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 His appointment to teach this course was suddenly rescinded by the Brooklyn College administration after questions were raised about his credentials.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.