Kingsborough President Farley Herzek Pens Op-Ed in the Jewish Voice in Response to Claims of Anti-Semitic Activities on its Campus

Brooklyn, NY, September 4, 2015: --- Kingsborough Community College President Farley Herzek. © Audrey C. Tiernan

Brooklyn, NY, September 4, 2015: — Kingsborough Community College President Farley Herzek. © Audrey C. Tiernan

It has been about two weeks since articles in the Algemeiner, Jewish Voice, and Sheepshead Bites were printed that spoke negatively to specific hiring practices at Kingsborough Community College.

More specifically, the accusations made claim to anti-Semitic hiring practices at the College.  These allegations found their way to several local newspapers, and were published in the Algemeiner and Sheepshead Bites without benefit of Kingsborough’s response. We immediately contacted the Algemeiner and Sheepshead Bites and provided a full statement in response to the story. Each subsequently amended their articles to include a small portion of my statement in the Algemeiner, while the complete statement appeared in Sheepshead Bites.

I am grateful to the Jewish Voice for giving us a platform to address this accusation.

I was extremely disappointed I was not contacted, because…

  • Had they contacted me, both the Algemeiner and Sheepshead Bites would have learned that I, the President of Kingsborough Community College, am the son of a Holocaust survivor.
  • Had they contacted me, they would have learned that, for the bulk of my career, I have worked tirelessly to break down barriers that contribute to such discriminatory practices and beliefs.
  • Had they contacted me, they would have learned I served as a Past President of the Board of Directors of Long Beach Hillel, in Long Beach, California, whose very mission, in fact, includes fostering communication among all faiths on college campuses.
  • Had they contacted me for a response, the question they should have asked was, “Would such anti-Semitic practices be allowed to happen on a campus whose president has such an unwavering commitment to fighting discrimination?” 

The answer is an unequivocal, “No.”

Discrimination and acts of bigotry of any kind are in complete violation of the values we stand for at Kingsborough Community College. Further, based on my knowledge of the review of this claim, it is baseless and entirely without merit.

One of my top initiatives has been to build out an Intercultural Center/Student Union on the Kingsborough Community College campus.  The mission and vision of this center as stated on our website is:

The creation and maintenance of a safe, inclusive, and accessible space in service to and in partnership with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members. This space is used to foster intercultural understanding, student/faculty collaboration, leadership, civic engagement, and a deeper sense of belonging that complements academic programs and enhances the educational experience of the Kingsborough community.  Relatedly, as the only community college in Brooklyn and with a highly diverse student population reflecting our borough—represented by 142 national backgrounds and 73 main languages—it is incumbent upon us to engage this diversity by creating a physical hub where exciting intercultural programs and activities are coordinated and supported.”

At the same time the articles appeared in the media, the New York State Assembly sent a letter, authored by Assembly Members David Weprin and Dov Hikind to Chancellor Milliken naming several CUNY campuses—Kingsborough included—as having Students for Justice in Palestine chapter clubs (SJP). The letter went on to state that students “fear for their personal safety and well-being”; students are “being pushed”, “spat on”, and reported “having objects thrown at them.”

Similar to the articles in the local press, the Assembly members who authored the letter, and some of the signatories with whom we have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy longstanding, positive relationships, failed to contact me to find out about the veracity of these claims.

Here are the facts:

  • Kingsborough Community College does not have a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter club on campus (sanctioned or unsanctioned)
  • No students—let alone Jewish students—have reported being “spat on”, “having objects thrown at them”, or have reported “fear for their personal safety, and well-being”, and “being pushed”

How do I know?  Simple. I meet with students and speak to them almost daily. I meet with student leadership, including all of our religious clubs on campus (Muslim, Jewish, Christian). I ask them if they feel welcome, wanted, and safe. “Yes”, has been the only answer I have ever heard.

My wife and I have attended Shabbat Hillel dinners; I recently attended the campus Megillah reading, and my wife and I sponsored a luncheon in the campus sukkah. NEVER has a word been mentioned to me about safety concerns, or the fears that were claimed in the letter from the Assembly members.

So what am I so fearful about?

Well, I guess it goes back to being raised by a Holocaust survivor.  Add to it the combination of highly-educated people, people in positions of power, people with access to the press, the power of print and media, and stories and facts that may go unchecked before being reported.

More than 75 years ago, words turned into actions. And in the blink of an eye, 12 million innocent men, women, and children were murdered.

My father taught me never to forget, because if we forget it will happen again, as the past is doomed to repeat itself.

I deeply value our freedom of speech—but with that comes a certain responsibility.

There is no place for bigotry, bias, and discrimination on the Kingsborough Community College campus.  We serve students from 142 countries and who speak 73 different languages. We are a caring, respectful, kind and gentle campus with only one goal in mind, and that is preparing our students to be highly-functioning, productive members of society, enabling them and their families to contribute to our beautifully diverse neighborhoods and communities.

I invite those of you who are writing about us to visit us and learn from us as our work together can be a great example of leadership and collaboration on our campus and beyond.

Farley Herzek

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Contact: Dawn S. Walker (917) 588-6305