University rethinks Kushner honorary degree

By Jennifer Lipman, May 9, 2011
Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner

The board of trustees of New York's City University (CUNY) is expected to meet tonight to decide whether to award an honorary degree to Pulitzer-prize winning playwright Tony Kushner.

Mr Kushner was on the original list of names to be honoured by CUNY's John Jay College, but after opposition from board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld over the Jewish writer's criticism of Israel, he was taken off the list.

But after news of the board's initial decision emerged, Mr Kushner wrote an angry public letter in which he complained he had been deprived the opportunity to defend himself.

He said: ""I refuse to allow [him] or any other self-appointed spokesman/guardian to diminish the depth or meaningfulness of my connection to the Jewish community."

Berno Schmidt, head of trustees, then announced there would be another meeting to consider the issue tonight.

He said: "I would not ordinarily ask for reconsideration of a decision so recently taken. "But when the board has made a mistake of principle, and not merely of policy, review is appropriate, and indeed mandatory."

Mr Schmidt added that it was "not right for the board to consider politics in connection with the award of honorary degrees" and said that if Mr Kushner was honoured it would be for his artistic contribution not his political views.

Last updated: 10:16am, May 9 2011