The CUNY/Tony Kushner thunderstorm finally came to a halt yesterday. The City University of New York (CUNY) reversed a controversial decision to withhold the honorary degree from playwright Tony Kushner. If you’ve missed out on the debate, let mother Queerty will bring you up to speed.
On Monday, May 2, the City University of New York (CUNY) Board of Trustees decided to block Tony Kushner from receiving an honorary degree from John Jay College. Kushner is an openly gay playwright of great renown who continually pushes the socio-political envelope in provocative ways. He took home Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1993 for his play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.
The brainless wonders on the CUNY Board of Trustees decided to deny Kushner the honorary degree not because of his no-holds-barred view on gay equality, but because his views on Israel were considered “extremist,” since he supports Palestinian statehood.
Kushner fought backwith a letter to Chairperson Benno Schmidt and the CUNY Board of Trustees illustrating the slanders and contextless quotes Trustee Jeffrey S. Weisenfeld delivered at the Trustee meeting. CUNY received numerous complaints (including an angry letter from Maya Angelou).
On May 5, the board announced that “The Board of Trustees is an independent board, and acted independently in exercising its judgment and authority. Mr. Kushner has indicated in published reports that even if the Board were to reconsider and approve the honorary degree, he would not accept it. The Board’s actions, however, should not be interpreted as reflecting on Mr. Kushner’s accomplishments and we regret any such misunderstanding.”
The next day, and just after the Public Theater opening of Kushner’s latest play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, Chairperson Schmidt released a statement on the CUNY website asking the committee to reconsider their decision. Kushner made it known he would consider still accepting the award.
CUNY trustees met on Monday night to reverse the May 2 decision. Writer Michael Busch said in a Facebook post titled, Tony Kushner: Good Enough for a Pulitzer, but Not for City University NY?, that “I just spoke with Tony Kushner… and he tells us that he will be accepting his honorary degree from John Jay, and will speak at the commencement ceremony!”
Congratulations to Tony Kushner, the CUNY Community, and everyone who spoke up and called out Weisenfeld and the committee out on their initial decision. We hope Weisenfeld will be there to swallow his pride and introduce Tony at the John Jay graduation on June 3. If not, maybe he should consider penning his own letter of resignation.
Photo via New York Times