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ESchreckerReturnsCUNYHonoraryDegree

ESchreckerReturnsCUNYHonoraryDegree

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Published by Amy Hughes
Dr. Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University), a scholar acclaimed for her research and writing on academic freedom, received an honorary degree from John Jay in 2008. She has written to the CUNY Board of Trustees asking how to return her degree because of its decision to deny John Jay's desire to award one to Tony Kushner.
Dr. Ellen Schrecker (Yeshiva University), a scholar acclaimed for her research and writing on academic freedom, received an honorary degree from John Jay in 2008. She has written to the CUNY Board of Trustees asking how to return her degree because of its decision to deny John Jay's desire to award one to Tony Kushner.

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Published by: Amy Hughes on May 05, 2011
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 May 5, 2011 Dr. Benno Schmidt, ChairBoard of TrusteesCity University of New York 535 E. 80
th
Street New York, NY 10065 Dear Benno Schmidt: I am writing to protest the CUNY Board of Trustees’ recent action to override thedecision of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to offer an honorary degree toTony Kushner.I am also writing to find out how to return to you the honorary degree from John Jaythat I was awarded in 2008. It was the greatest honor I had ever received; and mygorgeous yellow and blue satin hood, which I am thinking of giving to Mr. Kushner,is – or at least was – one of my most cherished possessions, since I had beenselected for it by the John Jay faculty in recognition of my scholarship on academicfreedom.But with honor comes responsibility. I cannot, therefore, remain silent when thevery institution that once recognized the value of academic freedom now demeansit. That freedom is more than just the protection of the teaching, research, andpublic activities of college and university teachers. It also extends to the entirecampus, fostering the openness and creativity that allow American higher educationto flourish.When an academic institution lets extraneous political considerations overrideeducational priorities, not only is it limiting its members’ free expression, but it isalso undermining the quality of the education it offers. Censoring outside speakers,including honorary degree recipients, like refusing to hire instructors or firing thembecause of their reputed political views, tells students, faculty members, and the rest of the public that some ideas cannot be allowed on campus. Such constraints negatethe sacred mission of higher education within a democratic society.I received my honorary degree from CUNY because of my scholarship on theMcCarthy period, when over one hundred professors (including at least fifteen fromthe New York City municipal colleges) lost their jobs for political reasons. I assumethat no one within CUNY’s Board of Trustees or administration wants a repeat of 

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