With Trustees Like These, Who Needs Enemies? Part Two

Today’s entry–after yesterday’s union-busting lawyer Peter Pantaleo–in the City University of New York‘s Board of Trustees Roll of Dishonor is  Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld. He is:

[A]n investment banker at Bernstein Global Wealth Management, appointed to the Board of Trustees by Gov. Pataki in 1999. Wiesenfeld’s primary qualification for being a trustee is his loyal service to a string of local politicians, including Senator Alfonse D’Amato, Congressman Thomas Manton, Mayor Ed Koch, Borough President Clair Shulman, and Governor George Pataki.

Like yesterday’s entry in this series, Wiesenfeld’s presence on the Board of Trustees of a public university is especially problematic because:

Wiesenfeld’s primary accomplishment during 13 years on the Board has been to instigate a series of scandals in which he has denigrated local politicians and undermined academic freedom.

Things get worse, of course, because Wiesenfeld has distinguished himself by a not-so-covert racism:

In his role as Trustee, he sought to block the awarding of an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner by John Jay College. In his speech at the Boardand in subsequent comments he attacked the Jewish playwright as an anti-Semite and went on to accuse Palestinians who support attacks against Israel of being “non-human.”….In 2007, Wiesenfeld, as part of “Stop the Madrassa,” worked to block the opening of the Khalil Gibran InternationalAcademy and succeeded in ousting its first principal over the use of the word “intifada” on a sweatshirt being sold by a group that supported the school. Wiesenfeld claimed that, “while not all Muslims are terrorists, almost all terrorists are Muslims.”….[A]ccording to the Daily News, during Wiesenfeld’s conformation process for appointment to the Board there were “allegations that he referred to blacks as ‘savages’ and Hasidic Jews as ‘thieves,’ leading Sen. Daniel Hevesi tospeak out against his confirmation.

I have had an indirect encounter  with Wiesenfeld. In February 2012, in my capacity as Faculty Associate at the Wolfe Institute for the Humanities, I organized a reading group of Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind. The selection of this book for reading and discussion resulted in an angry outburst from Professor Mitchell Langbert, protesting the choice of the book, and who, in reading from the Alan Dershowitz playbook, demanded ‘balance.’ Langbert also alerted Wiesenfeld to the subversive act of reading a book on campus, who then wrote in an email:

This is the curse of academia: no honest debate. Just shut your opponents down. Ahhh…but if political islamists come along, the liberalls[sic] cower. Nothing like implied or real threats of violence to take campus control. Checkpoints and BDS conferences anyone?

Mention of BDS conferences reminds us, of course, of:

Wiesenfeld played a similar role in trying to block the BDS event at Brooklyn College. He accused the Political Science Department of staging a racist, anti-Semitic, and “Nuremberg- type event.” He again worked closely with Dov Hikind, who organized a protest outside the College gates, attacking the rights of faculty to co-sponsor the event. Some of those involved, including City Council members, went on to write letters threatening the College’s funding, a position Wiesenfeld has never publicly denounced.

So, we have a racist ideologue who sits on the Board of Trustees of a public university with one of the most racially and ethnically diverse student bodies in the nation. A perfect fit.

3 thoughts on “With Trustees Like These, Who Needs Enemies? Part Two

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