Last night the executive committee of the City University of New York approved an honorary degree for playwright Tony Kushner, reversing a decision last week to withhold the degree because Kushner was not sufficiently pro-Israel. The decision aims to end an embarrassing week for the university in which academic and literary scholars including Michael Cunningham and Barbara Ehrenreich returned their degrees in protest and others criticized the board for imposing a pro-Israel litmus test on a nominee barely even known for his views on Israel-Palestine. It's not clear whether Kushner will now accept the degree.
There's also no word yet from the man responsible for canceling Kushner's degree, board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld. He was also involved in a dispute in February, criticizing an adjunct professor for not being supportive enough of Israel. He has suggested that some Palestinians are "not human" because they "worship death for their children."
So what was learned? "It's not entirely clear that the episode shows there is an expanded space for debate about Israel," Justin Elliott at Salon. "It may be just that the CUNY board chose the wrong guy to pick on."