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New minority label at CUNY: ‘Jewish’

By Susan Edelman, The New York Post
June 3, 2012

Something isn’t kosher about a CUNY scheme to single out Jews, angry professors charge.

Touting a move to make its faculty more diverse, CUNY administrators have broken out Jews into a separate minority group: “White/Jewish.” CUNY insists “some faculty” want the label, instead of being lumped in as just white. But the theistic tag has outraged both Jewish and non-Jewish professors, and sparked a furor.

“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 and the Graduate Center. “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 last month by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. The plan is aimed at boosting the recruitment and inclusion of minorities.

A steering committee led by Joyce Moy, director of CUNY’s Asian Research Institute, 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.”

CUNY targets Italian-Americans for affirmative action in response to lawsuits alleging bias.

CUNY spokesman Michael Arena explained: “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. 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.”

But Jewish professors told The Post that marking them as Jews won’t make them the chosen people on campus — and may even shrink their ranks if Jews are found to be “overrepresented.”

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

An Irish-Catholic professor at Lehman College quipped: “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.

The CUNY report, “Building on a Strong Foundation,” notes “positive changes in the gender, ethnic and racial composition of the faculty,” with several minority groups growing over 20 years.

Whites made up 61.8 percent of the full-time faculty in 2010, down from 73.6 percent in 1990, it says. Blacks make up 12.7 percent, up slightly from 11.6 percent. Asians jumped from 4.2 percent to 10.6 percent.

Among all students over the two decades, whites dropped from 39.3 percent, to 30.1 percent, but blacks also dipped from 29.8 percent to 25.4 percent. Hispanics increased from 20.1 percent to 27.1 percent, and Asians from 10.6 percent to 17.1 percent. No numbers of Jewish faculty or students are included.

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.”

Original Article

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