CUNY law school dean blasted for ‘enthusiastic’ approval of antisemitic speech, NPOs call for her removal

Dean Sudha Setty’s applause for a valedictorian’s speech that incited hatred of Israel “is a profound failure of her duties,” say S.A.F.E. CUNY and the Jewish Leadership Project.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Two organizations are now calling for the removal of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law’s dean after she showed approval for the antisemitic contents of a valedictorian’s speech at commencement last month.

“We were the first, or among the first, to report that we believed the speech was seen by administrators and approved,” said Jeffrey Lax, Business Department chair at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College and founder of S.A.F.E. CUNY, a non-profit that advocates for Zionist Jews systemically discriminated against and excluded by the university and its union.

“We now believe that it was seen not only by admins at CUNY Law, but also across other CUNY units. We cannot say for sure that Dean Setty herself reviewed the document. but that is irrelevant to us, as she is seen on stage standing and applauding the speech after it was given,” he told World Israel News.

This was unacceptable behavior for the woman who took over as dean last February, said Lax, who previously noted that the school had wiped the livestreamed event from their website in order to hide it.

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“Dean Setty’s enthusiastic applause to a speech that bordered on incitement to violence was a profound and vulgar failure of her duties both as a legal scholar and as the Dean of a law school,” he charged. “SAFE CUNY demands the immediate termination of Dean Setty from her role as dean of CUNY School of Law.”

Upon assuming her position, Dean Sudha Setty said that the “mission” of the school was “social justice lawyering and tackling the structural barriers to justice that exist in so many contexts.”

The valedictorian, Fatima Mousa Mohammed, had railed against “capitalism and racism, imperialism and Zionism,” and falsely claimed that Israel indiscriminately killed and tortured Palestinians.

It took over two weeks for CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees to label the address as “hate speech” and to condemn it, but no further action was demanded. Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez also failed to appear last year at a meeting of the New York City council that discussed allegations of antisemitism throughout the city’s 25 campuses of higher public education.

CUNY’s law school faculty and student government has endorsed the BDS movement, although New York is one of dozens of states that have anti-BDS laws on their books.

When  video of Mohammed’s speech came out, Congressman Mike Lawler (R-NY) tweeted that he was “finalizing legislation to strip universities of their funding if they engage in and promote antisemitism.”

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“CUNY should be ashamed of itself – and should lose any federal funds it currently receives,” Lawler wrote.

The Lawfare Project, which represents victims of discrimination and terrorism in court, has applied to the Committee on Character and Fitness at the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division demanding that Mohammed be blocked from becoming a lawyer due to her hate- and lie-filled rant against Israel.

Noting that it was not the first time she had expressed such views, the Project’s COO and director of research Ben Ryberg tweeted, “It’s our belief that a person who has proved themselves to be a bigot is not fit to practice law…. You have to wonder if it had been any other minority-protected group, would this even be a question?”