We Should Not Punish People for What We Think They Might Do

Ashley Thorne

Brooklyn College appointed Kristofer Petersen-Overton as an adjunct professor to teach "Politics of the Middle East," then fired him, apparently because of his politics. His firing occured after New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind wrote to the Brooklyn College president to complain about Petersen-Overton's "one-sided" syllabus and his unpublished paper on the Palestinian perception of martyrdom, including that of suicide bombers. Hikind's assertion that Petersen-Overton would, if given the chance, teach a one-sided course, seems to have merit. My fellow blogger Mitchell Langbert remarked in a piece linked in an earlier post on Petersen-Overton's "left wing anti-Zionism." Would Petersen-Overton scrupulously maintain the distinction between scholarly inquiry and political advocacy in his classroom? Perhaps not, but we should not punish someone for what we think he might do. NAS defended Petersen-Overton's academic freedom, noting that "rescinding the appointment of an instructor on the basis of complaints about the likelihood of his future bias strikes us a serious misstep and a very bad precedent." Hours after we posted our article, Petersen-Overton informed us that Brooklyn College would be announcing its decision to reinstate him unconditionally. His course began today.

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