Jewish Professors Say University Is Retaliating Against Them for Fighting Anti-Semitism

Anti-Israel CUNY protesters / Getty Images
November 30, 2022

Two Jewish professors at the City University of New York who have sounded the alarm about anti-Semitism on campus say their employer has launched a retaliatory investigation against them.

Kingsborough Community College last week informed professors Jeffrey Lax and Michael Goldstein that they are under investigation after an anti-Israel professor made unspecified accusations they believe involve them. The pair say that the professor, Lili Shi, made the complaint because they objected to her appointment to a hiring committee for the school's diversity office. Lax and Goldstein worry the investigation could threaten their employment.

"They are literally going after us because we're the ones who call out anti-Semitism at the college," Goldstein told the Washington Free Beacon, adding that Shi "obviously was upset" that he and Lax objected to her appointment.

CUNY has not informed Lax or Goldstein about the substance of Shi's complaint. But Lax and Goldstein believe it concerns them because they firmly opposed her appointment, and it was filed shortly after Lax filed a complaint against her. They were also the only other professors copied on the letter besides Shi.

The apparent reprisal against the Jewish professors is the latest instance of anti-Semitism at CUNY. Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found evidence of discrimination against Jewish faculty, following an investigation launched by another of Lax's complaints.

The university in August tapped diversity officer and Israel critic Saly Abd Alla to field Lax's anti-Semitism complaints. Abd Alla formerly worked as a civil rights director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has defended anti-Israel terror groups including Hamas. Lax said the move was like assigning "David Duke to investigate discrimination against black people."

The university in August appointed Shi to a seven-member search committee tasked with hiring a new assistant dean for CUNY's diversity, equity, and inclusion office, which handles race-related matters.

Lax in August filed a complaint against Shi's appointment, which was tabled after he objected to it being handled by another anti-Israel university official. He said an outside investigative group took up the complaint only after he objected, while Shi's complaint was immediately referred to an outside firm.

Lax and Goldstein told the Free Beacon that Shi should not be overseeing the search, whose hire will handle complaints of anti-Semitism, given her opposition to Zionists and the Jewish state.

Shi signed a statement following Hamas's May 2021 attacks on Israel urging CUNY to adopt demands made by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. While she is the only pro-BDS member of the search committee, none of the members is Jewish, the Jewish News Syndicate reported.

Lax said CUNY's decision to pursue Shi's investigation was "blatantly retaliatory." Goldstein called it "black-letter retaliation."

A Kingsborough Community College spokeswoman told the Free Beacon the college has "zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and allegations of this kind are taken very seriously," but would not comment on the investigation. Shi did not respond to a request for comment.

Lax resigned from his position on CUNY's Personnel and Budget Committee when he filed his August complaint. He also resigned from his teachers' union in 2021 after it passed a resolution condemning the state of Israel.

Another complaint from 2018, Goldstein said, was handled by a university official who "didn't even know what the word anti-Semitism meant."

Lax told Newsmax on Monday the investigation initiated by Shi will conclude the day before the spring semester, which raises questions about his future at CUNY.

"Are they trying to terminate me? I don't know," Lax said. "Does it worry me? Yes."