After Tony Kushner's planned honorary degree from the City University of New York was canceled earlier this week by trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld over his lack of support for Israel, supporters rushed to Kushner's defense. The decision turned into a public relations catastrophe for CUNY, with Barbara Ehreinreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, and Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, both going so far as to return their own honorary degrees.
David Freedlander reports for the New York Observer that the CUNY Board of Trustees has announced that they are holding an emergency meeting Monday night to reconsider the decision to cancel Kushner's degree.
Board chairman Benno Schmidt in a statement:
I would not ordinarily ask for a reconsideration of a decision so recently taken. But when the board has made a mistake of principle, and not merely of policy, review is appropriate, and indeed, mandatory.
While the decision is merely slated to be reconsidered at this point, certain points made by Schmidt suggest that, at the moment, he is of the belief that the nixing of Kushner's degree for political reasons was an inappropriate action:
If it were appropriate for us to take politics into account in deciding whether to approve an honorary degree, I might agree with Trustee Wiesenfeld, whose political views on the matter in controversy are not far distant from my own. But it is not right for the Board to consider politics in connection with the award of honorary degrees in extreme cases bot presented by the facts here. The proposed honorary degree for Mr. Kushner would recognize him for his extraordinary talent and contribution to the American theater. Like other honorary degrees, it is not intended to reflect approval or disapproval for political views not relevant to the field for which the recipient is being honored.