Brooklyn College reinstates adjunct professor


(JTA) — Brooklyn College has rehired an adjunct professor whose academic work was said to be anti-Israel to teach a seminar on Middle East politics. 

Kristofer Petersen-Overton, 26, will teach the graduate-level course that begins Feb. 3, college President Karen Gould said in a statement issued Monday evening. Twenty students are registered for the course, The New York Times reported.

A Brooklyn College spokesman had told the New York Post that Petersen-Overton was not tapped to teach the class because he was just beginning the doctoral program at the CUNY Graduate Center. But, according to Gould’s statement, "He has sufficient depth of knowledge and the intellectual capacity to successfully lead a graduate seminar.

"We must never allow decisions about our students’ education to be swayed by outside influence. In the matter at hand, this certainly has not been the case," Gould said in the statement. "On behalf of every member of this institution, I reaffirm our steadfast commitment to the principles of academic freedom, faculty governance, and standards of excellence."

The college’s political science department’s appointment committee unanimously voted to approve Petersen-Overton to teach the course.

Last week’s decision not to allow Petersen-Overton to teach the class led to accusations of repressing academic freedom, including 1,700 signatures on an online petition making such an accusation against the college.

Just days before Petersen-Overton was fired, New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind had sent a letter to the college’s president expressing concern about the student.
Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat, told the Post that a student had contacted him about the class syllabus, which included 50 books all blaming Israel for the problems in the Middle East.

Several of Petersen-Overton’s academic papers reportedly attempt to understand suicide bombers. Several newspapers have quoted Petersen-Overton as saying that he does not condone suicide bombing.

"In re-hiring Mr. Petersen-Overton, Brooklyn College and CUNY have sent a message to suicide bombers and their supporters that a publicly-funded institution of higher learning condones suicide bombing as an acceptable method of ‘resistance,’ Hikind said in a statement issued Monday night. "Granting Mr. Petersen-Overton access to thousands of impressionable young minds, especially at the taxpayers’ expense, is nothing short of shameful and embarrassing."

Recommended from JTA