Coalition Of BC Clubs Call For Prez Anderson’s Resignation

President Anderson addressing the Faculty Council on Oct. 17./Kate Dempsey

By Kate Dempsey

 

   A coalition of 19 Brooklyn College clubs and organizations have called for the resignation of President Michelle Anderson in a joint letter released on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Faculty Council meeting following the BC administration’s response to the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club’s protest held on Oct. 12.

   The 19 signatories calling for President Anderson’s resignation are as follows: BC’s Anthropology Club, Bangladesh Student Association (BSA), Black History Month Committee, Black Student Union (BSU), Bridges for Yemen, BC Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), BC Exchange, BC Dream Team, Hermandad de Sigma lata Alpha Inc. Beta Theta Chapter, BC Historical Society, Dominican Student Movement (DSA), Phi Sigma Chi Multicultural Fraternity Inc. Beta Chapter, Puerto Rican Alliance (PRA), Muslims Giving Back (MGB), Muslim Student Association (MSA), Muslim Women’s Educational Initiative (MWEI), Women’s History Month Committee, SJP, and Korean Culture Club (KCC).

   The joint letter was read aloud by student leaders during the comments portion of the Faculty Council meeting. The signatories claimed that, prior to SJP’s protest, President Anderson and the administration’s statements “used divisive language, doubling down on a statement by the CUNY Chancellor that accused the rally of glorifying terrorism, and inciting fear amongst our campus community over the constitutional right to assembly.” The groups also cited the language used as the reason the protest organizers decided to move the protest off campus.

   Ron Jackson, vice president of Student Affairs, responded to the students’ reasoning for moving the protest at the Faculty Council meeting, claiming that the reason the protest was moved was strictly for logistical reasons.

   “They [SJP] actually decided just to move this to Bedford as opposed to kind of going through that approval process […] they actually made the decision to move it to Bedford. Once you move your event to Bedford, the college really has no say about it, it really becomes an issue for the NYPD,” Jackson said.

   Safety in and around campus remained a top concern and topic of discussion at the Faculty Council meeting. The resignation letter referenced SJP, MSA, and MGB’s joint letter released on Oct. 12, which raised concerns about the CUNY administration “Unjustly associating Palestinians, our student organizations, and communities with violence […] Such statements pose a substantial risk of inciting violence and harassment in our community.”

   A focal part of the safety concerns surrounded Councilwoman Inna Vernikov’s open carry of a pistol at the rally, directly threatening students who decided to partake in the protest. The letter claimed that Vernikov was “in direct communication” with President Anderson, which the president refuted at the meeting.

   “I have never talked with or met the council member at issue here. I don’t know where you got that information, but it’s false. The day before, I was talking to a couple of people [who] reached out to me, but that council member was not among them. Certainly had nothing to do with her decision related to the protest rally at all,” President Anderson said.

   Faculty members in the audience countered with an Oct. 12 statement released by City Council Members Farah Louis, Vernikov, and Kalman Yeger, claiming that the statement implied that President Anderson did, in fact, speak with Councilwoman Vernikov ahead of the rally.

   “After speaking to CUNY Chancellor Rodriquez, Brooklyn College President Anderson, and the NYPD Councilmembers Louis, Vernikov, and Yeger would like to share the following information […] Councilmembers Louis and Vernikov will be present at the rally and if you do not feel safe you can walk over to them, and they will help you,” the statement read.

   Student representatives from the club signatories demanded at the meeting that President Anderson finally condemn the Councilwoman’s actions. President Anderson said that she “unequivocally [condemns] showing up at a protest rally with a pistol,” and that she didn’t find out about it until “well after the fact.”

   President Anderson added that with the media coverage of Vernikov turning herself in to the NYPD, an additional statement was not necessary and could only have “increased tension” on campus.

   “This is a key priority for everyone, regardless of your political perspective. This campus is a very safe campus for Jewish students, for Muslim students, for Arab Americans, for folks across the political spectrum, and with different religious and ethnic identities,” said President Anderson. “Safety is a key priority for the college and we are trying to monitor the situation carefully and remain on top of it, and ensure that everyone has an open and fair and safe opportunity to engage in teaching and learning here.”

   However, many of those present at the Faculty Council meeting claimed otherwise, citing anecdotal accounts from many of their students who have felt unsafe on campus.

   “I just wanted to speak about the safety of another group here who is not being represented, and it’s the safety of Jewish students on campus […] The students who are most absent from all of my classes on Thursday were the Jewish students because they were afraid, and the safety needs of this college are particular and they have to be declared,” said BC History Professor Karen B. Stern Gabbay.

   Tensions flared at the Faculty Council meeting, with many shouting over one another while giving testimony about the safety of students. One altercation happened during Professor Carolina Bank Muñoz’s statement.

   “In addition to Jewish students not feeling safe, Muslim students not feeling safe, I got 16 emails from undocumented students and immigrant students who also do not feel safe. […] What’s the plan is my question. We heard from a lot of people that nobody is feeling safe, that we do not have a campus culture of safety, of camaraderie, of openness, of being able to share ideas, so what’s your plan for that? What’s VP Jackson’s plan for that? […],” said Professor Bank Muñoz, who was then interrupted by Vice President Jackson, exclaiming “Do not mix my name, especially when you are telling all these lies. Enough. They are lies!”

   Timothy Shortell, a sociology professor at BC and the moderator of the Faculty Council meeting, called for order with the gavel, a constant theme throughout the meeting, though it was often being ignored.

   “If we cannot speak civilly to each other and ask hard questions, this meeting is a failure. Nobody will be invited to this meeting in the future if you violate that rule. We have to be able to talk to one another,” said Shortell.

   President Anderson stated that her plan’s first move is to meet with any students who emailed her, and moving forward, she would still be open to meeting with anyone, including directly after the meeting.

   Student representatives of the club signatories in the audience interrupted and called out for more recognition from the BC administration of the specific dangers that Muslim students are facing. They highlighted the intimidation of students having their photo and identifying information published online, or “doxxing,” and the mourning that Palestinian students are continuing to go through, referencing the al-Ahli hospital bomb strike that happened earlier that day.

   As the student club leaders filed out of the meeting, they left tearful yet triumphant as they congratulated one another. What remains to be seen, however, is if their call will be heeded.

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