Free Speech and Funding Fears

CUNY Law Says No Thanks to Lynne Stewart

But fear—or at least the reflex to toe the line—seems to be a running theme in how academia, once on the forefront of radical thought, is dealing with free speech these days. In September, 2001, tenured University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian was suspended after his history of anti-Israel statements was aired on The O'Reilly Factor. He was recently arrested on charges of facilitating terrorism for his alleged connections with a Palestinian jihadist group. At Columbia University, fellow professors marooned anthropologist Nicholas De Genova for his remark at a campus anti-war teach-in that he "wished a thousand Mogadishus" on the U.S. military.

CUNY Law's administration recently bowed out of taking a stand on affirmative action despite the majority of faculty and students maintaining strong support of the policy. While the school sponsored a busload of students to Washington, D.C., on the day the Supreme Court would hear arguments in the University of Michigan case, spokespeople for the school insisted that CUNY Law spent no public funds on the trip and had "no official position on affirmative action."

Certainly CUNY Law's faculty has limited protest in the Stewart scenario. "The dean wanted to know the faculty was behind her," said CUNY law professor Frank Deale. "I don't think anyone could deny her fears. It's pretty clear the state is in a budget crisis, we are having difficulty with bar passage and we are being constantly attacked in the New York Post." Still, Deale said most faculty members support Stewart and the fight to protect an attorney's right to defend all clients.

The effort to appease both sides became apparent in Glen's final decision on Stewart. In an attempt to respect the rights of the student body and show solidarity with the cause, Glen said students could present an award to Stewart, however not during the graduation ceremony.

Stewart will not likely receive the Public Interest Lawyer Award, but will receive an honor from the Criminal Law Society during a private ceremony on campus this week.

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