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Brooklyn College Revokes Adjunct Faculty Member’s Appointment!

Dear Commons Community,

Making the rounds of several faculty LISTSERVs is the story of Kristofer Petersen-Overton, an adjunct professor scheduled to teach a course on Middle Eastern politics at Brooklyn College this semester.  His appointment to teach this course was suddenly rescinded by the Brooklyn College administration after questions were raised about his credentials.  What makes this action particularly troublesome is that Dov Hikind, a Democratic state assemblyman from Brooklyn, wrote to the college president and to CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein  to express alarm about the “slanted nature” of this professor’s scholarship. The NY Times has picked up on this story and reported:

“In an interview, Mr. Hikind, who himself has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in political science from Brooklyn College, said he had spent 20 hours reading Mr. Petersen-Overton’s work and studying his Web site and syllabus. “Everything I read was incredibly one-sided,” Mr. Hikind said. “It was all about Israel being the bad guys in every way. He’s entitled to anything he wants to say, but if he’s going to go into a graduate course in my neighborhood, I just want a guy who’s going to be fair.”

Academic freedom versus political influence will probably get a lot of press over the next few weeks as supporters on both  sides of the issue become more actively involved.  More  important is what will happen to Professor Petersen-Overton in all of this.

Tony

2 comments

  1. Dear Commons Community,

    Below is the text of the letter sent by Brooklyn College President Karen Gould, regarding the reappointment of Professor Kris Petersen-Overton. This letter was made public so I do not believe that there is any problem with posting it here. I find some of President Gould’s language curious if not bizarre.

    Tony

    From: Karen L. Gould, President [bcpresident@brooklyn.cuny.edu]
    Sent: Monday, January 31, 2011 8:50 PM
    To: Brooklyn College Announcements
    Subject: Appointment of Kristofer Petersen-Overton

    Dear students, faculty, and staff,

    Over the past several days, as a result of a provostial decision about an
    adjunct appointment, Brooklyn College has been thrust into a debate about
    academic freedom. This debate has been fueled at times by inflammatory rhetoric
    and mischaracterization of the facts. It is unfortunate that matters of utmost
    importance to our college community can be so rapidly co-opted by those with a
    political agenda and distorted by the media.

    I stand united with you: We must never allow decisions about our students’
    education to be swayed by outside influence. In the matter at hand, this
    certainly has not been the case. On behalf of every member of this institution,
    I reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the principles of academic freedom,
    faculty governance, and standards of excellence.

    Today, the Department of Political Science and its appointments committee voted
    unanimously to recommend Kristofer Petersen-Overton to teach a graduate course
    on the Middle East. Based on information that has come to light, they are
    confident he has sufficient depth of knowledge and the intellectual capacity to
    successfully lead a graduate seminar. The provost now supports their
    recommendation, and I am in full agreement.

    Brooklyn College continues to have a strong commitment to academic freedom. As
    one of the most diverse campuses in the United States, we value civil discourse
    on even the most difficult topics. We believe that open, substantive dialogue
    between those with different points of view is an essential component of a
    21st-century education.

    Equally essential are academic standards that ensure an excellent education for
    all students at all levels. During this calendar year, we will work together as
    faculty and administrators to ensure that our graduate programs are of the
    highest caliber.

    It is now time for us to come together as a community and welcome Mr.
    Petersen-Overton to Brooklyn College. We wish him and his students a productive,
    rewarding semester of graduate study.

    Sincerely,

    Karen L. Gould
    President

  2. Dear Commons Community,

    Professor Petersen-Overton sent the following email today (January 31, 2011) that he has been rehired at Brooklyn College.

    Tony

    From: “Kristofer J. Petersen-Overton”

    Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2011 17:49:21 -0500

    To:

    Subject: Rehired!

    Dear colleagues:

    I just received phone call from Sally Bermanzohn and Mark Ungar informing me that Brooklyn College has decided to rehire me unconditionally! The administration will be making an official statement at 6.00 PM.

    Thanks to everyone for their hard work and emotional support during this ordeal. It was a victory for academic freedom and an outcome I think we can all be proud of.

    Sincerely,

    -Kris