For some time now The Jewish Press has been pursuing the prevalence of anti-Semitic and related anti Zionist discrimination directed at Jewish faculty and students at Brooklyn College. We had received a number of disturbing claims by students and teachers alike, as well as guest speakers representing Zionist and Jewish-oriented groups, reporting that they were targeted by campus radicals – including faculty members! – and outside agitators. We were given chilling accounts of disruptions of speeches, meetings, and classroom discussions because of the ideas espoused. We were told of threats of lower grades or denial of tenure if a politically correct progressive line were not adhered to.
However, while we were able to put together a body of useful evidence, we recognized that we were far from having the complete picture. So we proceeded to inquire of the Brooklyn College administration as to their records of student and faculty complaints. We asked for records of actual complaints specifying anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism made to the school itself or to federal, state and city human rights agencies. We also asked for records of any investigations conducted, and any findings or determinations made.
Unfortunately, Brooklyn College stone-walled us, essentially claiming that they were precluded by a federal privacy law from sharing any “education records” of students. So The Jewish Press sued Brooklyn College in New York State Supreme Court under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), demanding the release of the documents we requested. We argued that what we were requesting were not “education records” and had said from the outset that we would accept documents with the names of students deleted.
Last week, Justice Peter P. Sweeney ruled in our favor that the “education record” exception applied only to protecting against disclosure of “records relating to an individual student’s performance.” And he noted that we had agreed from the start that we were not asking for the identities of the students.
Hopefully we’re on our way, although we are mindful that Brooklyn College can appeal the decision thus occasioning more delay. But the issue is a highly significant one and we are committed to following through. And we look forward to reporting the results to our readers. Indeed, the Brooklyn College results can lead to other such projects.