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After Debacle, Tony Kushner Granted CUNY Honorary Degree

Playwright Tony Kushner received an honorary degree from the City University of New York.

The awarding of the degree on June 3 during the university’s graduation ceremonies came after CUNY trustees first voted against awarding Kushner the degree, after he was accused of opposing Israel’s existence and supporting boycotting Israel. The trustees later reversed the decision, leading to Kushner’s receiving an honorary degree from CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

During his address to the graduates, Kushner called the honorary degree “the most interesting one I had to work hardest to get,” the Associated Press reported.

“Behind it there stands a shining community of people, of spirits of whom I’m proud to be able to call myself kindred, who believe in the necessity of honest exchanges of ideas and opinions, who understand that life is a struggle to synthesize, to find a balance between responsibility and freedom, strategy and truth, survival and ethical humanity,” Kushner said.

CUNY’s board on May 2 had struck the playwright’s name from a list of those scheduled to receive honorary degrees at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice after a university trustee, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, attacked Kushner as anti-Israel.

Wiesenfeld, a Republican appointee to the board, quoted from several Kushner statements in his appeal to the CUNY board to remove the Pulitzer Prize winner’s name.

Kushner reportedly has said that Israel was “founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing.” Kushner also has said that “it would have been better” had the Jewish state never been created.

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