Open Letter to Members of the CUNY Board of Trustees

I understand that, on Monday, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees will meet to reconsider the Board's decision to table the motion to approve awarding an honorary degree to Tony Kushner. As another candidate for an honorary degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, I am glad that this meeting will take place and hope that the Committee will reverse its decision.

Many of us receiving honorary degrees hold controversial views. Such views often inspire social change and bring about justice, or at the very least, encourage critical thinking that should be the hallmark of a college education.

John Jay students are themselves inspiring. These students deserve the opportunity to meet, even from afar, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright who has been instrumental in bringing attention to major social justice issues.

As the Executive Committee reconsiders its decision, I hope they will also keep in mind that, when a member suggests that any group of people is “not human,” it is likely that he is speaking about at least some of John Jay College’s richly diverse student body.

John Jay’s graduating class of 2011 represents an extraordinary group of people. Virtually all of these students earned their degrees while working, raising and supporting families, and participating in internships. These students and the recognition of their achievements, not grandstanding about the Middle East or anything else, should be the focus of the Committee’s work.

Sincerely yours,

Lynn M. Paltrow, JD
Executive Director

cc: President Jeremy Travis, faculty and students of John Jay College of Criminal Justice