The president of NYU issued a statement yesterday roundly condemning a speaker at graduation the day before for endorsing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against “apartheid” Israel. President Andrew Hamilton said the remarks were “quite objectionable” and “We are sorry that the audience had to experience these inappropriate remarks… [which] indefensibly made some in the audience feel unwelcome.”
In his speech, Steven William Thrasher, an activist and (as of June 1) professor of journalism at Northwestern who received his PhD at the NYU commencement, denounced Donald Trump as a “fascist.” The NYU president had nothing to say about that.
Here is a portion of Thrasher’s speech at Yankee Stadium:
Many of us have been together at Occupy Wall Street and at Black Lives Matter protests and at marches against that fascist in the White House that would not allow 56 different countries to cross borders and be together in a setting like this…. And I am so proud– so proud!– of NYU’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace and of GSOC [Graduate Student Organizing Committee] and of the NYU student government and of my colleagues in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the Apartheid State Government in Israel. Because this is what we are called to do. This is our NYU legacy, that we are connected in radical love, and that we have a duty and a privilege in this position to protect not the most popular amongst us but the most vulnerable amongst us…in every place where we work. We must stand together to vanquish racism and Islamophobia and anti-semitism and injustice and attacks on women and attacks on abortion rights in Tel Aviv, in Shanghai, in Abu Dhabi, in New York City, Atlanta, Washington…
Here is NYU Hamilton’s condemnation of the speech issued a day later, yesterday.
I found it quite objectionable that the student speaker chose to make use of the Graduate School of Arts and Science doctoral graduation to express his personal viewpoints on BDS and related matters, language he excluded from the version of the speech he had submitted before the ceremony. We are sorry that the audience had to experience these inappropriate remarks. A graduation should be a shared, inclusive event; the speaker’s words – one-sided and tendentious – indefensibly made some in the audience feel unwelcome and excluded.
Let me use this occasion to reaffirm the University’s position – NYU rejects academic boycotts of Israel, rejects calls to close its Tel Aviv campus, and denounces efforts to ostracize or exclude those in the University community based on their location in Israel, their Israeli origin, or their political feelings for Israel.”
Nothing about fascism or Donald Trump, which might have alienated some rightwing folks in the audience. No, support for BDS is considered anti-Semitism, and therefore alienating to Jews, not just to Zionists. Astounding. Even Thrasher’s Tel Aviv reference is called out for censure.
It is reported that Hamilton was clapping during Thrasher’s remarks. I imagine that this bending over backwards and throwing Thrasher under the bus has to do with donors or board members. That was why the chancellor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign cashiered Steven Salaita five years ago.
Update: Northwestern has issued its own statement knocking its new professor! The president and provost weigh in, saying Thrasher shouldn’t have espoused his views at a graduation, people were justly offended; and though he has a right to hold the views, Northwestern is against BDS.
Many were understandably offended by some of the comments made by Dr. Thrasher during his commencement speech at New York University earlier this week. We do not share all of his views, nor do we feel commencement was the appropriate venue to express them. However, academic freedom assures his right to hold them.
While Dr. Thrasher will not be the first Northwestern faculty member who supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) movement, Northwestern as an institution unequivocally rejects BDS. To the contrary, we value our many relationships with a variety of universities and research centers in Israel.
Note that both institutions have close connections to Israel. Not the case during the apartheid struggle of the 80s.
Thrasher has reveled in the attention given BDS. He wrote:
I think “NYU Graduation Speaker Calls Trump ‘Fascist,’ Endorses BDS” is the best headline a conservative outlet has ever used to post about me
James North points out that it would be unheard of in the days we graduated from college (a couple few years back) for a speaker to submit remarks to the administration ahead of time. “No one reviewed my speech as Class Day Speaker at my graduation. No one would have agreed to that. What are they going to do next, censor his book?”