Separate ‘Jewish’ Label Sparks Controversy at CUNY

June 5, 2012  

In a move sparking outrage among both Jewish and non-Jewish students and professors, administrators at the City University of New York (CUNY) have decided to separate Jews into a distinct minority group: “White/Jewish,” The New York Post reported.

CUNY claims that “some faculty” support the new labeling system, as, until now, Jews have been incorporated into the only “White” category of ethnic identification.

“This is, as far as I know, the first time a religion has been introduced into any affirmative-action document,” said David Gordon, a history professor at Bronx Community College. “What would the response be to a category ‘White/Methodist?’ Silly? Irrelevant?”

“It’s an insult and idiotic,” said Hershey Friedman, deputy chairman of the Finance and Business Management Department at Brooklyn College. “Most Jews are brown-skinned. We also have black Jews and Asian Jews. Once you mix religion with race you’re opening a Pandora’s box — and you look stupid.”

The new White/Jewish category is discussed in a report on CUNY’s Diversity Action Plan, issued by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein last month. The plan is aimed at boosting the recruitment and inclusion of minorities, The Post reported.

Director of CUNY’s Asian Research Institute, Joyce Moy, ran faculty focus groups based on “identity.” The groups included “African-American/black, Asian, White/Jewish, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender, Hispanic/Latino, Individuals with disabilities, and Italian-American.”

“In addition to a group organized for white faculty, some faculty expressed a strong affinity and need for a focus group comprised of Jewish faculty members,” explained CUNY spokesman Michael Arena. “Such a group was assembled, and it contributed to the effort of gathering facts and opinions from a wide cross section of groups at CUNY campuses.”

Jewish professors, however, told The Post that the new classification system may be counterproductive if Jews are found to be “overrepresented.”

It is “in every way a detriment” to be categorized ‘white’ “because of the push to hire minorities,” said a Jewish professor at Kingsborough Community College.

An Irish-Catholic professor at Lehman College said in a half-joking manner that, “I can get yellow stars to put on my colleagues’ arms,” referring to the badges that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe during the Holocaust.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who last week called on the state attorney general to investigate complaints of anti-Semitism in hiring at Brooklyn College, called the new Jewish category “abhorrent.”

“I think it goes to the idea of ‘We have enough of this group, let’s get more of that group,’ ” Hikind said. “Diversity is a wonderful thing, but I think the university should hire the best and most qualified educators. If that means all professors are Asian, so be it.”

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