Trustee website:
JEFFREY S. WIESENFELD, B.A., was appointed by Governor Pataki in June 1999 as a trustee of the Board of The City University of New York. Mr. Wiesenfeld was reappointed by the Governor in December 2006. He was born in The Bronx in 1958, the son of two Holocaust survivors. He attended the Bronx High School of Science and Queens College, where he also pursued graduate studies.
After serving for four years in the foreign counterintelligence division of the FBI, Mr. Wiesenfeld served as an assistant to Congressman Thomas Manton and Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. He was then appointed as Chief-of-Staff to Mayor Koch’s Traffic Commissioner where he also served for four years. Following the conclusion of the Koch Administration, Mr. Wiesenfeld became the New York Metropolitan Area Executive Assistant to United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato. As a senior staff member in the New York office, he was responsible for many of the Senator’s activities and his personal representation in the eight counties comprising the downstate region. In January 1995, Mr. Wiesenfeld became the Executive Assistant to New York State Governor George Pataki for the New York Metropolitan Region. His duties included directing the New York City office, coordinating the Governor’s relations with all civic, ethnic, and geographic organizations, and other general responsibilities as a senior aide to the Governor. Mr. Wiesenfeld also became the New York City Regional Director of the Empire State Development Corporation in 1999, the State’s economic development agency.
His non-government board directorships include: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (Trustee); Long Island Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America; New York Metropolitan Region and National Governing Board of the American Jewish Congress; Berkshire Hills-Emanuel Camps; Queensborough Community College Holocaust Resource Center; Irish Studies Advisory Board of CUNY; Open University of Israel; Foksbiene Yiddish Theatre (Chairman); Jewish Community Relations Council of New York; Salute to Israel Day Parade Committee; North Shore Hebrew Academy; Great Neck Arts Center; the Advisory Board of the Rubin Museum of Art and, U.S. Presidency of the Israel Independence Fund. He is a former Commissioner of the Long Island North Shore Heritage Area Planning Commission and former director of the United Nations Development Corporation (by appointment of Governor George Pataki).
Mr. Wiesenfeld is a Principal with the firm of Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He has been active for many years in the community and is a strong voice for those causes in which he believes. Active with many local and national organizations, he possesses a high level of caring and involvement.
Mr. Wiesenfeld serves as Vice Chair of the Committee on Facilities, Planning, and Management, and holds membership on the Board’s Committee on Faculty, Staff, and Administration.