Brooklyn College alumnus Bruce Kesler has cut his alma mater out of his will over what he is calling an "unacceptable" book assignment. Like most colleges, Brooklyn College requires that incoming freshmen all read one book before they move in; the "common experience" is supposed to help the new class bond. This year the school chose "How Does It Feel To Be A Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America" by Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi, whom Kesler describes as a "radical pro-Palestinian." Kesler writes on his blog:
When I attended in the 1960s, Brooklyn College - then rated one of the tops in the country -- was, like most campuses, quite liberal. But, there was no official policy to inculcate students with a political viewpoint. Now there is. That is unacceptable.
The author asserts “The core issue [of Middle East turbulence] remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” that the post-1967 history of the entire area is essentially that of “imperialism American-style,” and that the US government “limits the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement United States policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Again, preposterous.
Kesler also found two professors who agree with him that the incoming freshman need some more perspective on the issues of being Arab in America. One said, "This is wholly inappropriate. It smacks of indoctrination," while the other, currently on faculty, said, "While our community of learning is committed to freedom of speech and expression, does that require that we must expose new students to the anti-American and anti-Israeli preachings of this professor? At the least, do not our students deserve a balanced presentation?"
A third professor wrote to a Dean at the school, who told him the book was chosen "because it is a well-written collection of stories by and about young Arab Brooklynites whose experiences may be familiar to our students, their neighbors, or the students with whom they will study and work at Brooklyn College." She never replied to follow up e-mails from the professor, demanding that she assign a book with a differing viewpoint. So, is Kesler right in believing that the school should assign a different or contrasting book? And what do you think the reaction would be if the school assigned a book by a pro-Israel author instead? We've contacted Brooklyn College, and will update if they have a statement.